12 February 2010

The Hand Pollinating Experts!

Early on Thursday morning, while I was still playing with Michael,

(it is almost impossible to get out of bed 

and start the day, when you wake up next to this beautiful, little miracle)

CJ and Heidi-Mari was busy in the vegetable garden, hand-pollinating our first butternut blossoms! 

For weeks, Heidi-Mari and I were closely watching our butternuts and squash for female blossoms.  We only had male blossoms and were very worried that we will not have ANY butternuts, due to a lack of female blossoms.  We are nursing these butternut and squash plants like little babies (Okay not quite like baby Michael, but almost!) 

We’re currently picking tomatoes, peas, lettuce and herbs from our garden for salad,

but I want to pick ‘real’ vegetables like butternuts, squash and carrots.
Our carrot harvest came to a mere 3 miss-formed carrots!

The only explanation I have, is that our soil weren’t properly decomposed, since we only used horse manure in our new vegetable beds and didn’t have the right soil. Carrots don’t like clay soil!
Back to our butternuts - on Monday night we assign CJ to search the web and find us some answers on our dilemma of NO female butternut and squash blossoms.   Within minutes he came to Heidi-Mari and me, where we were busy making cards, with a big grin on his face!  It seems like we aren’t the only ones worried about the ratio of male and female blossoms on our butternut- and squash plants! According to his research:  “A lot of people had the same questions and concerns we had!  It is normal for butternut and squash to have only male blossoms for a start and only later grow the female blossoms. So we didn’t to need to worry, there will be male AND female blossoms. We just need to practice patience and since we don’t know if we have enough insects to pollinate the blossoms, he’ll study the web on how to hand pollinate the blossoms.”
On Tuesday morning Heidi-Mari excitedly announced she spotted a female blossom on the butternuts. 

She estimated that it would be ready for hand pollination on Thursday morning. It is very important not to use the blossom prematurely, since it will simply abort. You will recognize a mature blossom when the blossom "yellow up" the day before, and in a few varieties "yellow up"  only the night before. 
So on Wednesday evening the two of them, went to the butternut bed to implement the knowledge CJ gained from his research.  Firstly they had to make sure the male and female blossoms opened the same time.  

CJ used masking tape to shut three male and the one female blossom, due to open the next morning.

The female blossom will only open between dawn and about 10h00, so 7h00 Thursday morning they were outside.  CJ carefully took off the tape from the male and female blossoms, he then took off all the petals from the male blossom, leaving just a stem and the stamen (male part of the flower) covered with mature pollen.

CJ then used the stamen, attached to the stem, like a paint brush to coat the pistol, of the previously sealed female blossom, 

leaving as much pollen on the female blossom as possible.

After this he resealed the female blossom using fresh masking tape.  You’ll know that the hand  pollination worked, when you see the immature butternut, at the bottom of the female flower, starting to grow.
The two of them are now eagerly waiting for squash female blossoms!
The rest of our garden has its ups and downs. 

Heidi-Mari is mainly responsible for our vegetable garden.  Here are the rainbow corn she planted a few weeks ago.

The lettuce is growing beautifully too.

Our first batch of tomatoes is now almost finished.  We got red spider mite in January, but Christo spray them diligently with a mixture of Ludwig’s organic spray (25ml), our organic Orange dishwashing liquid (5ml), bicarbonate of soda (10ml), a few yarrow leafs cooked in a tea, 1 cup of strained Bokashi liquid fertilizer and worm tea if we had, on 5l of water.
They recovered well and gave us a great harvest.  There are still a few tomatoes that have to ripen and then we will take it out to make space for new seedlings.

Our bush beans are also growing well!  But not nearly enough though!  We plan to sow a lot of seeds this weekend.

We were pleasantly surprised by our purple podded peas!  They gave us an abundant harvest!  We’re going to plant much more peas for the winter. 

We also managed to get a few spring onions going.

And best of all, our strawberry plants have started producing runners! We can’t wait to grow more strawberries to have a big enough harvest for the 8 Lues children!

This weekend Heidi-Mari and I will sow peas, beans, broccoli and lettuce.  We will try carrots too, but we first need to tend to the soil.

And we will play with little Michael...


Petra said...

Enjoy the harvest! Our butternut is also growing well and the squash is just starting to sprout - these are very rare items here, especially squash, hope ours do as well!

huisvrou said...

En ek het twee woeste honde!!
Ai toggie tog.
Dis so wonderlik om jou eie groente (en kruie!) te kan pluk en gebruik.
Nala (my pitbull) eet al my pietersielie op en het nou 'n voorliefde vir dille ook ontwikkel :)

Sonja said...

ONs wortels het net soos joune gelyk,ons grond is baie hard en ons bly kompos bysit maar dit lyk of ons nog baie meer gaan moet bysit! My tamaties het dieselfde skade gelei,maar ons het darem n mandjie vol gekry. Dit is darem n vreeslike leerproses wat nooit ophou nie! Gee klein bababoetie n lekker drukkie!

Nikki said...

Hi Linnie, I've been spending some time catching up with your blog-been a while because I've needed to limit computer time- anyway, CONGRATULATIONS on the birth of baby Michael! He is beautiful-it was a blessing reading his birth story, so much wisdom I wish I had known when I gave birth to my 2 blessings! You truly are an encouragement to all moms.
Just wanted to give you a tip a farmer friend shared with us about our carrots-we were also getting knobbly, deformed carrots! Dig your compost deep into the ground so that the carrots have to grow towards the compost-when it is at the surface they tend to grow out and stumpy! This worked for our last harvest! Unfortunately it seems we have dud seeds this time though :-)
Blessings, Nikki
p.s We also have a Michael, Michael Joshua-our boys have the same initials;-)

Linnie said...

Hi Petra
Hope your harvest goes well too!

Linnie said...

Hallo Marelize
Ten minste gaan Nala 'n baie gesonde hond wees van al daardie vars kruie!
Lekker week vir jou!

Linnie said...

Hallo Sonja
Ja hierdie groentetuin is omtrent 'n leerveld. My pa het dit so maklik laat lyk - wens so hy was nog hier om bietjie raad te gee - hy het die mooiste wortels gegroei in die Vrystaat, maar dit is die vrugbaarste rooi grond wat jy daar kry! Ek gaan nou sand bywerk en kyk hoe dit gaan, ook Nikki se raad toepas.
Hoop jy het 'n lekker week!

Linnie said...

Hi Nikki
Nice to hear from you - I thought you've decided to stay on holiday forever!
That is exactly what happened to our carrots! It seemed like it wanted to grow outside the ground! We had to cover it all the time. Will definitely use this tip. Thank you so much!
Have a blessed week!

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