Male bloom on left, female on right. Photo:

Today, I'm going to deal with a gardening problem that vexes thousands of gardeners every year. You plant squash or zucchini. The plants grow great and produce dozens of pretty yellow flowers. But none of the flowers set fruit. What are you doing wrong?

Grumpy's 100% Accurate Answer: It's not you. It's your squash or zucchini plants. See, unlike tomatoes, peppers, and other members of the veggie garden, squash and zucchini produce both male and female flowers. In order to produce a fruit, pollen must be transported from the male to the female flower. And therein lies the rub.

Many times, these plants start off by producing only male flowers. A male flower has stamens in its center covered with yellow pollen and is attached to the plant by a thin stem (called a pedicle). Female flowers lack pollen, but are easily spotted by the tiny squash or zucchini that forms at the base.

Having nothing but guys around is great if you're forming a rugby team or holding a chest hair contest, but it's awful if you want actual produce.

This is what happened to Grumpy last year. All the flowers were male. This never changed. Perhaps this occurred because the plants sensed my overwhelming manliness and sought to emulate me. I can understand that. However, my best guess is it had more to do with the weather. Maybe it was too hot or too cool or too wet or too dry. Whatever it was, it never fixed itself. I grew to hate my all-boy plants and cast them into the fires of oblivion.

But don't let my disaster discourage YOU. Eventually, most plants will produce male and female flowers at the same time. Then let the love begin! Baby bumps of little squashes should soon appear. If they don't, it means that insects such as bees that normally pollinate the flowers are falling down on the job. In that case, you have to do it yourself. Pick off the male flower and rub pollen from it down inside the bottom of the female flower. Ignore any moans you may hear. Repeat as necessary or as demanded.

What if, despite all of your heroic efforts, you still don't get squash? All is not lost. Squash blooms are edible. Pick them to dress up a salad.