25 March 2010

The Pumpkin Pimp

Today I have been pollinating pumpkins.  Despite the fact that pumpkins have been hitchin up and doin the deed without human involvement until now, when you don't have a lot of bees around, when you only have one or two plants, or when you don't want your lovely little punkins crossed with zucchinis, giving them a little help never goes astray.  This is my first crop of pumpkins and seeing that we eat so much pumpkin at our house, I don't want to have a failed crop.

A few short months ago, I didn't know a single thing about growing pumpkins.  Now I know the following facts about growing pumpkins:

1. If you bury garden scraps containing 316 discarded pumpkin seeds, you are likely to get 316 pumpkin plants growing in the exact spot.

2.  I now know what embryonic pumpkin plants look like.

3.  I know that if you want a pumpkin plant growing in that spot, it's okay to pull out 315 tiny pumpkin plants and allow just one to grow.

4.  I know that the one remaining pumpkin plant will take up an unimaginably enormous amount of space.

5.  To a pumpkin lover, this is a truly wonderful sight:

6.  This is what a male flower looks like:

7.  This is what a female flower looks like:
Aw, look, she's pregnant!

7b. This is a cucumber, don't let it confuse you if you're growing them side-by-side.

Actually, it would only be me who would be confused by this.  Please ignore what I just said.



See the difference?  Vive la difference.

8.  My mother told me that you'll need both males and females and you therefore shouldn't go hacking off any of your radials until you are sure you don't need them.  Even if you think your broccoli seedlings need the sunlight, do check before you go lopping off anything.

These two radials have grown through the sweet corn bed, and are now taking up my broccoli and cauliflower beds.  They are a bit of a nuisance, but they are bearing female flowers.  If I chopped these two off, I wouldn't be able to go cryin' to my Mum when I got no pumpkins.

Sorry, that was a bit dramatic.

9.  Now this is the bit where you should avert your eyes if you want.  The inside of the flowers are different.  The male looks like this:

and the female looks like this:

I want to shout with joy, "It's a boy!" and "It's a girl!" when I see these pictures.

10.  What you do is get the pollen from the stamen of the male flower and get it into the stigma of the female flower.  It seems that you can't go too wrong in this step, but for more detail on knowing when male and female flowers are ready and different -er- pollinating techniques, read this great article.  It begins with the marriage service of a male flower and a female flower.

11.  Before you know it, the female flower dies and you see a Leetle Baybee Punkin:

I really have no right to go on about this like I've been doing it for years.  I only mention it because it's what I've been learning recently.  I hope that in a few months I won't be lamenting my non-crop of pumpkins, shamefacedly admitting I shot off my mouth on 25 March, appearing like the expert I'm not.

But that's a worry for another day.


Crazy Sister said...

That's so funny - you wrote it superbly!

We don't like to talk about it, but I had seven Unplanned Pumpkincies in my garden last year. Your AI baybees should do fine.

Heather said...

We don't eat pumpkin 'round my house, besides in pie form at the holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas), so whenever I've planted pumpkins in the past, it was just for Jack o'Lantern purposes only.

Therefore, I've never had to get, ahem, involved in the pumpkin patch's procreation business. However, I do hope you at least had the courtesy to play a little mood music and perhaps light a few candles to set the scene properly before getting all X-rated there.


I hope you have many, many successful pumpkincies!

(Side note from the opposite hemisphere: I'm tremendously jealous that you are so far along into the growing season as to have Plants Of Size in your garden. Here I've been cheering over my one, little crocus bloom. One. Though it does appear that it will have company if and when the sun returns to our corner of New York - I could be up to THREE or possibly FOUR or FIVE blooms by the weekend!)

Tracy P. said...

Wow, one just never knows when she will be better educated after her morning round of blog reading. Thank you, thank you! Congratulations on some healthy looking "little ones"!

Emily Sue said...

There really should be a "you must be over 18 to enter this site" warning here...

sewfunbymonique said...

Enjoyed reading! Thanks for the lesson! :)

Jen said...

I am so confused. Can you go over it again.

John Ross said...

Well now, I think we've made some excellent horticultural progress today. Now I feel like the total gardening slacker. Haven't planted a thing. In my defense, the first official day of spring here in the U.S. Pacific North West was only about four days ago and we're still having near freezing lows at night .

And, yes, that post was wonderfully written. Better than 90% of my old horticulture texts(I have a short degree in diggin' holes an' plantin' bushes!)

Hippomanic Jen said...

Wishing you all the best for your many pumpkincies to come.

Emily Sue said...

Okay, you've inspired me to try pollinating my zucchini plants tomorrow morning. I ripped up 80% of my "garden" today but the zucchini survived because there were lots of flowers. I just need to sort the boys from the girls...

Givinya De Elba said...

The boys generally wear blue while the girls wear pink.

At least, that's what I tell my kids about how people find out the sex of their babies at the ultrasound.

Just Kidding.