Recently I have written some vegetable gardening articles that have taken a turn towards more of a scientific approach, albeit entry level plant science as opposed to advanced horticulture, but very important, I believe, none the less. I wanted to touch on the process of pollination and what this process means for your vegetable garden.
As you may remember from science classes past, pollination is the process by which pollen is transferred, which then enables the fertilization process. Pollen is a fine yet coarse powder, which in essence, contains the male portion of what is needed during the pollination process.
Pollination occurs when pollen lands on a compatible pistil or female cone. The pistil or cone will then germinate and produce a pollen tube which then allows the transfer of the male portion to the ovule.
There are two types of pollination processes, Abiotic and Biotic. Abiotic pollination is when the pollination process occurs due to a non-living organism, such as wind. This is more common in grasses, most conifers and trees. According to the US Forest Department, roughly 10% of flowering plants are pollinated without the assistance of animals (and other living creatures). Which brings us to the next type of pollination, Biotic.
Biotic is the most common form of pollination and requires pollinators, i.e., some living thing to carry the pollen from one plant to the next. From birds, bees, and bats to moths and butterflies, they all play an important and crucial part to make this process happen.
Pollination can be accomplished either through self-pollination or cross-pollination. As you can imagine self-pollination occurs when pollen from one flower pollinates the same flower or other flowers of the same individual. Cross-pollination occurs when pollen is delivered to a flower from a different plant.
Now that you know how pollination works, you can then gather it is an important part of your vegetable garden. Most vegetable gardeners rarely think about the pollination process, that is unless, their zucchini plants produce flowers and then nothing happens, meaning pollination is not occurring. A good trick would be to manually “do” the pollination process yourself by using a cotton swab or small brush (as shown in the photo). Of course, planting flowers nearby that attract bees or butterflies would help as well.
Tomatoes self pollinate rather easily which is why they are far and way the number one item grown in the home vegetable garden in America. They require very little maintenance. Corn, however, cross pollinates, and can be difficult if not done properly, producing very little yield.
Most home vegetable gardeners want to plant seeds and forget about it. That is fine, but you should learn some of the basics about plant science so that if a problem arises, you can diagnose it and come up with a solution.
About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us, the moderator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook and creator of the Seeds Club.
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