Thursday, June 11, 2009

Do you want to stand upright or crawl on the ground? Tips for making cucumbers climb.

First of all, since I like cucumbers, I use Kozy Coats (KC), so I can plant them out earlier. If you can’ t or don’t want to us a KC, or a similar apparatus, do not transplant or seed until the soil has warmed up and there is no longer any danger of frost.

Next, I need the space and don’t like crawling around on my hands and knees to pick cukes, so I train the cucumber vines to climb 6 foot bamboo poles. There are several ways to make the poles form a skeleton version of a tee-pee. For example, you can bind the tops of three poles together and firmly shove the bottoms into the soil and plant around them.

I have scavenged the bicycle tires of an old two wheeler, stripped off the chains, rubber tires and anything else that would make it too heavy. Once stripped, I purchased approximately five and a half feet of an appropriately-sized dowel from a lumber yard and jammed it into the center hole of the bike tire.

Before I set out the cucumber plants, I work up the soil, dig a hole roughly ten inches deep, put the dowel end of this contraption in the hole and firm the soil around it. Where I live it is very windy just about all the time, so the pole has to be in the ground at least this deep and the soil must be firmed in around it—I stomp on it with my foot.

Once this stand is in place I transplant the cucumbers around it, put KCs around them, and wait. Depending on the size of the transplant and on the weather, in a week or two the cucumbers are near the top of the KC. I open up the top and turn down the plastic. Some water will spill out but that’s okay, just don’t wear your best shoes!

At this point I haul out my collection of 6 foot bamboo poles and slide them through the spokes of the bike tire and down into the KC before gently pushing them into the soil beside the cucumber plants.

Cucumber vines have tendrils and will naturally climb given the opportunity. But help them out by tying the vine to the pole. Use something soft like:

• an inexpensive and boi-degradable piece of jute twine.
• a strip of old panty hose or a strip of soft fabric, non-biodegradable, but reusable.
• more expensive but reusable options are gardeners Velcro or soft twist ties, both of which can be purchased from seed catalogue companies like Stokes, in Canada, or Parks in the United States.

As the cucumber plants continue to grow, keep training and tying them. Eventually you will see small cucumbers which will eventually become large eating-size cucumbers hanging down from the vines. These cukes will not get dirty from rain or water splashing on them; they will be green all over and not pale on the underside from lying on the ground; and, most importantly, they will be easy to pick. No need to get down on your hands and knees and crawl amongst those prickly cucumber vines!

Happy Gardening!

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