Monday, July 26, 2010

Birds, bees and cucumbers

There's been a mini discussion going on here regarding on earlier post lamenting my lack of cucumbers. All summer, I've been waiting for them to appear. We bought seeds in the spring and planted them as directed, though in a large pot, not in the ground. We figured we'd try "picklebush" cukes which are "perfect for small gardens" according to the Burpee package. They sprouted quickly and came up strong, producing small yellow flowers within a week or two. Then, nothing. No fruit.
Consulting the Internet, I quickly found out that cucumbers are particularly dependent on bees. They have male and female flowers (as one commenter points out on my earlier post) and need the bees to pollinate them.

Our terrace generally attracts a lot of bees right here in Manhattan. But this summer, we've found them few and far between. Maybe its a lack of flowers to attract them. Our impatiens just have not liked this heat.
I read that using an electric toothbrush can simulate bees and trotted out to my cucumber plants, device in hand. I buzzed away with the metal end, touching what I figured were male plants and then the females.
And voila, a week later - two cukes growing! Small, yes, and only two, but something that resembles food at last!
Then, I noticed a more natural buzzing. Finally, the bees had discovered our terrace. Now, they're dancing among the tomatoes and frolicking on the cucumber flowers, sampling eggplant pollen and bell pepper pollen too. So, could it have been my toothbrush or was it the bees that spurred the fruit before I'd noticed their arrival? And why did the bees suddenly appear?


meemsnyc said...

An electric toothbrush! Wow, that's one I didn't know! Thanks for the tip.

Kim said...

I can just see you out there toothbrushing your cucumber plants. That's great!

The Gingerbread House said...

You had a great idea and it worked...I had the same thing with my Butternut squash! plenty of blooms and then nothing...Ginny