I think cucumbers are fun to grow! No, now wait, think about it. They remind me of Jolly Green Giant toes, all green and warty. They hide in the vines and it is like a treasure hunt each day I go out and search for the funny little critters. And where else can you find a plant that grows so enthusiastically? Try as you might, there is always sneaky little stems that insist on running around the garden, instead of up the trellis like good children!

Cucumber seeds are very long lived, I have planted three year old seeds. They are basically pretty easy to grow, but they don't like extremes of cold or heat (kinda like me). The seeds germinate at 77°F (25°C), so if you direct seed you'll need to wait until the spring frosts have passed and the soil warms up. You can start the seeds indoors about three weeks before your last frost. An old wives tale says to plant the thin edge of the seed down, and I never mess with old wives. Also water your starter plants with lukewarm water. If you live in a warm southern climate, you can direct seed in April or May. But if you plant later, plant some shade plants like corn, sunflowers or tomatoes in cages. Cucumbers like a little shade when the summer sun is intense. Cucumbers grow best when the soil pH is near neutral, between 6.5 and 7. Plant the seeds about a half inch deep, and thin the seedlings to ten inches apart. Cucumbers do better if you don't crowd them. You can let them ramble all over the place, but they produce more cucumbers if they are grown on a trellis, and gravity will help those "hanging" cucumbers be straighter. You should mix in a couple shovels worth of compost per plant into the soil before you plant. Unless your soil is very acidic, this should be all you need. Cucumbers need lots of water, they are 95% water, but should have soil that drains well. Again lots of compost and raised beds will do that for you. If cucumber beetles are a problem try dusting with hydrated lime. The gynoecious type will need some extra feeding to support their heavier fruit production. Don't over-handle the vines, especially when they are wet. In fact, it is best to water at the base of the plant, rather than using an overhead system. Pick when the fruits are small, as they will be sweeter and the plant will produce more--yield slowsor stops when old cukes are left hanging about on the vine.

Many people have shied away from growing cukes because they have a reputation for being tricky to pollinate, and novices feel intimidated by the terms monoecious and gynoecious . Monoecious cukes have separate male and female flowers on the same plant; gynoecious cukes have only female flowers, although a male flower may appear on occasion--especially during times of stress such as inadequate water, extreme crowding or desert heat. Gynoecious cuke seed packets include special seeds that produce plants with many male flowers, so that the female flower bearing plants will have an adequate source of pollen. So, why would anyone go to the trouble of growing gynoecious cultivars, when monoecious types are guaranteed to have both male and female flowers? Because gynoecious types have a greater yield over a shorter period of time. So a good garden tip is to plant at least three different varieties in your patch, by doing this I have not had any pollination problems. Otherwise you will have to pull off the male flowers and rub them on the female flowers. Females blossoms are found atop a long, slender, immature cuke and the males sit on tiny stems clustered along the vine. This cucumber matchmaking business can be kinda tricky. The varieties you choose are determined by what you plan to do with thecukes. There are some super dependable hybrids that are disease resistant and produce a super thin skinned fruit. These usually say "burpless', and it is what keeps them off the store shelves ( the thin skin shortens their refrigerated shelf life to only three days). So if you want these for fresh eating, you've got to grow them yourself. If you want to make pickles, select a variety that is for that specific purpose. If you live in the dry southwest, try the Armenians, they are really melons that want to be cucumbers, and they will hold up in the summer heat . Many people who can't eat cucumbers can eat Armenians. For juiciness you gotta try the lemons (also called apple cukes). If you don't have a trellis, or you are pressed for space, or you want to grow in containers try one of the bush varieties.

I have a plan for a couple of containers that sit right outside my kitchen door. I thought a combination of bush cucumbers and cherry tomato plants, with edgings of red and green leaf lettuce or mizuna sounded really neat.Your entire dinner salad just outside the door!

