As Phill and I continue to grow new plants and read about new gardening tricks and tips, I become more and more in awe at the complexity of nature. How amazing is it that we can take the smallest of seeds and with rich soil and the right amount of water it can grow into a towering, fruit-bearing plant?
This summer, in particular, I’ve been fascinated with our cucumber plants.
The end of March was a tad busy for us given the birth of our sweet baby girl. Trying to adjust to life with two babies (the oldest under one and a half, at the time) and the general lack of sleep that comes with a new baby was exhausting. We were enjoying our time as a family of four and decided not to bother increasing the size of our garden. So when our raised bed was full and we still wanted to try cucumbers and raspberries, we decided to try container gardening.
This is the first time we’ve grown cucumbers and despite our chaotic, last minute spring planting, these little cukes took off! We picked up the largest planter we could find from our local hardware store, filled it with garden soil, and planted four little cucumber seeds hoping for the best. To my surprise, all four seeds sprouted and began growing!
Here are a few things we learned this year about cucumbers:
Cucumbers hate the cold.
Missouri has this awesome character trait of being unpredictable. It can be late October and we’ll have a day in the 80s or you can wake up to temps in the 50s in mid-May. You just never know (and the news channel weather folks aren’t much help either). We planted our seeds at the end of May, which I thought was too late, but it turned out to be the perfect time weather wise. Our seeds sprouted within a week of being planted directly into their container and kept on growing.
Cucumber plants vine like crazy.
These plants are amazing! They clung to our cheap bamboo trellis for dear life and continued to climb higher and higher towards the sun. Off the main vine shoot little tendrils (my new vocabulary word for the summer). The tendrils hook and curl and knot around whatever they can to keep climbing and offer support to the cucumber plant. If you’re hoping to grow these plants vertically, I recommend having a trellis in place early on, or else you may wake to find a mess of tangles – both on top of your head and in the garden.
Cucumber plants like water.
This is a given, right? Cucumbers are basically all water. But if you’re growing these plants vertically in containers, they need almost twice as much water as what is typically recommended. So basically, water them every day.
There are bugs out there that will try to destroy your plants.
This was a tough lesson to learn. When you start gardening you think I’ll plant this here and that there and they will all live perfectly and give me everything I need without trouble. Or maybe I was just super naive to think we’d be able to grow a successful plant and be pest-free. Luckily, we noticed there were insects feasting on our plant leaves before the insects were fully grown and had done much damage. Because our cucumbers were growing on our deck where our littles and dog spend most of their time, we opted for a more tedious, less chemical pest removal solution. I got a spray bottle of water and dawn dish soap and sprayed down our plant. Then pulled on my gloves, picked off each little pest, and sent them to their watery-soapy grave. Thankfully, there weren’t many insects on our plant when we found them, so the whole process took half an hour.
Cucumbers are not self pollinating plants.
Many vegetable plants, like tomatoes and peppers, blossom into a flower and then (it seems) moments later begin turning into a little fruit. Cucumbers, on the other hand, produce two separate types of flowers: male and female. With a little help from the birds and the bees, you get pollen to mingle and a baby cuke starts growing. Even with our significant lack of bees, we still had a successful harvest. Cucumber plants produce vibrant yellow flowers to attract all sorts of insects that will help pollinate your plants for you.
And now that it’s mid August, our cucumber plants have hit the end of their life cycle for this season. I’m left to stare at a pile of cucumbers that need to be eaten – or be made into pickles – and bamboo sticks that need to be repurposed to support our giant tomato plants. Looking back on our summer, cucumbers are definitely a plant we will grow again and will probably expand to also grow cukes of the English variety (I prefer those for just snacking).
Anyone have any good dill pickle recipes out there? I’ve got a pile of cucumbers awaiting their vinegary fate.
And may your hearts be full!