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July 22, 2017

Saturday Gardening Thread: Trying to play it cool [KT]

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Near the end of June, Lurker Nancy sent in the photo above, with this note:

Here are some cactus blooms in my garden this morning. I got this as a cutting from an elderly neighbor in Tucson so I don't have a name for it, but we brought it with us to Peoria, AZ and it is doing quite well in its new place.

Last week in the comments, Don posted a link to his photos from a cactus show in Kansas. They mostly featured plant and spine form rather than flowers. Fascinating. Take a look around.

Here's an interesting summary if you are more into cactus flowers.

We will also have more on cactus and other desert plants later. It's monsoon season in the desert southwest.

Cucumber Nookie Review

Like tomatoes, cucumbers can be much, much better if you grow your own than if you buy them. Last week in the comments, Skip noted that his cucumber plants had lots of flowers, but not much growing from them. This started an interesting discussion on cucumber nookie. This is a more complex gardening issue than many people might imagine. Though other things (plant health, heat, irregular watering, etc) can also affect cucumber yield. Below, the three main categories of cucumbers (as far as sex is concerned) are discussed, along with some ideas for getting more quality cukes from the garden.

DIY Cucumber Nookie (SFW)

Here's an Executive Gardener who loves pickles. He has started a pickle garden in two pots. Unfortunately, there weren't a lot of bees in his Houston neighborhood in 20015 to pollinate his cucumbers. As he points out, the first step in pollinating standard cucumbers is recognizing the difference between girl cucumber flowers and boy cucumber flowers.

If you try hand-pollinating cucumbers at home, you may get better results if you pollinate the girl flowers with pollen of boy flowers from a different plant. Or get pollen from several boy flowers (from different plants) on your brush before pollinating the girl flowers.

Many standard cucumber varieties produce mostly male flowers early in the season. You may get better results if you plant more than one variety. You can choose a gynoecious variety as one of them if you want lots of cukes. Some members of The Horde are already familiar with this type of cucumber.

A fully gynoecious variety produces only female flowers and needs male flowers from another cucumber variety for pollination (unless it is also parthenocarpic). No, melon flowers won't work. Gynoecious cucumbers are kind of like the Amazons of the cucumber world. You need to import a few males in order to get the next generation. Well, your next generation of cucumber seeds, anyway.

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Story about women from a gynoecious culture

If you buy seeds for gynoecious cucumbers, they often include a few seeds of a pollinator variety that will make both male and female flowers. For home gardeners, it is handy if the seeds of the pollinator variety are dyed a bright color so you can make sure that you plant at least one of them.

Cucumbers that Don't Need No Nookie

Monika is an open-pollinated cucumber that needs no pollination to produce fruit. It does need pollination to produce seeds, however. So fruits that get pollinated will develop seeds while unpollinated fruits will have only wispy seed coats where the seeds should be.

But most parthenocarpic cucumbers are hybrids. There's a pretty thorough summary about cucumbers, from Haifa. They know something about greenhouse cucumbers there:

There are also cucumber hybrids that produce fruits without pollination. These varieties are called parthenocarpic varieties, resulting in fruits that are called 'seedless', although the fruit often contain soft, white seed coats. Such parthenocarpic fruit set also occurs naturally under the low-light, cool-night growing conditions, and short days of fall. Older plants can also produce 'super' ovaries which set fruit parthenocarpically. Parthenocarpic varieties need to be isolated from standard varieties to prevent cross-pollination and development of fruits that do contain seeds, and may be deformed by greater growth in the pollinated area. Greenhouse cucumbers are naturally parthenocarpic.

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English Cucumber

It is true that fruit quality of some parthenocarpic varieties is dramatically reduced if they are pollinated. Particularly some of the greenhouse varieties. But some parthenocarpic varieties will produce quality fruits even if pollinated. Check if you will be growing this type of cucumber outdoors.

Cockroaches that really, really don't need no nookie

Have you ever seen a cockroach in your garden? I have seen cockroaches in a poorly-constructed compost pile, but they can also seek moisture from indoor plants. Consider that a tip for bait placement. But, of course, cockroaches do not need houseplants to be a problem indoors. They are tough critters. And now we learn this: Female American cockroaches can produce young without males.

In a few types of cockroaches, parthenogenesis is the main method of reproduction, but for common types like the American and German cockroaches, scientists view it as a last-ditch option when males arenít around.

Now a team at Japanís Hokkaido University says that parthenogenesis is more viable than scientists have thought for the reddish-brown American cockroach Periplaneta americana, a world-wide pest.

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American Cockroach

The team, led by entomologist Hiroshi Nishino, says the females get especially busy when they are living together in groups of three to five, perhaps because the females sense that their offspring will be safer with other cockroaches around. After producing their first egg case, containing around 16 embryos, the females in groups took just 18 days on average to produce another case, compared to 27 days for females living alone.

I find the idea of female cockroach communes to be sort of disheartening. As noted above, parthenocarpic cucumbers cannot produce seeds without a male. Reproductive advantage: cockroaches.

Garden of The Horde

Here in the San Joaquin Valley we are getting some smoke from fires to our east and our northwest. It has been really hot, with a fair amount of humidity for this area. Fortunately, one of the fires near CaliGirl is winding down, and one is out. Yay!. She has harvested her first tomatoes. Mixed heirlooms and some cherry tomatoes. Note the variety map.

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This is why she needs a variety map:

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She gets help with some crops. Part of her garden is on, you know, a farm. Here are onions and melons that were started this spring in a greenhouse.

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If you would like to send information and/or photos for the Saturday Gardening Thread, the address is:

ktinthegarden
at g mail dot com

Include your nic unless you want to be a lurker like Nancy.

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posted by Open Blogger at 12:35 PM

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