Monday, August 01, 2011

The Mystery Garden

I should probably explain the title of this blog post. When I planted my vegetable garden back in early May, I thought it would be fun to not mark what or where I had planted. I was using seeds, so really had to wait until things sprouted, grew and produced vegetables to realize and remember what I had planted!!

This has been intriguing to a point and aggravating at the same time. The intriguing part is the surprise factor in what the garden produces and when that happens and the aggravating part is not being able to identify specific plants and/or their vegetable!

Case in point is the gourd pictured to the right - the green and orange gourd, looking quite like an acorn squash. I picked my "acorn squash" and proceeded to cut it and prepare it for the oven. It was to be my Sunday dinner!! After topping with a bit of butter and some ground cinnamon, it was ready to be baked.

About an hour later, I determined the delicacy to be ready to eat. It smelled yummy!! I pulled it out of the oven and let it cool a little before I dug in. Yuck!! To my surprise, the meat of the vegetable was quite stringy. This was my first clue that this was definitely not an acorn squash. If not an acorn squash, then what was it?

Of course I had to ponder this question because as I mentioned, I couldn’t remember what I had planted! I did plant some zucchini and watermelon seeds in the same general area, both “viney” plants, and none of which apparently sprouted as I’ve seen neither at this point.

Ah, then it came to me – I remember planting some pumpkin seeds!! Alas, that is what I had picked – a baby pumpkin that will no longer have the opportunity to mature. I killed a baby pumpkin! I guess I thought because it was green, it couldn't have been a pumpkin at all!! After some research, I found that pumpkins do, indeed, start out green, turning more orange as the nights cool down.

I also found out the life cycle of the pumpkin, from seed to fruit. It is quite interesting to say the least. Ten weeks after planting, the first flowers appear. The first ones are typically the male flowers, which seem to be more plentiful than the female flowers. The female flowers are distinguished by a small round bulb at the base of the flower. The flower is waiting to be fertilized by the bees before it can then start it's growth cycle to become a full-fledged pumpkin. If the female flower is not fertilized the day it blooms, it will die – forever. Kind of harsh, I agree, but that’s nature.

So, after reading this at lunch yesterday, my fear was that I had picked the only pumpkin in my patch and there would not be another this season!! Low and behold, when I arrived home and had changed clothes, I immediately ran out to the garden to search for more pumpkins. The vines are everywhere and have taken over so it is not as easy as you might think.

Thank goodness, I did find one that is growing nicely toward the back of the garden. I am hopeful for many more as the female blooms can be fertilized by the bees continuously even until the vines come out of the ground! Or, I could even manually fertilize them using pollen from the male blooms and placing it on the center of the female blooms. Yes, I may become a pumpkin botonist.

I have to say I have learned quite a bit about the accidental pumpkin patch I now have growing in my backyard. Who knew? I definitely plan to watch the patch more closely and will weed out other vines ie the squash and cucumber vines, so the pumpkins have more room to grow. With any luck, I should have perfect pumpkins in September for my decorating needs. I only wish I had thought to plant the Baby Pam Sugar Pie variety which is perfect for making pumpkin pies!

I really can't complain as I've had great success with this year's garden. I've had green peppers, cucumbers, corn, lima beans, green beans, yellow squash, eggplant, sweet potatoes, and now pumpkin. It's been the best fun watching everything grow. But the best part? It's walking out to the garden and picking what I'll be eating for dinner that night. You absolutely can't beat that for freshness and the taste is incredible.

This is not my first garden, not at all. It's been a few years since the last one though. I surely have missed it and will definitely not let that much time lapse before the next one. In fact, I am already planning what will be in the fall garden!! Pin It

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