Sweet talking the flowers & wandering the patch..

Posted December 1st, 2013 by Rob Bob : )»

Copious cucurbits..
Of all the plants we have grown this Spring we would have to be most pleased with our melons, spaghetti squash, zucchini & pumpkin vines :)» The pumpkin vine has proven to be quite a handful with its never ending quest to conquer the front yard & we now think the spaghetti squash is also trying to make a break for it through the corn into the asparagus bed.. Think it might be time to make a counter attack with the garden shears but shall see how far they advance before I make a tactical move..
Even though the plants themselves are going gang busters at the moment they still don't always set the amount of fruit we would like.. Un-pollinated/lost fruit is one problem that we like many others come up against even when the plants are well fed & watered..
This family of plants have what is known as imperfect or incomplete flowers, meaning having separate flowers for both male & female reproductive organs unlike perfect/complete flowers that have both male & female organs in one flower (tomatoes, eggplants, chillies, etc ).. Imperfect flowers rely on bees & other pollinators to transfer the pollen from the male flower to the female..
Unfortunately, the bees do not always perform their duty so we end up with a fair amount of failed fruit..
One way you can remedy this is to take matters into your own hands, put on the bee suit (optional) & do the job yourself.. The flowers are only receptive to pollination for a short amount of time so it is best to get out there & pollinate them before 9am if you want the best shot at getting fruit to set..
First you need to select a freshly open male flower than has loads of pollen on the tip of the stamen (anther).. Carefully remove the petals from the outside of the flower until the stamen is fully exposed..
Then all you need to do is dab the pollen onto the tip of the stigma of the female flower & the job is done..You can normally tell within 36 hours if the pollination has been successful as the fruit will start to grow.. With zucchini in particular I have found that some days there will be no male flowers on the plant but that is really no problem as the female fruit is perfectly edible at that size, there just won't be a lot to go around the dinner table..
Another way this can be achieved is to use a small soft bristled paint brush to collect the pollen from the male flower & deposit onto the stigma of the female flower.. I have seen this method recommended when you may have a few female flowers to pollinate but only a single male..
If you are growing more than one variety of pumpkin, squash & are still interested in saving some seeds it is possible to tie off the female flower to ensure that the seeds will grow true to type plants..
Get out into the patch as early as you can, pollinate the flowers then tie off the petals around the female flower to stop any pollen from other varieties getting in there..
Alternatively, if you were feeling like donning the mad scientist lab coat you could hop out there & try to develop your own hybrid varieties using the same technique ;)
Would like to thank Sarah on the Share the Seed group for inspiring this post & all that contributed.. I hope some of the pumpkins stick for you all ;)

Back to the patch with the family..
Over the past few months Kira & I have started a bit of a routine that has come to include the whole family.. It started out with the 2 of us checking up on her garden bed out the front every morning after B left for work to see how the plants have been progressing & looking for small fruit on her rock melon vine..
Kira's first Rockmelon :)»
It has also allowed us to take the schoolroom outside for daily biology lessons as we talk about & compare how differently the plants grow, flower & reproduce.. A constant request for a new garden bed is a regular occurrence here at the moment so I think that the next bed set up will be for her..
Our morning garden routine..
We have both enjoyed this time & it has started to include B & Maya on the weekends as the family has a bit of a wander around the patch.. I have found that the girls have become more involved in what we are growing, where it is being planted & more importantly, how they would like to use it once it is in the kitchen.. Maya has a small bed at the base of the stairs that is home to a few varieties of mint.. While it tends to get hammered by the sun at this time of the year it still manages to produce more than enough fresh leaves for her mint teas.. I also like to pilfer some from time to time to give the potato salads a bit of an extra kick ;) I know she has also been eyeing off a few of the larger spaghetti squash for the oven..
I have a feeling her plans may involve some honey & cinnamon if we are lucky ;)
To begin with I was a bit possessive of the garden to tell you the truth but as the girls get more involved, I'm hoping they will all take over a small bit for themselves & maybe pick up a few tricks to teach me ;) Including the girls in the garden have given them an appreciation for good quality fresh food & I also hope it will instil in them a desire to provide for themselves once they set up a home for themselves (so I can go & pinch their berries).. For now though I think we will just be stoked to be able to share some of our garden spoils with the greater family & friends at our Christmas luncheon.. Nothing like getting everyone together to sit down to a home grown feast & hope to open the garden so they can all take home a bit of a goodie bags for all as well ;)

I hope everyone's Summer gardens are off to a flying start & those that are reading this from north of the equator are keeping warm ;)
Have a great one all,
Rob..

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