Monday, July 27, 2009

The Facts Of Life

Didn't your mama tell you about the Facts Of Life? Mine either, just a bunch of pamphlets and videos but I'm going to give you the full scoop. Well, as far as I know it. Some of it I just figured out this morning.

Like this is a female squash flower

and this is a male.

Can't tell the difference? Look carefully at the center of the flower. The female is like a girl and the male is like a boy. Still don't get it? Go ask your mother. I'll bet she can tell - after all, she had you.

Or, if you can't do that, do what I did. I looked for a flower that had a baby buttercup squash growing at its base and figured a male blossom from a female blossom pretty quick.

Now that you know the difference, you can snip off some of the male blossoms and stuff them for supper. What do stuffed squash blossoms taste like? I don't know. Remember, I just figured out how to tell a male from a female this morning. I do know that sometimes a number of male blossoms show up before the females arrive. I know this because a couple years ago, I read about it when I was questioning why my squash blossoms weren't developing any babies. Just as the book said they eventually did.

And it's not just the squash that has caught my attention this year but one stalk of volunteer corn over by the tomatoes has me fascinated. I check it out each day to watch it's progress. The female part of the plant wears a silky number

and the male section is a crowning tassel.

The female corn silk must have had a wild Saturday night because from that day forward her tresses were no longer spiked and the tips became a flattering beet red similar to a blushing new bride. Sure enough, a little research on the internet today revealed she'd been twitterpated. You heard me. She was smitten and after three or four days of inhaling that passion pollen she is preparing to give birth - to a full ear of corn, I hope.

The male section had changed also and he now looks a bit frayed. His flowers are open and releasing pollen.

One thing our wind is good for is matchmaking as it carries the pollen to the silks. But what do you do if the wind is asleep? (What would that be like?) You can assist by hand pollinating. Just walk through your corn and give each stalk a good shake. Sometimes you have to stir things up just like any good matchmaker. It will release the pollen into the air so it can drift down to the silks. Each kernel is attached to a strand of corn silk and so it is critical that there are no wall flowers in this waltz or you'll have missing kernels on the ears of your corn.

Beans on the other hand are very private vegetables and do everything behind closed doors until it's time to show off the offspring. The anther ( the male) and stigma ( the female) are cozily pushed up against each other in the confines of the flower pedals. You know what happens next. Cuddle long enough and yup. The anther releases its pollen the evening before the flower opens.

Peas don't play the field either. Theoretically, it is possible that peas could be cross pollinated since the stigma opens before pollen is ready, but it rarely occurs. The reason is because pollination has already taken place before the flower opens. This makes beans and peas a good first seed saving project.

As I walked through my garden this morning discovering the facts of life and watching the insects carrying pollen as they played matchmaker, I realized just how romantic a garden really is.

They say, "love is in the air", in the summer time. Could be pollen is passion powder in disguise. I think I'll take a stroll through our garden with my hubby tonight. Who knows what might transpire. Then again, he might just sneeze.

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