Posts Tagged ‘Sonification’

North Carolina's state insect is our pollinator the Honeybee!

North Carolina’s state insect is the Honeybee! The California beauty, Dogface butterfly, Zerene eurydice, another pollinator, was designated the official State Insect in 1972.

First, per Gardening Jones, Pennsylvania master gardener, there is a surprising number of veggie garden plants that need no pollination at all!

• All leafy greens
• Brassicas: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kohlrabi
• Below ground root veggies and tubers such as carrots, parsnips, salsify, potatoes, sweet potatoes, horseradish
• Ground level root veggies such as beets, turnips, rutabagas
• Most legumes including peas and beans
• Corn—like other wind pollinated veggies, giving them a little shake helps distribute the pollen.
• Herbs
• Celery
• Onions and leeks
• Parthenocarpic hybrids do not need to be pollinated and will not produce a viable seed, either. They are good for growing in greenhouses or where the availability of pollinators is limited. Parthenocarpic cucumbers must be grown in greenhouses to exclude bees because pollination causes their cucumbers to become misshapen and bitter.

The veggies listed above will all grow by themselves when planted from seed. And this is quite a list!

To the other extreme, these veggies need pollinators all the time!
• Cucumbers
• Melons and watermelons
• Berries ~ blueberries, strawberries
• Tree fruits

Melons and cucumbers can be hand-pollinated, but it is a somewhat cumbersome task. In the case of blueberries you also need some cross-pollination. This is easy to do just by planting two different varieties.

Squash Bees are Specialists!

Honeybees don’t help cucumbersmelonssquash, and their relatives, because the male flowers bloom before the honeybee is active in the morning. Honeybees fly from female flower to female flower later in the day, carrying no cucurbit pollen, but competing with Squash Bees for the nectar. Squash bees, are our little heroes! They fly earlier than honeybees, when the male flowers are blooming! See more about them by USDA’s Jim Cane.

Pollinator Squash Bee, Peponapis pruinosa

Squash beesPeponapis pruinosa, are solitary, native insects that specialize in pollinating cucumbers, squashes, pumpkins and gourds – cucurbits, and have only one generation per year. This male is outside a Coyote Gourd blossom.

Squash bees are bigger than Honeybees and collect pollen in the hairs on their legs! Here they are compared so you will know and protect Squash Bees when you see them! They don’t sting ~ if a bee is found sleeping inside a squash flower, it is a male and therefore harmless, because male bees cannot sting.

Pollinators Honeybees Squash Bees Compared

Plants that need our help to pollinate are:

• Squashes, both winter and summer types—by hand
• Tomatoes—by hand or wind
• Eggplant—by hand or wind
• Peppers, both Hot and Sweet—by hand or wind

Squashes, with their rather large male and female flowers, are easy enough to hand pollinate. Just remember to get as much pollen on the female plant as you can. The more there is, the better the chances the fruit will develop well. POLLINATION is Vital & Easy to Do!

Bumble Bees are like no other, Buzz Pollinators!

Honey bees don’t pollinate tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant or blueberries, but bumble bees DO! Wind-pollinated veggies are fertilized by the beating of Bumblebees’ and other insects’ wings, called BUZZ POLLINATION, Sonification! About 11 AM, when the anthers (they hold the pollen) are most open, you can likewise give the plants a little shake, or a sharp rap on the cage they are in or on the stem where the flowers are. Or hand pollinate using a small paintbrush or cotton swab. In the greenhouse you can help these veggies simply by adding a fan to move the pollen. Bumblebees fly earlier in spring and bring in our first spring crops! And they don’t sting!

Tomatoes and other Solanaceae will produce without bees or human help, just less…

Please click on the image or here to see the video!

More about Bumble bees! Excerpts and summaries from Sue Rosenthal’s 2014 post at Bay Nature plus notes by me.

They don’t make honey or colonies that can be carried from field to field, but because of their Buzz Pollination, they are especially effective pollinators! The anthers (male reproductive organs) of some flowers have only small pores the pollen is released from. Sometimes wind or visits from insects shake out some pollen, but the amounts are small. Also, many of these flowers do not produce nectar, so honeybees ignore them anyway.

