Inch by Inch: Sex, stress, and the organic garden

Posted Wednesday, July 11, 2012 in Features

Inch by Inch: Sex, stress, and the organic garden

It's July, and your garden is busily flowering and fruiting. Right?

No?

Maybe you're not being harsh enough with your plants.

Most plants can reproduce both asexually and sexually, like some lower animals can. Back when we were in college, a beloved professor of invertebrate zoology said that given their druthers, most organisms that can reproduce both ways would reproduce asexually. It's easier on the organism, it allows it to store up food for coming bad times ahead.

However, if the organism is under some stress ... not a lot, we're not suggesting a major drought here, just a little difficulty ... the organism rightly is concerned about its mortality, and goes about the process of reproducing sexually.

And in plants, the end result of sexual reproduction is usually what we want: the fruit. 

Now, this doesn't apply to plants in which we eat other parts of the organism ... lettuce, cabbage, and celery should continue to be babied along, and so should carrots and other root vegetables, and most of your herb garden. In fact, if you see flowers on any of these, pinch them off to encourage the green growth.

However, for your tomatoes, peppers, fruit trees, brambles, squash, cucumbers, and melons, try a little stress if you don't have flowers yet.

What can you do?  First, if you've been fertilizing, or adding compost regularly, stop. Second, let them dry out, just a little bit, to get them in the mood. If you have any plants growing near that fix nitrogen in the soil, like clover, pull it out.

Soon enough, you'll start to see flowers on those healthy green vines. And then, well, nature will take its course.

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