Garden Update: We’re talking the Birds and the Bees in the Garden.

Ronde di Nice Zucchini shows small fruits on the female blossoms.

Ronde di Nice Zucchini shows small fruits on the female blossoms.

Nothing X-rated here, though nature is making magic happen. As the summer garden kicks in gear and we inspect everything morning, noon and night, there’s one question on my mind a lot: is it a male or female? Why? Whether squash blossom or day-old baby chick, its future here depends on sexing.

Ortolana di Faenza zucchini has particularly beautiful foliage.

Ortolana di Faenza zucchini has particularly beautiful foliage.

The winter and summer squash plants have just begun to bloom. Yours, too, perhaps. If you are wondering why your plant is covered in blooms but you haven’t gotten any fruit yet, it’s most likely due to the first blush of many male blossoms. Look for the female blossom that has a tiny fruit, or ovary, attached. Those will be pollinated by the males and produce copious amounts of squash. In our Cooking Light garden, we have an ambitious amount of summer and winter squash varieties planted–more than any sane gardener would take on. If you’ve grown zucchini, you know one or two plants will keep you picking daily in high season. We’re trialing pool ball shapes, trombone shapes, and dainty summer squashes, such as Ronde de Nice, Ortolana di Faenza, Trombetta and Astia. On “Pumpkin Hill” — the 100+ foot hill of running vines–we are trialing beautiful winter squashes with silvery or dark green leaves, such as Pink Banana and Thelma Sanders. If we can keep the squash bugs and borers at bay, we’ll soon have our hands full. Look closely at your squash plants to identify the boys and girls. If you have far more male blossoms than female currently, harvest a treat that only gardeners or same-day-service farmers can serve — fresh squash blossoms. You won’t sacrifice any future fruit and can relish a luxury, like our Pimiento Cheese-Stuffed Squash Blossoms.

Our first egg hatching in the incubator, "zipping" through the shell.

Our first egg hatching in the incubator, “zipping” through the shell like Houdini.

Blooms aren’t the only thing bursting forth this week. We’ve hatched a clutch of eggs from our own “Valley Girls” at Maple Valley and our friend, P. Allen Smith, who has a passion for conserving heritage poultry. It’s nothing short of miraculous to see an egg “zip” in half with a tiny peeping beak breaking into the world. The fuzzy chirpers are too cute! Hatching your own raises the bar of chicken-keeping, however. Usually half will be male and we’re already at capacity for boys in the hen house. Hence the studious eye-balling of wing patterns and feathers and rolling the dice. We’ll have to choose a few males carefully and find new homes for the rest. If you’ve never seen a baby chick hatching from an egg, it is worth the 21-day wait. I felt like a wide-eyed five year old with my nose pressed to the glass of the incubator.

Take a tour of the garden through these photographs to see what else has happened in the last week. We’ve begun digging garlic for curing, the pole beans have curlicued ten feet to the top of the teepee, and sunflower faces are chasing the sunshine. Tomatoes should be ripe within a week or two! We have over 70 tomato plants to pick this summer. Want to help?

Sunflower faces turn towards the sun, while tomatoes outgrow their cages in the background.

Sunflower faces turn towards the sun, while tomatoes outgrow their cages in the background.

Inchelium Red Garlic grown from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange cloves.

Inchelium Red Garlic grown from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange cloves.

Hornworm wreaking havoc on our potato plants.

Hornworm wreaking havoc on our potato plants.

Homemade Pickles cucumber variety makes an art form of vine support.

Homemade Pickles cucumber variety makes an art form of vine support.

Garlic curing under the barn eaves.

Garlic curing under the barn eaves.

Digging the first Inchelium Red garlic bulb to test for readiness.

Digging the first Inchelium Red garlic bulb to test for readiness.

First blackberry of the season.

First blackberry of the season.

Last year's Cherokee Trail of Tears resowed in the teepee area and have already begun forming tiny pods.

Last year’s Cherokee Trail of Tears resowed in the teepee area and have already begun forming tiny pods.

Vile voles strike again in our Swiss Chard bed.

Vile voles strike again in our Swiss Chard bed.

COMMENTS

  1. » To the rescue! Over 400 Zucchini RecipesBeautiful Life

    […] That’s what I’m asking myself in the Cooking Light Garden this summer. We planted trials of five heirloom and hybrid varieties. Ahem, yes…five. At least three plants of each–for good measure and Girl Scout […]

    August 9, 2013 at 9:00 am
  2. To the rescue! Over 400 Zucchini Recipes – Simmer and Boil | Cooking Light

    […] That’s what I’m asking myself in the Cooking Light Garden this summer. We planted trials of five heirloom and hybrid varieties. Ahem, yes…five. At least three plants of each–for good measure and Girl Scout […]

    August 8, 2013 at 7:45 am
  3. Talking Birds

    […] Garden Update: We’re talking the Birds and the Bees in the Garden … […]

    June 26, 2013 at 11:45 pm
  4. Mary Beth Shaddix

    Yes! Thank you, Diane. It’s in our back yard, but the fresh produce makes its way to the backdoor of the Cooking Light test kitchen. I don’t give the wasps time to find those hornworms! They eat too quickly. Hope your garden is beautiful and prospering right now.

    June 11, 2013 at 8:33 am
  5. home, garden, life

    Mary Beth–what a beautiful garden…yours? I wager so. Just wait until the predatory wasps find those horn worms…

    June 7, 2013 at 12:13 pm

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