Bumblebees, actively collect and eat not just nectar but also protein-rich pollen. And a bumblebee can cause a flower to discharge a visible cloud of pollen through buzz pollination. The bumblebee grasps the flower with its legs or mouthparts and vibrates its flight muscles very rapidly without moving its wings. This vibration shakes electrostatically charged pollen out of the anthers, and the pollen is attracted to the bumblebee’s oppositely charged body hairs. The bumblebee later grooms the pollen from its body into pollen-carrying structures on its back legs for transport to its nest.

Sometimes bumblebees employ buzz pollination on flowers that don’t require it, for example, California poppies. This may release the already accessible pollen more quickly and efficiently. They also use the energy of buzz pollination for other purposes, for example, compacting soil in their underground burrows (bumblebees don’t build hives like honeybees) or moving a pebble or other obstacle.

Honeybees cannot perform buzz pollination (so far, only a few kinds bees are known to do it), and therefore they cannot pollinate some important crops and wild plants. In fact, commercially-grown greenhouse tomatoes were traditionally pollinated by handheld electric vibrators with names like “Electric Bee” or “Pollinator II.”

Although discovered relatively recently, buzz pollination is no secret. Buzz-pollinating bumblebees make a distinctive, middle-C buzz, which is noticeably higher pitched than the buzz of flight. No special equipment is needed to hear the sound of buzz pollination, just listen for a distinctive middle-C “raspberry” next time you find a plant buzzing with bumblebees.

Honey Bees and Native Pollinators such as native bees, butterflies, flies, moths, beetles, and bats improve, or supplement, pollination for most plants they visit. Now here’s a little kicker! Honeybees aren’t particularly efficient pollinators. They don’t always flit enough between male and female, and that’s the whole idea of pollination! But they do better when they are disturbed by a wild bee wanting to mate. The Honeybee flits off to another plant and pollination goes up to 5 times as when there are no wild bees! Hooray for wild bees! UC Berkeley study

Best is to Plant that year round bee habitat for all your bees! Grow plenty of their all seasons flower favorites, their favorite colors. Grow a Pollinator Meadow at Home in Your Veg Garden! Here and there, let a carrot, daucus carota, celery, cilantro, arugula, or radish grow out to bloom. Make homes for your solitary native bees! Grow a Bee Garden that includes plenty of native plants!

Your plants love bee kisses!

Last updated 4.24.20

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

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Cucurbit Hand Pollination with Brush

In optimal conditions insects, mainly bees, pollinate our veggies. Wind works for some plants. Other times due to weather or stresses, humans help!

Wind-pollinated veggies

such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, are fertilized by the beating of Bumblebees’ and other insects’ wings, at exactly the right frequency! More pollen is released and pollination is more efficient. It’s called BUZZ POLLINATION! About 11 AM, when the male flower anthers (they hold the pollen) are most open, you can improve your tomato, eggplant and pepper production by giving the cages they are in or the main stems of your plants a few sharp raps, or gently shake the stems, to help the flowers self pollinate. Or hand pollinate using a small paintbrush or cotton swab. In the greenhouse you can help these veggies simply by adding a fan to move the pollen.

Honey bees don’t pollinate tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant or blueberries, or other Solanaceae, so build solitary bee condos for native bees. Native bees, per Cornell entomology professor Bryan Danforth, are two to three times better pollinators than honeybees, are more plentiful than previously thought and not as prone to the headline-catching colony collapse disorder that has decimated honeybee populations. A Jan 2019 UK study says pollination by wild bees yields larger strawberries than pollination by honey bees! This led them to say it’s worth it to make habitat for them!

The very best Solanaceae pollinator is a Bumblebee!!! See more! Bumblebees fly earlier in spring and bring in our first spring crops! And they don’t sting!

Video Produced by Joshua Cassidy

Please click on the image or here to see the video!

And, did you know Flowers can hear buzzing bees—and it makes their nectar sweeter!

While you are helping your tomatoes pollinate, if you are growing them in cages, also very gently help them up through the cages. Remove any bottom leaves that might touch the ground when weighted with water. Remove any diseased leaves ASAP!

