Hand Pollination Tutorial -Squash Plants

My deck container garden is going gang-busters this year due to some lessons learned and an earlier start. This year, I started seeds in an indoor green house in April and had strong seedlings in time for early planting.   And along the way, I’ve run out of space on my small deck and have had to improvise a bit and use my grill. It only partially works and was destined for the dump until it became plant real estate. Yes, those spaghetti squash containers are sitting on the open grill. 

Speaking of the squash, I thought I would do a little photo tutorial of how I hand pollinate my squash. I have spaghetti, yellow straight neck, and zucchini. The process is the same for all, but the huge spaghetti squash blossoms make for easy photographs.   Here we go. 

First, you have to know the difference between female and male squash blossoms. The female are the only ones that produce fruit and have a bulge at the base of the flower itself. 


The males don’t. 


Squash blossoms only bloom for one day and females are most receptive in the morning.  With the shortage we are seeing in pollinators (few bees on the deck, even with flowers blooming, and it worries me a great deal) sometimes you have to take pollination into your own hands to make use of the female’s receptivity window. 

Cut or pinch a male blossom off. Notice it even looks different on the inside from the female. 

Male:


Females have a lot more going on in there:


I hold the male flower over the female and tap any loose pollen into the female before I start the more delicate work. Waste not, want not. 


Then, gently peel back the petals to make the stamen more accessible. You will use this part to pollinate. 


Now, all you do is gently touch the male stamen to the corresponding female part in the blossom and rub it around. (Sounds a little kinky, but get over it. It’s just nature. ) 


Then, leave the lady alone to do her thing.  By the end of the day, she will have closed up and whatever will be will be. Does it always work?  Well, that depends largely on outside circumstances like rain, and even wind.  Anything that causes stress on the plant can have an impact on whether or not your pollination efforts will bear fruit. But don’t give up.   I have some rather large proof that it works. 


I hope this tutorial helps your garden flourish. Of course, it would be wonderful if there were enough pollinators to let nature do her own thing but it just isn’t the case all the time. Hand pollination will help ensure you have a plentiful harvest!  

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Much love, 

~MCH

End of a Season – Gardens and Life

Nature is cyclical. All seasons must end for a new one to begin. My grandfather’s passing has had this on my mind this week. Coming out to my deck for some quiet meditation brought me face to face with another example of a season ending. Summer is fading, and with it, my lettuce. I’ve tried to keep watering the plants and they keep fading. I’ve pruned and sill they fade. As some began to flower and go to seed, I realized it was time to let them go. 

It’s hard to let things go that you’ve  worked hard for. Whether it’s in the garden, or in our lives. Relationships that are one sided, jobs with no growth, whatever. We pour ourselves into these things and don’t want to admit when their season has ended. 


Clearly, the season has ended for my particular lettuces.  

I decided to make my meditation an active one and practice letting go of things whose time has come.  I’ve always said there’s something therapeutic in the act of getting your hands into the dirt.   Connecting with the roots of plants brings us closer to our own roots. And, so, I pulled the plants up, tossed them over the railing for the bunnies in the morning, and loosened the soil in the containers. 

While I enjoy the wildness of nature and her ordered chaos of creation, I’m also a sucker for tidiness.   After my lettuce purge, I sat back and admired the result. A collection of  garden containers ready for a fresh start. What will go in them?  Who knows?  So many possibilities. 


What will go in place of the things we finally bring ourselves to let go of?  Who knows?  So many possibilities.  

I’d like to think my grandfather is experiencing the same thing. So many possibilities and so much to experience in a whole new way. Unfettered by ailments and limitations.   The end of a season, but the beginning of a brand new one. 

Much love and light,

MCH 

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Pruning the Garden and the Mind

After a clumsy attempt to funnel some of a large bag of birdseed into my more manageable milk jug,


I decided to do a little pruning of the lettuce containers. 


Clearly, it has been a while as evidenced from the pile of leaves quickly building. 

Pruning plants is an important part of healthy growth. It makes room for new growth while relieving the plant of fading leaves that are sucking needed water and nutrients to no end.   As I sat there talking to the plants about how much better they will feel when they have room to stretch and grow, I realized that the same is true for me. 

You see, we humans tend to carry around a lot of energy sucking things. We get so used to this that we don’t even notice the drain it places on us until it manifests in something more serious. The fading leaves of our plant can be many things: a criticism at work, an extra pound on the scale after a holiday, or any number of little things that become big things in our mind. 

I’m reminded of the story of the psychologist speaking to a group of people about a half full glass of water. It wasn’t what they expected her to say. She asked how heavy it was, not how full it was.   She said if you hold the glass in your outstretched hand for a moment, it’s not heavy. For half an hour, it’s much harder to do. What about for days?  Impossible. But, wait, it’s just a small glass of water, right?  If we carry small things around and let them suck our energy, we lose energy and joy in our struggle.  But what happens when we set the glass down?  Relief. The same for pruning the soul sucking leaf things out of our lives. 

I am not advocating making large changes all at once. You wouldn’t hack down half a plant at once without risking the plant going into shock.  Don’t do that to yourself, either. Start with one small thing. What small thing or thought can you let go of?

Is overthinking and worry your fading leaf?  What can you release that you cannot control?

Is cleaning up clutter a constant fading leaf for you?  What can you purge?  Start with your closet.  Giving it to charity will add a little extra feel good energy to you. 

