If you have ever considered extending your edibles growing season by using a greenhouse, this is a word you might want to add to your vocabulary: parthenocarpic. Okay, so it may not come up in an everyday conversation, but then again that it depends on with whom you hang out.
Parthenocarpic refers to vegetables that would normally need a pollinator, such as bees, to help produce fruit, but do not. I could go into a lengthy botanical explanation but you would probably be yawning and most likely so would I.
These types of veggies are seedless. Note that not all seedless vegetable varieties are parthenocarpic; that’s part of the botanical explanation I mentioned. But any quality seed catalog will note if a variety is. Like with other types of hybrids, saving seeds here is not an option. If you live and garden in a cooler climate, purchasing seed each year may well prove to be worth the investment to extend the amount of time, and therefore the resulting harvest, you get.
A gardening friend of mine was not able to grow tomatoes until she set up a greenhouse. We have also heard many stories of growers picking fresh tomatoes on Thanksgiving because of using a high tower or a greenhouse. In the northern part of the U.S., that’s pretty impressive.
Suffice it to say that parthenocarpic veggies are great ones to grow in a greenhouse because you do not need to concern yourself about pollination. They are also wonderful grown outdoors, as was the ‘Jade’ cucumber (pictured in bloom). Because you are pretty much guaranteed fruit from every flower, they can increase your overall harvest outside as well as in.
But getting back to greenhouse growing; there are of course many vegetables that do not need to be pollinated, like carrots and potatoes. When you are looking to extend the season, though, you are probably thinking of the heat-loving plants. We’ve only come across parthenocarpic tomatoes and cucumber varieties so far, but then there hasn’t been an urgent need to learn more. You see, the greenhouse kit is still in the shed. The time will come.
Gardening Jones is a master gardener based in Pennsylvania. Learn more at her blog.
Learn to preserve your harvest in The Joy of Keeping a Root Cellar.
Discover all kinds of tricks and strategies for growing edible plants all year regardless of climate, with The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Nova Scotian Niki Jabbour.
Glean year-round gardening techniques from expert Eliot Coleman in Four-Season Harvest.