squash plant dying
A squash plant has two blooms; male and female; the female blooms have a noticeable 'ball' under it, which will (hopefully) develop into a squash. Typically, when the plant starts to flower, most of the blooms are male; later on, more female blooms will appear. A female flower must be pollinated by a male flower; if this does not happen, the squash will - as you describe - start to grow somewhat, and then wither and die. This is perfectly normal early in the season, before the bees really get to work. Having said that - it is possible (and easy) to hand pollinate female flowers. When you see a wide open female bloom, simply pull off a male flower; pull off the male's petals, and touch the male center ("stigma") to the female stigma; this should transfer microscopic bits of pollen to the female, thus pollinating it. Once pollinated, the squash should grow to full-size. This hand-pollinating process can also be done using a small paintbrush - simply brush the bristles across the male stigma, then touch the female. Good luck!!