Thursday, June 17, 2010

Urban gardening 2010: Squash and Peas (May and June)

 Peas (background), squash (front)
(Early May)

Peas (background), squash (middle), lettuce (front)
(Mid/Late May)

 Squash getting bigger and bigger (Early June)

P rigged up a fishing line "trellis" for the pea shoots to climb up, and they sure latched on... Their strong tendrils would curl and wind themselves around anything stable and they just kept growing up! The pea shoots are so cute and little, and they have these delicate yellow and white flowers.

The peas were the first of the plants to produce edible fruit, so we were so excited to see (and eat) our first pea in mid-May!
 Snow pea (Mid May)
More snow peas (Mid/late May)

Sugar snap peas (Early June)

We haven't gotten a huge crop of peas, and I'm wondering if it's because we didn't inoculate them when we first planted them, or if it's just the nature of growing peas in this climate. We had several windy days and a few bursts of unseasonably HOT weather in May, which probably didn't help them.

The leaves are starting to turn brown (they don't grow too well in the hot summer months) but we still have a respectable amount of flowers and shoots growing. Once the peas are gone, we're going to have to plant something else in that box- something that loves nitrogen-rich soil.

Sugar snap peas (Mid June)
In any case, the peas have not made it into a pot or a pan for cooking- we keep eating them first! As expected, they are super sweet and crunchy, and have that "fresh" spring smell that only peas have.

The squash have also been producing a ton of flowers, but they kept falling off... I was really worried at first, but then read that they usually produce a mass of male flowers in the beginning, but will eventually produce more female flowers (the ones which ultimately turn into squash). I also read that if female flowers were also falling off, it was most likely because they were not getting pollinated by the male flowers (lack of bees, wind, unfavorable weather, etc.).

 Squash blossoms (Mid/Late May)

We did notice that there have not been quite as many bees as last year (perhaps due to the "anti-pest" marigolds and not planting the morning glories this year?) so I ventured into the somewhat intrusive operation of hand-pollination... my own little science project.

First I had to learn to identify the male and female flowers and learn about their anatomies.
 Male flower (above) with stamen, female flower (below) with pistil

Then I had to wait until a female flower (distinguished by the more complicated pistil and the miniature squash at the base of the flower) had opened up... I didn't wait long, only a few days.

I plucked a male flower, peeled off its petals like a banana, and held it upside down by its stem over the female flower so that I could brush the pollen onto her stigma. If pollination is done right, the ovary (or the undeveloped squash) will enlarge and transform into the squash that we eat!

Although I did feel a little weird meddling with nature, it was a success! The squash has been growing about an inch or two a day... and there are a few more female blossoms developing!
The first squash! (Mid June)

1 comment:

giulib said...

thanks for the tip on female vs. male zucchini. a female showed up today so i buzzed around and fertilized!! fun to see the blog is still going. i haven't checked it out in a long time!