Saturday, August 9, 2008
'Cause Looks Aren't Everything
So, lush as I've bragged about our garden at work being (the cinder-block raised bed), it has some issues.
For one, my squash plants, despite their dinosaur-ian domination of a whole half of the raised bed, have been flowering like mad for a couple weeks but there's not a single baby fruit among the jungle of stems.
People have suggested that they may not be getting pollinated. I did some research about this and found out several things. Squash plants generally produce both male and female flowers, but it's not uncommon for the first flush of flowers to be all male, which means they just fall off, no fruit. I also found out that you can hand-pollinate them with "an artist's paintbrush." I like how it specifies an artist's paintbrush, as if squash flowers are picky about who they sleep with.
One of the residents at the youth housing program I work at came shuffling down from her room this morning, still slow with sleep, and got the brunt of my enthusiasm for this discovery. When I told her about it, she looked at me bleary-eyed and said: "So you're going to artificially inseminate them."
Well, yes, I suppose so.
Out I went, watercolor brush in hand, only to find that all the flowers were still male. What the hell? It's not exactly the first flush, anymore. When I went back in and complained to her (hunched over her bowl of cereal), she said, matter-of-factly: "It's a gay squash plant." She reminded me that I work at a program that focuses on queer youth. She said, "What'd you expect?"
So I went back out and ripped half the leaves out of the plant. Let some light in. Made the flowers visible.
Maybe the light will encourage the production of female flowers. Maybe the bees will see them now. It's not discrimination, I swear. I'm happy with my plants being gay; it's just (you might say) I want grandkids, too. To eat.
As I cleared out the canopy of foliage, I discovered a nice surprise--the Satsuki Madori cucumber that I'd planted and nearly forgotten about had been getting along just fine under the squash. It had not one, but TWO twirly cucumbers on it. I'd had no idea what a Satsuki Madori cuke was when I bought it; I just liked the exotic name, and figured we might get something interesting. Sure enough: