Gardening Articles for week
1st March 2008
Written by Wally Richards. Sorry about the
QUIRKS OF NATURE
Nature is never constant, there are ebbs and flows and at
times unusual things can happen.
Unusual for the observer maybe but just another interesting
aspect in the ever changing world of plants and gardens.
Last month I received the following email from a gardener;
This season I planted some seeds from a butternut pumpkin
that we had saved seeds from. As you can see from the photo
it has turned into a monster, it roughly measures 26inches
from the stalk to end. Other pumpkins in the patch are round,
some are long and thin but they all have the same markings.
One or two are starting to turn a faint orange colour. Are
you able to confirm from the photo if this is indeed a butternut
pumpkin. Look forward to hearing from you. Regards Elaine.
The picture shows a butternut colored, long marrow, growing
next to a butternut. Both are growing off the same plant,
side by side.
Another gardener rang me about a week ago and told how this
season she planted a few squash plants and also a couple of
water melons in the same area.
Now that the plants are reaching maturity she has found that
the watermelon plants have produced only squash fruit, no
water melons. Yet the plants are really water melons with
their distinctly different foliage to squash foliage.
All these plants are cucurbits and what has happened is the
bumble bees have taken pollen from one type and pollinated
the female flowers of the other, resulting in cross pollination
and strange fruit.
This cross pollination can occur between certain members of
the family but not between another member, cucumbers. So it
is safe to grow cucumbers near pumpkins, squash, gourds, zucchini
and melons but maybe not so good when you grow these others
near each other.
Corn is another plant that can easily cross pollinate with
other members of the family being maize, ornamental corn and
pop corn. Thus if growing a variety of sweet corn ideally
you should only grow that one variety and not other varieties
of sweet corn, pop corn or maize anywhere near (if you want
the type to be true.)
Corn is wind pollinated and the pollen can travel great distances
and one of the big reasons for us to never allow GE corn to
be grown in this country.
I came across a situation some years ago where a gardener
grew pop corn and sweet corn near each other and the resulting
cobs had both pop corn and sweet corn on the same cobs. Making
both crops just about useless. It would have been interesting
to have placed some of the cobs in the oven in their sheaths
to cook. Likely the popcorn would have popped and so you would
have the sweet corn as the main meal and popcorn for dessert.
Corn or maize is actually an invention of man and is solely
dependant on mankind for its survival on the planet.
It all started about 7000 years ago when the South American
Natives took a grass called Teosinte (which resembles our
modern corn or maize.)
Ancient Teosinte did not have large ears. Instead, hard, nut-like
kernels were distributed in small, feathery cobs over many
tertiary branches of the plant which has a similar growth
habit/appearance to modern corn.
There are five recognized species of teosinte: Zea diploperennis,
Zea perennis, Zea luxurians, Zea nicaraguensis and Zea mays.
The last species is further divided into four subspecies:
ssp. huehuetenangensis, ssp. mexicana, ssp. parviglumis and
ssp. mays. The first three subspecies are teosintes; the last
is maize, or corn, the only domesticated taxon in the genus
Over time this corn like grass was developed into the maize
and corn we know today.
The following are the different types we see today;
Dent (Zea mays indenata) Dent corn is often used as livestock
feed, in industrial products, or to make processed foods.
Dent corn is also frequently referred to as "field"
corn. Either white or yellow, dent kernels contain both hard
and soft starch that become indented at maturity.
Flint (Zea mays indurata) Flint corn, also known as Indian
corn, is used for similar purposes as dent corn. Flint corn
is distinguished by a hard outer shell and kernels with a
range of colors from white to red. (You can remember that
it has a very hard exterior by thinking of flint, the stone.)
Today, most flint corn is grown in Central and South America.
Sweet (Zea saccharata or Zea rugosa) Sweet corn is primarily
eaten on the cob, or it can be canned or frozen for future
consumption. Sweet corn is seldom used for feed or flour.
Sweet corn is extra sweet because it contains more natural
sugars than other types of corn. (Field corn contains 4% sugar
at the same stage standard sweet corn contains 10% sugar.)
Almost 50% of the sugar can be converted to starch within
24 hours after sweet corn is picked, so it is best to eat
Any Problems ring me at 0800 466464 (Palmerston
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz