26 July 2012

Turning a black thumb a little greener

I learned something new today.
     This year I only planted two types of vegetables, four cherry tomatoes and two zucchini.  It was a good thing that was all I planted because they have grown enormous; one tomato plant is nearly as tall as I am.  
Glad I didn't plant any more!
     A few weeks ago I was really excited because they were all doing so well.  The tomatoes had many flowers and clusters of green tomatoes, both zucchini plants had huge yellow flowers too.
Cherry tomatoes!

     Then one night I went out to water and realized the zucchini flowers were on the ground but nothing was growing from the stem, as if they had been eaten off.  I’ve had slugs before so I put out a dish of beer (don’t worry, it’s a kind I didn’t like).  The next morning no slugs had showed up for my party, but more flowers were on the ground or ‘bitten’ off.
Two flowers and a 'bitten' off stem

     We went on vacation for a week and when I came back it seemed the same, one or two flowers about to bloom, most ‘bitten’ off at the base and no zucchini.  I know enough about botany to know the fruit grows from the flower.  No flower, no fruit.  I was bummed.  
I’ve not had great success with vegetables.  Last year I got a decent amount of cherry tomatoes from potted plants but in the past it’s just been a lot of effort for little result.  Even this year I had started seedling zucchinis in the spring but they died before they were big enough (or it was warm enough) to plant outside.  When I planted the bought tomatoes, I also put in four zucchini seeds ‘just in case’.  It seemed despite my best efforts and enormous plant size, the second time wasn’t going to be successful either.
     Then on Monday I was watering, moving the prickly leaves to get the water to the dirt.  Nothing again.  I blinked.  And there they were, as if by magic.  Not just one but two good size zucchinis, just the right size to pick right away.  Where did they come from?  How did I miss them?  How did they grow when the flowers kept falling off?
     What do you do when you have a question?  Most of the time I ask my mom, but this time I looked it up on the internet.  Good old Google helped me out with this website.  Did you know zucchini plants have male and female flowers?  The male flower sits on long stocks and blooms, is hopefully pollinated by helpful insects, then falls off.  The female flower sits closer to the ground and carries the potential to grow a zucchini.  When there is cross pollination the zucchini grows from the female flower. 

Female flower with baby zucchini behind

Fascinating.  Now I don’t have to worry about slugs, but I do have gross beer in my fridge.  Anybody want it?

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