Gardening with Laurie: Help ensure productive crops with a few tips

By Laurie Garretson
May 10, 2012 at 12:10 a.m.

I think all gardeners will agree that the "dog days of summer" have arrived. Those beautiful, cool mornings of spring are only a very faint memory. Like it or not, summer heat and humidity are here with us again for another season.

Another thing that's here are the pest insects. I have had a lot more questions than usual about pests and vegetable problems. Because of the mild winter, the insect and snail populations seem to have flourished.

I've had several questions about squash and cucumber plants. Most related to the lack of pollination. Without the much needed help from bees, these crops, along with watermelons and cantaloupes, will not set fruit well. With a little help from you, all these types of crops can produce well. Maybe even double or triple their yields.

These types of vegetable crops produce both male and female blooms. The blooms are totally dependent upon bees for pollination. No pollination means less production or no production at all.

To help these blooms to mature and produce without the aid of a few bees, you will need to do some pollinating for them.

When these vegetables first start to bloom, there are many times fewer male blooms than female blooms. Female blooms will appear to have a small fruit attached to the base of the flower. Male flowers will not.

Your job will be to carefully take a male flower and gently strip off a few of the petals. This will expose the stamen, which is the slender little stalk inside the bloom. The stamen is the pollen producing part of the flower.

Your have to rub the male stamen over the inside of the female blooms. This job should be done in the morning hours while the blooms are open. Some gardeners prefer to use a cotton swab to transfer the pollen to each female bloom.

Either way should get the job done. If all goes well and your pollination job is successful, you will begin to see the fruits begin to swell within a day or two.

Planting different types of herbs in your garden that attract bees will help with the pollination. Chives, basil, rosemary and cilantro are a few herbs you might want to plant in your next vegetable garden to help bring in the bees.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.



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