Sunday, June 6, 2010

Zucchini sex successful!

Or at least I think it was. Read on!

Earlier this week I realize that both my lead zucchini plants had female buds. The books all say that male flowers come before females and drop off. I found that to be true until last year, when I had three females before any males. The morning that the third female blossomed, I wrote an email titled, "Zucchini male needed!" and Ranae wrote back offering me help. I went to her home, couldn't rouse a human, but found a male flower on a squash plant. I ruthlessly plucked it, took it home to please my female, and -- lo -- had an early zucchini! Later Ranae wrote that her plant was a yellow squash, but it seems that intermarriage is
fine for summer squash.

When I saw those females early this week, I emailed Ranae and the closer neighbor who had helped me last year and asked if I could have blanket permission this year to kidnap their males if I had early females. Both were obliging. However, yesterday morning I had BOTH males and females on both plants. I gave the needed help, and it seems that both are growing instead of falling off the plant.

Too fast? Perhaps I should explain zucchini biology and humans' contribution to it. Each plant grows both male and female flowers. You
can tell the females before they blossom because they look slightly pregnant -- a little (very little!) zucchini is behind the bud, bulging the stem. The males look like more typical buds. When they blossom, they do so for only a few hours each in the early morning. The challenge is to get some pollen from the male to the female orifice. Worker bees typically perform this service by visiting first the male to eat whatever he offers, incidentally getting some pollen on her body, and then flying to the female. The bee probably has other motives than delivering the pollen to her, but she does that too. This works fine in mid-summer, but the bees are just beginning to fly around now.

I have different skills than a bee, although I can use my finger like a bee body for short hauls. More certain is to clip the male flower from his moorings, and rub him affectionately over the female. I did this yesterday -- twice! Today I THINK the zucchini are growing, which bodes a good dinner within a week. If I failed, that baby zucchini will soon wither and die, but both look promising today. If you too are hoping to have zucchini soon, I thought you would enjoy this tale.

Better news, which everyone can appreciate without explanation, is that Fred and I each had one sun gold tomato for dinner. Yum! Summer has arrived early, and I like the tomato part of it. It's interesting to note that the sweet-100s were planted earlier and get more sun, but they also have been exposed to more wind and the sun golds are next to the south-facing wall of our house, which is warmer. Maybe tomatoes need heat more than light.


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