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Sunday, August 19, 2018

Bee Nip Plant

Bee on Underside of Luffa aegyptiaca flower

Bee Nip Plant

At least that is what I'll be calling luffa plants from here on out.  It doesn't seem to matter if luffas have buds or flowers, bees are zooming in and out of the leaf canopies all the time.

It seems the bees find the luffa stomata irresistible, and we have a lovely picture of a bee drinking water from luffa sepal stoma.  These seem to be exceptionally large - which may be the attractant...  I wouldn't know for sure.

Because we are curious beings, it seemed interesting to find out why bees would do this.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Most people know that bees like nectar. But these insects also like to sip the water that plants push out of their leaves. If that water is full of pesticides, though, bees can ingest a dose of poison. Derek Woo, 17, wanted to see if he could clean out some of that bug-killing chemical. All he needed to add was a little charcoal.

 I had noticed the stomata under the luffa leaves before, and inquired about what causes these 'lumps' that I don't normally see on plant leaves. I was told that the plant was probably getting too much water and to not water so much.  Now I wonder if that is a real problem or not.  Being that we are pesticide free, maybe a little too much water isn't all that bad, letting the bees drink their preferred source of  'sugared water'.

The Rule Of 10:
Excellent Compost Material

The 'Rule Of 10' definitely applies to the luffa plants, but personal, anecdotal experimentation indicates this rule can be applied to all fruiting vines.

People have made subtle references to it before, but it never really seemed to sink in until faced with aggressive, non-productive vegetative vines.

The rule is applied like this:
Where To Cut Vines

  1. The main first vine can be allowed to grow to 10' long.  Once it reaches this length, it needs to be cut at the growing end, just on the far side of the last leaf node (see image).  This vine may have mostly male or all male flowers.
  2. Cutting the main vine at 10' causes the vine to put out lateral shoots with female flowers.  Let these also grow out to about 10' long.  Clip the secondary vines at the growing ends as the main vine was cut.
  3. The second set of shoots will also start growing side shoots.  The third generation shoots may have mostly female flowers as well, but at this point I wasn't able to decipher which was which because I wasn't organized with spacing (more on that below).
  4. When you have enough production, just start nipping the vines at the growing tips at the last fruit (as shown in image.  If you see a non-producing vine, then just clip that off where it intersects with the parent vine.  Just how many of XX do we really NEED, anyway? 

Don't Let This Happen To You:
Luffa, Yam and Sweet Potato Vines

The image to the right is a perfect example of a lack of organization, poor planning, fear of not getting much (thus hoarding).

I can assure you, luffas are amazingly productive. Mr. Man and I initially thought it was amusing how many luffa seeds survived the heat of composting and started sprouting from the layers of compost.  Now, for me, they seem a bit terrifying.  So many luffa vines, growing all over everything else, eclipsing access to the rest of the garden bed and completely taking over.

We cut back vine tips on the daily now.  We will at least be able to eat all the luffas we can find (they are similar to zucchini, I think.)  We will be smothered in sweet potatoes, which is okay - we don't mind sharing...  I really want some yams (Think Ube Ice Cream y'all) and hope the yams don't get completely crowded out by all else.  Yams will need to stay or be replanted next season, these are two year growers.

Vine Infested With White Flies

The Dark Side Of Vine Hoarding:

When the vines are so compacted together and growing all over each other and not much light gets in, the plant transpiration creates an ideal humid environment for white flies (bane of the garden during monsoons) and can cause total crop loss.

Hoarding is bad for the vines and thus bad for you.  When they show up, visibly, we have just started lopping off infested plant parts and throwing them in the trash (no good for the compost pile now).  This has given some light and ventilation for the plants, decreased transpiration related humidity and doesn't use pesticides.  It would be best to take preventative measures, but some times things just get away from us.

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