Sunday, 24 January 2010

melon sex, bees and marigolds

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/melonflower.JPGLast year I learned a lot about pumpkin sex: how to tell the male and female flowers apart, how to hand-pollinate, and how to tell if the pollination worked.  This year I've had to learn how rockmelons and watermelons get busy.  The biggest difference is that the flowers are smaller and there are a helluva lot more of them.  But I couldn't tell if there were male and female types as there are with pumpkins.  It turns out that was because for the last month it's only been making male flowers.  I'm finally starting to notice more and more of these little ladies with their little baby melons.  They're not easy to spot but it doesn't seem to matter because they're not really practical to hand-pollinate.  I just have to hope that the bees visiting the nearby statice and lavender stop by the melon patch.  I already know that some didn't pollinate properly because a few mini-fruit are yellow which I assume means they're about to drop off.  Hopefully the rest start taking soon.

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/melonsjan2.JPGI thought I'd compare this patch to where it was last year at about this time.  I was behind schedule this year because I was giving the granex sweet onions a bit of extra time to ripen.  I wish I hadn't bothered because I am indeed behind schedule; at this time last year I had potimarrons the size of two fists put together.  However the pumpkin vine did last until April last year so hopefully I'll get at least a few watermelons, rockmelons and pumpkins.

Speaking of pollination, I've been paying attention this year to which flowers attract the most bees.  They seem to love the lavender, like the statice, and adore the African blue basil (which is near the bird bath, unfortunately, and not near the pumpkins and melons!).  I haven't seen them on the marigolds or the alyssum that's self-sewn around the place.  They also loved the catnip before I tore it out. 

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/bluebasilbee.JPGThis afternoon I stalked a few bees and his is my favourite photo of one on the African blue basil.  It's a great plant, not a basil for eating but it still smells amazing, it has lovely green and purple leaves and it gets these incredibly long flower stalks.  I believe it's a perennial and over-winters better than culinary basils.  You don't have to worry about it going weedy as the seeds are sterile, but you can propagate it easily from cuttings.  This little bee was hard to snap because he was dashing about so quickly.  If you have problems with pollination in your garden, I highly recommend this plant or its relatives.

And finally, I also got distracted by the marigolds.  I started them from seeds (a French variety called "Sparky" from Eden Seeds) and the ones that get the most sun have grown up into gorgeous plants.  I loved all these photos so I thought I'd share all three.
http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/marigolds1.JPG

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/marigolds2.JPG

http://www.alexareynolds.com/garden10/marigolds3.JPG


1 comments:

prue said...

Those marigolds are lovely and I bet they keep that part of the garden pest free(ish). Best of luck with the melons, hopefully we get some rain so they grow nice and big and tasty (not that I am complaining about today's lovely blue sky.)