There is going to be some cross pollination amongst your cukes. But they won't associate with your zucchini. So if you're saving seed you will need to grow only one variety, or separate them. Leave the fruit on the vine until it grows fat and turns yellow, cut the cucumber in half and scrape out the seeds. You can rinse the seeds and dry on a plate. But some experts suggest fermenting the pulp off in the same way as tomatoes.

Of course the best way to preserve your cucumbers is to pickle them. I will leave that for a canning website. A couple of quick tips though;

*Burpless cucumbers can be used to make pickles. However, they do not remain crisp during the pickling process so use them for products like bread and butter type pickles or relishes where they are cut up into chunks rather than in spears.

*Use pickling cucumbers at the right stage of maturity (about 5 inches in length for dills), not under or overly mature to make fermented (or brined) pickles. At the right stage of maturity, cucumbers have the proper level of native sugars and native microorganisms on their skin needed to complete the fermentation process. To retain microorganisms on the skin, wash cucumbers, but do not scrub them with a vegetable brush. Slicing varieties of cucumbers do not contain enough sugar for proper fermentation to occur and often produce a softer pickle. Do not use them for fermented (brined) pickles. Use them for fresh-pack pickles.

*Cut off the blossom ends (opposite the stem end) of cucumbers; enzymes that concentrate in the flower can soften your pickles.


Blister beetles

Blister beetles have very long thin bodies with large heads. There are many types of them. They are grey, black and striped with some species shiny black-blue, or black-green. They usually fly around in groups. Like the name says, if you crush one of these pests you can wind up with small blisters on your skin. They are about 2 cm long and relatively easy to see on plants. They are found all over the US and most parts of Canada. It is the adults that cause most of the damage. Fortunately however they don't stay around an area too long so the best control is to let them run their course unless infestation is severe. They overwinter as semi-pupae in the soil and emerge in the spring and molt. Adults emerge in the summer months. They eat peas, beans, potatoes, turnips, tomatoes, many other veggies and some flowers. They can defoliate plants in no time. The larva have  been known to eat grasshopper eggs so they are somewhat beneficial. In some cases where these beetles are severe on alfafa, farmers must take caution when cutting as their livestock can die from ingesting dead blister beetles.


1) Hand Pick

Be sure to wear gloves or use tweezers as they can release a substance that causes blisters on the skin. Drop them in hot soapy water. Be sure not to touch them even when they are dead as they can still cause painful blisters on your skin.

2) Keep Weeds Low

Weed around edges of your garden attract blister beetles because of grasshopper eggs. Eliminating the weed problem will help control infestation.


If soil born diseases are a problem for you, try sinking large pots in the ground and growing in pure compost. You can add a little perlite for drainage.


Whether your growing your own tomato seeds or buying bedding plants, look for varieties with one or more of these disease-resistance letters after the name: V, F, N, T. What do they mean? V stands for resistance to Verticillium blight; F means resistance to Fusarium wilt; N means resistance to Nematodes(root-chewing organisms) and T means resistance to Tobacco Mosaic.




sow seeds in a gold frame in spring (germination may be slow) and plant out in autumn in sandy acid soil, in full sun. Divide mature roots in autumn or spring. Also called mountain arnica, mountain daisy, mountain tobacco, fall dandelion, leopards bane.

Southernwood (artemisia)

prefers full sun, well drained soil. Propagate from soft cuttings in summer or Semi-ripe cuttings with a 'heel' in autumn. cut back new growth of shrubs by half every spring, and disbud to prevent flowering. An ideal low hedge if trimmed in spring and again in summer. Also called lad's love, old man, and Crusader herb.

French Tarragon

may only be propagated by dividing the roots in spring or autumn, or from soft cuttings taken in early summer. Grow in rich, well drained soil and confine the roots in the same way as for mint. Renew every three years or so, and mulch in winter to protect the roots. Young roots may be potted up for winter supplies but benefit from a dormant period. also called estragon and serpentarian.


Companion planting tip

Cucumbers like to be planted with beans, broccoli, carrots, celery, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, peas, radishes, tomatoes. But dislike being next to rue and sage.



"The philosopher who said that work well done never needs doing over... never weeded a garden."




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