Pollination Cucurbits Male Female Flowers     Pollination by Hand Cucurbits Male Stamen to Female Stigma

Pollination of Cucurbits by hand. In left image, male flower on left, female right.

Squashes, melons and monoecious cucumbers

can easily be hand pollinated. Cukes are notorious for needing help being fertilized! Cucurbits have male and female blooms on the same plant. If there are not enough pollinators about, we need to help. Also, multiple visits from the bees are required for good fruit set and properly shaped cucumbers. Male flowers open in the morning and pollen is only viable during that day. Hand pollinate during the morning hours, using only freshly opened flowers. You can use a small pointy paint brush, a cotton swab, Q-tip, your finger, and move pollen from the male stamen to the center of the female flower. Or the best, most complete method is to take the male flower off the plant, pull the petals off, and gently roll the male flower anther around and over the female stigma in the center of the female flower. The pollen is sticky, so it may take some time. One male anther can pollinate several females. Repeat. Female blooms will simply drop off the plant if they are not pollinated. So when your cukes are in production, you need to do this daily.

Don’t be confused by the little fruit forming under the female flowers and think pollination has already happened. The flower needs to be fertilized, and adequately, or the flower and fruit just fall off. Flowers not pollinated enough, that don’t abort, make misshapen fruits. That goes for corn having irregular to lacking kernels. Misshapen Strawberries are called cat-faced. Squash and cucumbers can be deformed. On an unwindy day, tilt the stalk so the corn tassels are over the silks and tap the stalk. You will see a shower of pollen fall on the silks. You may need to do it from one plant to another so you don’t break the stalk trying to get the pollen to fall on silks on the same plant.

Planting a lot of plants close together stresses plants. At higher densities, plants compete for water, nutrients, and sunlight, and the resulting stress can lead to a higher proportion of male flowers, less female flowers, the ones that produce. If you really want more fruit, give them room to be fruitful. The same goes for other stresses – damage from insects or blowing soil, low light intensities, or water stress – less female flowers are produced.

Weather affects pollination. Sometimes cool overcast days or rain, when bees don’t fly, there is no pollination. Rain washes pollen away. High humidity makes pollen sticky and it won’t fall. Drought is a problem for corn pollination. Too high nighttime temps, day temps 86°F and above, will keep your tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables from making pollen or setting fruit unless they are high temp tolerant varieties. Too windy and the pollen is blown away.

If it is your cucumbers that are not pollinating well each year, try parthenocarpic varieties. Parthenocarpic varieties produce only female flowers and do not need pollination to produce fruit. This type of cucumber is also seedless. Try a few varieties and see if you like them.

Pollinator Habitat is crucial! Most important of all is to plant flowers for every season possible in your area, near or right beside your plants, make those bee homes for wild bees! From Cornell: Native bees are two to three times more effective than honeybees! However, if weather isn’t with you or other stressful conditions occur, hand pollinating is the answer.

May your Veggie Basket be overflowing!

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The Green Bean Connection newsletter started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!


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Ichiban Eggplant are perfect for long slices for your Lasagna!

Ichiban Eggplants are perfect for long slices for your Lasagna!

Some things have no reasonable explanation. When I think of Eggplant I hear Summertime by Ella Fitzgerald…

And you thought your eggplant were just being temperamental! Well that’s exactly right! TEMPeramental! Eggplant fruit set is best when night temps are 60 degrees or more. Our coastal Santa Barbara night temps are still in the 50s. BUT if you read an Oregon site, they say night temps for Solanaceae, toms, peppers, eggplant, fruit set need to be 50 or above. Since we have lots of tomatoes at 1 to 2″ diameters at our community garden right now, and our night temps have been in the 50s, I would say they are right! So you lucky gardeners with blooming eggies, are going to be having eggplant babies! The warmer the weather the deeper the purple color!

Eggplants Varieties in a Charming Woven Basket

A pale purple Listada de Gandia, White Beauty, a couple of long, slender Thai Green, several deep-purple Violette Longue happily and proudly grown by Suzanne Ashworth

First plantings are usually in March; June is fine for last rounds of smaller fruited varieties. There are several types of eggplants, growers have their favorites! The big fat pear shaped Black Beauties, slender chic Japanese longs, and many new differently colored varieties and shapes on the market. If you have a short growing season, shade or a cool location, choose smaller fruited types, early-ripening eggplant varieties and start with large transplants. My favorite is Japanese longs because I can cut them in perfect strips to layer my lasagna!

