Thursday, July 30, 2015

Zucchini Tree?

The most talked about... and most photographed plant in my experimental container garden this summer, has been my 'Deema Zucchini'. Pruned and tied to grow up a wooden stake, eventually somewhat resembling a tree. 
Deema Zucchini
I discovered this method on a square foot gardening video and decided to give it a try. Initially, I was going to use a
'space saver' variety in my container, but that type of plant will not work with this method. You need a variety that produces a trailing vine, so you can stake it vertically. I cannot live without a zucchini plant, so was thrilled with something new to try in a confined space. This way you also prevent those ginormous gourds that are found in the field or garden at final harvest.

I started the Deema Zucchini from seed, purchased through William Dam. It is a hybrid, pale green and is high yielding. When the seedling was transplanted to the container, I placed a heavy wooden stake right beside it immediately so as not to disturb the root system later. As the vine grows, begin tying it to the stake to encourage upright growth. At first this was a bit awkward because the plant is too bushy. Remove any of the leaves from the ground level, but leave the leaf immediately below the first female bud. Once that zucchini is mature and picked, remove all the leaves from below it. Continue this method for each zucchini; when picked, remove all the leaves that were below it. Eventually the stem becomes easier to stake up and it kind of looks like a zucchini tree!

I have had some degree of difficulty with pollination and dropping of female flowers before they even open with my squash this year. Perhaps I was a bit too ambitious putting 2 plants in one container.... or is it the heat... or my watering schedule... or all of the above?

Lack of pollination shows up as a squash that starts to grow a little, then shrivels and drops off. If the plants are not successfully pollinated by bees, it can easily be fixed if you hand pollinate the flowers. The female flower has a tiny fruit below the flower and the male blossoms have a straight stem and no fruit. To hand pollinate; pick an open male flower and gently peel back the petals. The pollen is like bright yellow dust on the center structure of the male flower. Dab the pollen onto the center structure of an open female blossom. That's all there is to it! Several female flowers can be pollinated by one male flower. 

My other problem has been that the tiny female flowers are turning brown at the tips and/or dropping off before they open. Linda Gilkeson writes that "...plants do this if they are carrying more flowers and fruit than they can sustain with the water or nutrients available to them. Excessive heat might also play a role." With our drought and my container garden experiment that makes sense. She also went on to mention that "...irregular watering causes the fruit to grow with narrower places along the length (it also happens with cucumbers)." And suggests that, "...a thicker mulch and more attention to watering will produce straight sided fruit without 'waistlines'." You will find her archived gardening tips at http://lindagilkeson.ca/gardening_tips.html

Till next week... Enjoy a safe, long weekend and Bon App├ętit!


Photo by Sally Rae

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