Anyone who grows their own vegetables soon learns that you can get a "glut" of produce from just one or two plants. In our case, that's especially true, as there are only two of us to feed and the plants are happy and well-fed. Like most vegie gardeners with a glut of goodies, we do the usual thing and give away our excess produce to family and friends.
Now, all that makes sense, so what I am doing trying to produce even bigger gluts by hand-pollinating the flowers on my eggplant and cucumber plants? Madness is the simple explanation, although gluttony might be more fitting — however "glutton for punishment" is bang on the mark.
We only have one eggplant plant and one cucumber plant here, and so I want each to be productive. But as far as the many bees in my garden are concerned, I am a deeply annoying, interfering busybody. My organic-gardening, bee-friendly heart might be in the right place, but my presence is simply not needed. My plants probably do not need to be hand-pollinated, the bees are doing that job well, and yet still I can't help myself.
This photo is a slight fudge, in that it was taken last year, but it shows what is happening right now in our garden. This native blue-banded bee is about one second away from landing on one of last year's eggplant flowers. I tried to get a shot of him in action this morning, but he moved too fast. As well as the native bees, we also have quite a few ordinary honeybees buzzing about.
So, why am I hand-pollinating my eggplant flowers? Well, last year I didn't think the conversion rate from flowers to fruit was all that crash hot. I know our garden has lots of other bee-attracting flowers, and maybe the short-lived eggplant blooms are low on the list of highly bee-attracting flowers? The bees just adore the salvias and frangipanis, and citrus and grevillea flowers always pull a crowd too ... but my totally unscientific observation is that our humble purple eggplant flowers don't seem so alluring. Last year's crop was not a glut!
And so I wandered into my garden shed, found a small hobby paintbrush, and wiggled it into each and every eggplant flower, hoping to pollinate every single one of them by transferring pollen from one flower to another. Time will tell if my gratuitous interference produces a better crop.
Of course the stupid thing is how can I tell if any eggplant baby is my handiwork or due to natural forces, such as the blue-banded bee? I can't!
The eggplant plant itself is happy and healthy, and so I just hope it has a good life here.
Most mornings we harvest a little bit of this and that. Here's our morning bowl-full of cucumber (1) Lebanese zucchini (4) and eggplant (1). Not exactly a glut, but you can't eat zucchini and eggplant every meal, and so they do build up, you eat out once or twice instead of cooking at home ... and before you know it you have three cucumbers, three eggplants, and a dozen or more zucchinis ...
Filled with enthusiasm, I got out another hobby brush and went all over our little cucumber plant. I am sure the ladybird cleaning up a spot of powdery mildew was wondering what I was up to. Interfering humans! Now, our cucumber bush is more than productive at the moment, so this "help" from me is utterly unnecessary. But did that stop me? Sadly, no. Just can't help interfering, especially when there is only one plant here.