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Blog - Gardening Lessons

Doing the Work of Bees While They Sleep the Winter Away

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While herbs may be easy to grow inside during the cold months of winters, I enjoy the challenge of growing a few of my favorite vegetables. Challenge might not be the right word because growing tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and other vegetables that blossom is not difficult. These plants just have needs in addition to those of herbs. Vegetables that blossom require more light, warmer temperatures and pollination in order to bear fruit. Here’s how I provides for those needs.

I have five varieties of herbs growing in three planters on My Garden Post and two planters growing mixed salad greens. I’ve positioned MGP in front of a large south facing window and all are doing fine with a minimum of care and attention. I keep them watered as needed, fertilized every two weeks and I give MGP a 180 degree turn every few days to balance their exposure to the sun. I’m growing more herbs than I can consume so I take every opportunity to surprise friends with some for their cooking needs.

For the fun of it, I have two large MGP planters of tomatoes (BeefSteak), one small planter with a California green pepper and another small planter with three cucumbers (Space Saver) all growing under lights. The room is kept at 65 degrees at night so I’m using heat mats under the planters to keep the soil temperatures above 70 degrees both day and night. Last week I mentioned that gardening is all about experimentation and enjoyment of the results. All that remains is pollination.
Pollination of the cucumbers is the experiment of this week’s post. Outside bees carry the pollen from stamen of the male flower to the female flower. Inside I have to do the work of the bees. It’s great fun and easily accomplished in three steps.

1. Examine the blossoms to determine which is male and female.

a .The male flower is noticeably smaller than the female and grows on a short stem. See photo #1.

#1 Male Cucumber blossom growing on a short stem

b. The female flower is the larger and grows on a longer stem that resembles a tiny cucumber, the ovary. See photo #2.

#2 Female cucumber blossoms growing on a long stem that becomes a cucumber when pollinated

2. Using a small artist’s paintbrush, carefully collect the grains of pollen from the stamen of the male flower and deposit them in the center of the female flower. Take care not to damage the female flower. You could repeat this process to make sure you have conception. Then you just leave them alone and watch the tiny cucumbers grow. See photo #3

#3 A pollinated female cucumber blossom well on its way to producing a mature fruit. (Pollinated 2 weeks ago)

You will likely have at least one male flower for each female. Continue doing the work of the bees with your paint brush until all the female flowers have been pollinated. As more flowers appear, repeat the process.

Join me next week for tips on pollinating tomatoes and peppers. Both are self-pollinating, but you can assist in the natural process. See below my first pepper blossom that appeared Jan 18. I’ll tell you all about it next week.

Until then, your questions and comments are always appreciated. Oliver

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