Are you over scheduled?  Or worse, are your children?  What faded leaf activity can you do without to make room for growing memories that matter?

Spend some time with yourself and take s good look at the growing living thing you are.   Notice where your wandering thoughts go. Are they positive?  Regrets?  Fading leaves?  Precious memories?  What can you let go of to make room for the love and light to grow and flourish?


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Much love and light!

MCH

Watering the Wildlife

The Back Deck bird bar gang have been around since midwinter. They have become accustomed to the feed pan, and it is part of my morning ritual. I fill it and the hanging feeder and bless them both. I’ve recently had Joe the cardinal come with his fledgling to teach it how to eat from the pan.  The wildlife have become my wild pets. They have names and personality, and are slowly warming up to me being outside with them.  The birds and squirrels like to wander around checking out new additions to the container garden, while the bunnies munch on the wild strawberries under the deck. 

As the weather here in the south began to heat up, I had a pool installed at The Back Deck. Ok, so I put out a bird bath. The funny thing is, no one bathes in it. It has become a watering hole instead.  Everyone from Rockie the squirrel to Chocolate the dove pop over for a drink after their nosh. 


The bowl sits beside the pan in the middle of the deck (or off to the side when I need the space for my yoga mat) so they can easily find fresh water in the heat of the day. The gang is patient and take turns, for the most part, at both. Only once in a while will there be a bar brawl over peanuts or who gets to eat first. 


So, while it is noble to feed the nature spirits around us, don’t forget that life needs water, too.  The dog days can be hard on little creatures. Place a dish of water out for them near where they come to your feeders. For our precious and ever-dwindling pollinators, place a shallow dish with marbles and water so that they may land on the marbles to drink and prevent drowning in their quest to quench their tiny thirst. 

Nature is wonderful company when we take the time to be still and quiet stewards of the world around us. 

(My grill wheel has photo bombed big time today. I’m out of propane and never use the smoker side. May be time to turn the behemoth into a planter. )

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Much love and light!

MCH

Combining All My Hippie Happies: Gardening, Clean Eating, and Yoga

Let me just start by saying that I haven’t done yoga in ages. A friend of mine threw down the gauntlet to a 30 day yoga challenge to get me back into it, so here I am after years of not doing it. Don’t get me wrong, I love yoga and used to do it regularly. Then, with kids and a busy schedule, never made the time for it. Big mistake. 

So, to take back my practice and the time to do a little self-love, I brought my yoga outside to my deck sanctuary. It’s the place that makes me happy, so it seemed like the natural spot to renew my yoga practice. The container garden plants are growing, and so am I. 


Notice the iPad mini propped up on the smoker side of the grill.  The same friend who challenged me introduced me to Yoga With Adrienne on YouTube. It’s free and Adrienne is encouraging and laid back- perfect for any level, but especially unintimidating for those new to the practice.  Go check out her channel and give it a try. 

It was nice to be outside with the breeze and the birds, but it was definitely warmer than indoors. It gives new meaning to the term “hot yoga.”  Of course, this meant ending my session with something cold and fruity.  Peach water today. If you don’t have one, I highly suggest an infuser cup. 


Do something good for yourself today. Something uplifting for your body, mind, and spirit.  Then, share your experience in the comments to inspire others. 

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Much love and light!

MCH

Container Garden DIY Idea

Last year’s garden didn’t work out too well.  The soil is dense and rocky, and the bunnies, deer, and bugs had a field day with it.  So, this year, I decided to try some container gardening since my deck is pretty high off the ground.  As far as I know, deer don’t go up and down stairs, and bunnies are too skittish to get that close to where people may be.  It seems to be working as far as that goes, but I had another issue.  How do you grow a small space container garden on a budget?

The dollar store and some ingenuity, that’s how.  Well, those and Pinterest.  I mean, who can function without Pinterest?  Not me.

I already had a container garden tomato plant, but wanted to do more container vegetable gardening.  With my new clean eating plan, veggies are a must and nothing beats the ones you grow yourself.  Squash and zucchini are some of my favorites.  I have also developed a new love for fresh salads, especially with all the wonderful summer fruits and vegetables.  I don’t have a lot of space on my deck thanks to a tremendous grill/smoker combo that we only use one side of.  Time to get creative.

I went to the dollar store and bought some large bowls and a couple of pool noodles.  My hubby loaned me his drill and I made some drainage holes in the bottom of the bowls.  Pool noodles got cut into donut slices to use for light-weight drainage.

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Then, I filled the bowls with a mixture of potting soil and grounds for my garden from Starbucks (FREE!).  For the little zucchinis, I needed some support for the plants.  I had some tomato cages from last-year’s garden, but they were way too tall.  So, out came some zip-ties and I bent them to a good height.  More holes in the sides, more zip-ties and we were in business.  Pop in the seedlings and there you have it.  Squatty little zucchini bowls.

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I did the same thing without the cages for my lettuce bowl container garden.  They are in the festive green bowls that happen to look a bit like lettuce.  I also planted some radishes in an extra bowl.

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And there you go!  A little container gardening idea DIY for an easy container garden without spending a lot of money.  I’m a bit obsessed with this whole concept now and have added container garden herbs, flowers, and even more veggies like spinach, eggplant, peppers, and onions.

If you have some creative ideas for container gardens, share in the comments!

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Much love and light!

MCH