“Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.” William Jennings Bryan

Monday, July 29, 2013

July 29, 2023

Sex in the hoop house hasn’t been so great. I thought it would be, and I thought it would be really fun, but that’s just another one of those fantasies that come true in friends drunken stories and in books and magazines but not so much in real life, or especially at least in my real life. It’s been so bad I had to ask for advice, search the internet, and do some experimenting. Its embarrassing for someone like me who usually takes it for granted, but at times, not everything goes as easily as planned, and at my age, it gets a bit frustrating.

The problem is getting the pollen to the stigma. The eggplant and the tomatoes just don’t get it, or just can’t get it right. Although the plants are huge and full of flowers, there hasn’t been any developing fruit.

Tomatoes and eggplants don’t necessarily need bees to pollinate them. They don't need a match maker. They are considered self pollinating since each flower has both male and female parts; pollen doesn’t have to be carried from a male flower to a female flower. Mostly they rely on air and a little wind, and insects and bees to a lesser extent. Last year when I did my first hoop house tomatoes there wasn’t any problem at all- I set up a fan to keep a breeze on them that gently swayed the flowers back and forth enough to dislodge the pollen from the anthers so it would land on the stigma for the trip to the ovaries, and I was happy with the amount of tomatoes I  harvested, but this summer, the fan isn’t doing the trick at all.

Stacy gave me some advice – she told me to try a brush and to pollinate the flowers myself – going to each flower and brush the pollen from the anthers to the stigma. I would be an artificial wind and/ or artificial bee (lets forget I have 100,000 or so honey bees hived a few hundred yards away that could do this for me through all the vented openings) ….so I found a soft makeup brush in my daughter's leftover things (when kids leave the nest they leave you with all sorts of stuff that looks like junk until you need it, then its sorta not like junk anymore) and I began the process of brushing each eggplant flower. All of them. And every day. Or at least every day that I could and can, just adding another hour job to my day!

It seems to be working a little bit as I do have a few pregnant eggplants, although there are not as many as there probably would be if the plants were outside, according to my past experiences. Sex out doors is definitely better!

Brushes don’t necessarily work for tomatoes because of their flower structure. The flower needs to be
shaken either by hand or, as I was doing last year, aiming a breeze from a fan at them. I have repositioned two fans so that they blow more directly on the flowers and I shake the plants and the individual flowers as many times a day as I can. But so far nothing much has happened – one tomato for seven plants. Outside in the garden, the tomatoes, though not as healthy or as tall, have quite a few more fruit. Again, outdoors seems key.

It’s interesting though because I also have pepper plants in the hoop house which are also self pollinating and with no help from me, are producing a good amount of peppers. So why just them? I don’t have an answer. They aren't inhibited and like sex anywhere?

I did read that temperature and humidity are the keys to germination. At high temperatures, tomatoes, etc don’t release pollen. With high humidity, the pollen sticks to the anther and can’t be released. This environment has happened in the hoop house often this summer and I am thinking that maybe I need more ventilation than what I already have. Or maybe after the apex of summer weather passes, these environmental conditions may get more favorable. 

Or maybe I don't have the music right to get these flowers in the mood and need to change to another Pandora channel - I hope to God it isn't country music that get's em turned on cause I wont do it. They will just have to like Aexi Murdoch and Zero 7 for now. 

I think though, the real challenge to all this hoop house libido is to make the inside more like the outside while keeping it inside. I am confused too.

Its all relative. In the hoop house there are no huge insect populations, nor is there fungus or blights. I can control watering, etc so these plants are the healthiest things I have ever grown, while outside the same plants are weaker and are already showing signs of blight and insect damage and overall are not as healthy. They do have fruit though, but I don’t know for how much longer or how good they will be with all the rain and heat we have been having. Its a trade off now, but in the long run I think the hoop house will still be the better way to get a perfect harvest.

I think that I will eventually get this hoop house sex thing figured out. I think that in time, all the work and the frustration will reward me. And if not, well, it has been fun trying. Like some therapists say, “you don’t necessarily have to be good at it to enjoy it”. That's the way I feel about farming too.