Vegetables are the product of a plant that first produced flowers. Understanding how plants work, why flowers are important to the plant and how to take care of them will help ensure you are able to get the most from your vegetable plants. Beyond understanding the process comes some simple care techniques that are critical during blossom time to help vegetable plants thrive.
Vegetables are categorized as any part of a plant that can be consumed as food. This includes root vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots, leaf vegetables, like lettuce and spinach, and fruit-producing plants, such as tomatoes, cucumbers and apples. In some cases, even flowers are edible, making those plants vegetables as well.
The purpose of flowers in the botanical world is to produce fruit, what we often call vegetables. Fruit is actually a word used to describe any vessel that contains seeds. In this capacity, a fruit can be anything from a dandelion seed to a walnut to a zucchini to a tomato. Without flowers, we would not have any fruits at all.
The flowers are the reproductive components of fruit and vegetable plants. They can contain either both the female and male parts or just one or the other. Pollination must occur, bringing the pollen from the male part to the female part. Once accomplished, the petals of the flower fall away, and the plant begins to produce a fruit.
Blossom Time Concerns
Many plants, like peas, produce blossoms in the spring, while others bloom throughout the summer, like tomatoes and beans. The timing of the blossoms is critical to the plant. If it occurs too early, a late frost can damage the flowers and reduce the vegetable crop. Another concern is the availability of pollinators. If blooms open too early, bees may not yet be active. Throughout the growing period, other insets can present problems, and growers often turn to pesticides. If this is done while the blooms are open, bees and other insect pollinators can be adversely affected.
Most vegetable plants consist of 85 to 95 percent water. Water is a critical component in their development. While vegetable plants generally do not like poorly drained soil, drought is a particularly difficult problem for them. Fruits and vegetables do not develop well without sufficient water. Flowers can wilt and drop, reducing the number of fruits produced. Blossom end rot is a disease directly related to drought and occurs at the end of the fruit where the flower once was.