Blue Marble Hybrid and Millionaire Hybrid are best for container gardening or for closer spacing. Ichiban produces abundant, tender, sweet, purple-skinned fruit 4 to 6 inches long, is easy to grow. And there is a “tomato-fruited” variety! More fun by the minute!

Companion Plants! Marlene Affeld says ‘Hot peppers are a good neighbor to eggplant and most other garden vegetables. Hot peppers emit a chemical from the plant roots that helps prevent Fusarium, root rot, and a wide range of other plant diseases!’ She also says Eggplant can be somewhat prone to insect attacks. This we know! Flea Beetles think they are the best thing since sliced bread! Strongly scented herbs such as thyme, rosemary, chamomile, lavender, horehound, oregano, sage, basil, and tarragon help repel insect invaders repulsed by the pungent herbal scent emitted by the herbs. Radish is a terrific trap plants for flea beetles – the beetles like radish more than eggplants! Eat a few of the radish, let the rest grow out and protect your Eggies. Thyme is especially effective against garden moths and aphids.

Special care! Early mulches can be dark colored to bring heat. When it gets hot, lay on some reflective straw that when moistened makes a sauna effect, keeps soil cool, but is moist topside!

Soil  These beauties love well drained rich organic soil, well composted, as well as super organic fertilizer like blood meal, well-rotted manure, cottonseed meal or bat guano. Be sure to use the ‘right’ bat guano. They will root to a depth of 3 to 4 feet, so a barrier free (no rocks) sandy or silt loam is ideal.

Eggplants are hungry. They like to be fed, but small amounts spread over summer. Otherwise it’s all leaf and no fruit. Jamaican Seabird guano, slow to breakdown to be available to your plants, is great to add at planting time for late season blooming! Feed them for sure after your first fruits are harvested.

Oh, and they like lots of water too, at least 2 inches of water a week, more in very hot weather. To avoid flower and fruit drop, water deeply and regularly, especially during long, dry periods. For that fine eggplant taste, just like with lettuce, we want rapid growth and fruit maturity. 

Healthy, generously producing eggplants often need support while they have those heavy fruits. Put small tomato cages over them when they are little plants for support later on. Also, some growers remove lower leaves and flowers so fruits can’t touch the ground and get fruit rot. Another reason to use cages. No slouching eggplants! Also remove those lover leaves to slow down the Verticillium wilt. Though the wilt is also wind borne, the main way it is taken up by your plant is from infected soil contact.

POLLINATION! Eggplants, in the Tomato family, are also wind pollinated! That means insects like bees and moths don’t do the job. Bumblebees do! They do buzz pollination, called sonification, that shakes the flower to release the pollen! Humans can help too. About 11AM to noon, when it’s warm, the flower opens a bit. Just like with tomatoes, that’s when to give the main stems a sharp rap! That acts the same as wind, releasing that pollen! Wet, high humidity or especially hot temps are not good. Hand pollination might be required. It’s easy to do – move a small paintbrush around inside the flower, do every flower!

Disease Resistant Varieties  Verticillium wilt is the main disease in eggplants. Sadly, there’s not much we can do about it. Leaves brown and die. All varieties are susceptible, some more than others. Oregon varieties that thrive in their cooler weather, are Dusky, Epic, Bambino (round), Cloud Nine, Black Bell, Calliope, Burpee Hybrid, Millionaire, (elongated), Megal, Bride, Orient Express. All of these varieties have shown tolerance to verticillium.

Pest prevention can be rotating your crop every other year or so, if you have space. Keep pest habitat to a minimum. That means weed regularly and remove debris. Row covers help keep pests away. Plant trap crops the pests like better, like radish for flea beetles. Use insecticidal soaps to get rid of those frustrating pests if there are too many. Flea beetles may be tiny, but the little devils suck the life out of your plant, interrupt your plant’s life, lower it’s general health and definitely production. Boo. Other Pests are aphids, lace bugs, whiteflies, and red spider mites. See UC Davis Eggplant problems diagnosed.

