I love the holidays. The kids come home. We eat, we visit, and then I try to get them to help me in the garden. Before they get here, my wife always reminds me that when company comes they are “company” and not “labor”. She encourages me to leave the gardening alone and play host all weekend. And, since I love my wife, I try. I really do. However, I rarely succeed.
This weekend I made it until about noon on Saturday. By that time I had whined enough, that the kids (and even my wife) told me to go. So, my son in law Ramez (Moose) put on his work shoes (that I keep here for him for just such opportunities) and we headed out.
Moose helped me move my cattle panel trellises from my “old garden” to the “new garden”. I use cattle panels, supported by T-Posts, in place of tomato cages. I also use them to grow vining crops like cucumbers.
This year, Sally and I are going to make pickles. So, I am growing a bunch of cucumbers. Moose and I set up two sixteen foot panels so I can grow a full 30’ foot row. Since cucumbers are so productive, a 30’ row will give Sally and I more than enough pickles to meet our canning needs.
Growing – Cucumbers are cucurbits. People often ask me how I know how/when to plant so many types of plants. Well, I cheat. Instead of trying to learn all of the traits of single plants, I learn the traits of plant families. If you learn the cultivation requirements of some of the basic plant families (like Cucrbitaceae or Brassica), you know how and when to grow a whole lot of different plants that fall in those families. Generally, all cucurbits can be planted and grown in the exact same way.
Cucumbers can be planted about two weeks after the last frost date. For me, that is usually around March 15. Plant them in a sunny location that receives at least 8 hours of sun a day. They are heavy feeders and they need good drainage. Plant cucumbers about an inch deep in beds that are well worked with organic material. As they grow, watch their leaves. If they show signs of yellowing, side dress with a good aged manure.
Cucumbers produce lots of vines. While you can let them run, the fruit quality and appearance will be better if they are trellised. I have grown them on three legged trellises with a lot of success. However, since I am going for production, I now grow exclusively on cattle panels.
Since cucumbers produce so many vines, they need a lot of water. Plus, the fruit of a cucumber is 90% water. If you do not give them enough water, they can become bitter. At a minimum, they need 1” a week from a slow deep watering. However, at flowering and fruiting, it is a good idea to up the amount of water to 1 ½” to 2” per week (especially in sandy soils). Ideally, cucumbers should not be allowed to dry out. The soil should stay moist throughout the growing season. Also, mulch your vines heavily to get the most out of all of that water you are applying. This mulch will save water and keep the roots cool. Cool roots mean longer production.