Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Helping My Plants Get Busy (Fun with Hand Pollination)

I have always felt envious and curious of all those people who talk about having more zucchini than they know what to do with. We've had a problem the last few years with our zucchini where we grow beautiful, healthy plants that produce big yellow flowers but yield no fruit. Knowing that there is a serious problem right now with a decreased number of bees thanks to "human enhancement of the environment,"we thought we'd help things along this year by trying to hand pollinate our plants. 

Thanks to the amazing Internet where you can type in "hand pollination of zucchini" and then watch several videos of really cool gardener dudes teaching how to do the deed (aka: garden porn), we learned how to identify the male flower (see above) with its single stem and the female flower with its bulgy potential baby zucchini like so:

Once you can tell that difference, all you have to do is wait for the flowers to open up, which is their way of saying, "Let's get it on." I have found the morning is often the time when the flowers are ready and they look all sultry in their raised beds. From that point on, it's all pistils and stamens.

Find yourself a male flower, which will have lovely yellow pollen all over its stamen. You can pull the flower off and pollinate by rubbing the stamen on the pistil of the female flower, you can use a q-tip, or, if you're like me, and have an O'Keeffian obsession with flower parts, you can just use your fingers. Mmmm....pollen...

Find the female flower (or flowers if you're lucky) and use your favorite method to place the pollen into the pistil. Hello, you sexy thing...

Then you can dream of delicious zucchini babies that will born from the union you just fostered. This same method works with other plants that require pollination. We don't seem to be having a problem with our cucumbers and there are certainly bees and wasps around our yard thanks to our pollinator friendly native plant garden, although I've definitely noticed reduced numbers. I've tried to make the best of a bad situation by seeing it as an opportunity to take my relationship with my plant friends to a new level.
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