Harvest Eggplants take about 11 weeks to make those beautiful fruits. Long skinny varieties take a little more time, and the small Easter egg types, less. To get them soonest, at planting time lay in some black plastic ground cover, or cover with a spun fabric row cover. When they start blooming, remove the cover so they can be pollinated. As they grow, the row cover will also protect them from pests like flea beetles. As your eggplant grow, you can cover them with a cloche. Make your own cloche or hot cap by cutting out the bottom of a gallon plastic milk jug. Cover your plants until the first hot stretch of summer. Remember to uncover them during hot midday.

Harvest on time to keep them coming. When that fruit is firm and shiny, pick it! No storing on the plant. Harvest gently and carefully to avoid damage to their pretty skins, and puncturing, to avoid bruising and compression injuries. FYI Depending on the market and plant vigor, some commercial growers cut eggplants back to 18 inches for a second harvest in fall.

A common error is harvesting too late. Firm, vibrant and glossy is good. Dull is not. Depending on the variety, the calyx, the part holding the eggplant, should be green, not brown and drying. If it is brown and the fruit is spongy, the fruit is past peak, already drying internally, possibly bitter with hard seeds. With white and light-colored varieties yellow means they are over mature, compost. To keep your plant producing, cut off over mature fruit and see if it will produce any further. If you are done for the season, use over-ripe fruits for seed saving.

Seed Saving! Save seeds from your very best plant! It’s easy to do. Let the last one rot until very stinky, turns yellow. Oh, boy. Here is the Gardening Australia’s way of doing it. Stephen Clay McGehee at Southern Agrarian says …if you are saving seeds, you need to plant as many as possible (six is considered the absolute minimum) in order to maintain genetic diversity in your plants and their seeds. And he admits there are a LOT of seeds even in ONE eggplant! In his case he shares with West Africa missionary friends who plant them in their garden and share with the natives in their village. He says ‘They also carried a number of other seeds from our garden and seeds that others have shared with us.’ You could share with your local Seed Swap!

Eggplant Seed Saving

Storage They don’t store well, 14 days max depending on the variety. They get chilling injury in the fridge. Chinese varieties are the most resistant, American varieties the least. 50 to 54 Degrees is best, and not with ethylene-producing fruits, apples, bananas, melons or tomatoes.

Historical Note According to the American Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Gardening — Vegetables, “A 5th Century Chinese book contains one of the oldest references to eggplant. A black dye was made from the plant, and ladies of fashion used it to stain their teeth – which, when polished, gleamed like metal.” How strange and wonderful.

Eggplant Cuisine! China, 62%, and India produce the world’s most eggplant! As of Sep 2019, in the US, New Jersey is now #1! It grows 849 acres of eggplants, compared to No. 2 California’s 144 acres. If you want to, enjoy the October 3 Loomis CA Eggplant Festival! 2020 Eggplant is a valued Mediterranean food, was a food staple in Africa before the middle ages.

Burpee tip! ‘When eggplants are plentiful, make up a bunch of casseroles in foil pans and freeze them [for when the snow is blowing].’ They can be eaten raw, roasted, grilled, baked, sautéed, stewed, stuffed, dried, fried, braised, mashed, pickled, pureed, or breaded and fried! Just Google ‘Eggplant Cuisine’ for super delicious options, recipes and beautiful presentations!

Eggplant Cuisine, Baingan Ka Bharta, Indian Eggplant in an Elegant Blue Bowl!

Baingan Ka Bharta, Indian Eggplant

1 hour · Vegan Gluten free Paleo · Serves 4

  • 1 Cilantro
  • 2 tsp Coriander, powder
  • 2 Eggplants, large
  • 5 Garlic cloves
  • 1 inch Ginger knob
  • 2 Serrano pepper
  • 3 Tomatoes, medium
  • 1 White onion, large

Baking & Spices

  • 4 tbsp Avocado oil
  • 1/2 tsp Black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/2 tsp Garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp Paprika
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric, powder
  • 1 tsp Cumin seeds

Enjoy the Beauty and every Bite of your superb Eggplants!

Updated 5.27.20

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

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