Sunday, 12 July 2015

Doing the bees' work on cucumbers


Bees are in short supply round the gardens of West London, as my neighbour was remarking yesterday. 'Do you think I need to pollinate my marrows?' she asked.

I really didn't know, but it made me scurry off to the internet to see whether I should be pollinating my cucumbers. Even if we had swarms of bees, the cucumbers are in the greenhouse, so they'd be out of reach.

The cucumbers have been doing well - indeed I pride myself in spotting their early promise. Now they're almost taking over the greenhouse, especially since I gave them a piece of string along the roof to climb along.

But amid the profusion of leaves and flowers, there's not much sign of a cucumber.

So I was grateful to someone called Gary Pilarchik for his helpful YouTube video on how to 'hand-pollinate' cucumbers.

According to Gary, you just swivel a paint brush inside the male flowers, collecting pollen, and then do the same inside the females.

I had a go, and found the same problem Gary had in his video - a lack of females. You're supposed to identify females by their being single flowers, while males grow in clusters. And females will have cucumbers growing between them and the stem. (Although doesn't that mean there's no point in trying to pollinate them any more?)

Male cluster

Female flower with growing cucumber

In the end, I just swivelled willy-nilly - thinking it didn't matter if I couldn't tell whether I was collecting or distributing pollen.

Some of the advice talks about it being a messy job. I found it unusually clinical for something in the garden, but it's true that I've been left with a stubborn stickiness on my wrists and arms from the pollen.

Oh well, I've done what I can.


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