Thursday, January 18, 2018

Planting tomatoes....anywhere

So in the desert southwest it's a little early for the tomato planting, or at least for me in Queen Creek as it may still get a little cold, but I got my seedlings and am bumping them up into one gallon pots.  The planting/transplanting method is the same.

Dig a hole (use a larger pot)

Set the seedling in

Push the soil in around the seedling and water it in well.  I usually use bone meal when I do the final planting into the garden because it helps with the rooting of the plant.  When I am just bumping it up using potting soil you don't have to add much extra if you are using a good quality potting soil.
I plant tomatoes deep because the little hairs on the stems will actually become roots, and the better root system you have the better off the plant is usually.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Pollinating squash and other random plant sex in the Desert Southwest

Pollinating squash and other random plant sex

So, here we go.  A lot of people in the Southwest find that when growing zucchini the plants just don't produce a lot of fruit.  If you are from the Midwest you probably remember locking your car doors so some friendly people wouldn't leave you a bag of great big zucchini.  Down here they just don't produce with the same vigor.  I am not completely sure of the reason for this but I do think it's a pollinator problem.  Down here when the squash blooms are going to town the valley is full of flowers, Lantana, hibiscus, roses, orange jubilees... they are all blooming!  So why bother looking for a single male squash blossom to play in.

Then if you are a pollinator and you have happened to wander into the male flower and got yourself all covered in the wonderful orange pollen, the chances that while you are covered in pollen you decide to by chance find yourself in a female flower moments later and whilst looking for some more sweet nectar you get that wonderful orange pollen on the part that it needs to go on are simply mind boggling!  Lets look at this a little closer.  THE ENTIRE VALLEY IS BLOOMING!  Like EVERYTHING! Its spring in the desert.  Let's face it, there's not an abundance of squash flowers in the Desert Southwest.  It's probably not a go to source of nectar for our bees.  If you have three squash plants here I bet they are probably the only three in a square mile unless you live in a community that has a lot of home gardeners, which I am trying to aid in increasing.  So your three squash plants now have to get that bee and then keep that bee while he is full of pollen to stop inside the lady squash flower.

If you are still with me and your mind isn't twirling around about how all of this just seems to be too much to lay on a single bee, I have a solution that will help you out.  I had to tell many clients about this over the decade + that I helped in a nursery.  Some of the older ladies blushed and it was awesome!  You are going to have to aid in Squash Sex---yup, and it's exactly what it sounds like.
So the first picture is the male flower.  I usually just rip off the pretty petals around the good bit to make it easier to get into multiple female flowers.  Yes one male can be used on lots of females if you have more than one open at that time.
Here's the male flower all stripped off and ready to go.  Now the female flower is going to have a small fruit under the base of it, if its a zucchini it will look like a tiny zucchini.
Then the rest is easy.  Just use the male to transfer some pollen onto the female parts inside the flower.  You can use a q-tip for all of this but its easier if you find yourself outside and have a male and a female flower to just get it done and over with, usually best to do it in the morning and I don't usually have a q-tip on me.

Now a lot of the stuff in our gardens down here don't need this level of  involvement.  Tomatoes and peppers usually just benefit from a quick jiggle in the morning.  Just shake to plants a little and they will release the pollen and get everything done on their own.

Cucumbers are in the same family as squash but as long as you stay with a kind that has been bred to produce they usually take care of themselves, or at the pollinators do, ants even help them.

So hopefully this helps everyone out.  If it does and you find yourselves with a lot of extra squash remember I know people that can use it and would love to take it off your hands but yes, my doors will be locked.