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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Are You Having A Good Cucumber Year?

Are you having a good cucumber year?

I’m having a great cucumber year. In fact, it is such a good cucumber year that I can’t keep up with picking all of them, and so there are a bunch of big, overgrown ones in the compost bin. But if you go looking in my compost bin you won’t find them unless you dig down a bit, because I cover them up. I wouldn’t want any of the neighbors to peer over the fence, see those gigantic cucumbers in there and think I’m a lazy gardener who can’t even be bothered to pick her cucumbers until they are too big.

Instead, I’ll just tell everyone on the world wide web that yes, there are overgrown cucumbers in my compost bin because it is a very good cucumber year.

Not every year is a good cucumber year and having a good cucumber year doesn’t necessarily guarantee that it will also be a good squash year, even though both are members of the Cucurbitaceae family, along with pumpkins and cantaloupes and all those other types of squash we grow in the garden.

So what makes a good cucumber year? I know that the last two years, 2007 and 2008, were not good cucumber years. 2007 was a dry year, when we had what we called a moderate drought, which folks in central Texas might call a wet year. But for us it was dry and my cucumbers just never amounted to much. Then last year it seemed like the vine borer and squash bugs were out early in full force. The vines that didn’t wilt and die from insect infestation ended up drying out because after a very wet beginning to the season, it ended up kind of dry.

This year, we’ve gotten rain when we’ve needed it, for the most part, and the bugs haven’t been too bad. That makes it a very good, if not great, cucumber year.

You might ask why after two “not good” cucumber years I would spin the roulette wheel of the garden and grow them again.

You wouldn’t ask if you’ve eaten fresh cucumbers from your own garden.

I have eaten fresh cucumbers from my own garden, so I’ll grow them every year knowing I’ll always get a few and that some years, like this year, I’ll get a lot. I love them. In fact, I love them so much that I really should have a ritual for eating the first one. They are crisp and fresh tasting and not all waxed up like those in the grocery stores. In fact, they taste nothing like those in the grocery store!

My other cucurbits, which is what members of the Cucurbitaceae family are called, are doing okay. My summer squash crop, which consists almost entirely of the round ones I discovered a few years ago, namely ‘Cue Ball’, ‘Eight Ball’, and ‘One Ball’, are doing pretty good. “Pretty good” means that there are nine squash of various sizes on the kitchen table right now and none in the compost bin. But the plants themselves look terrible, probably because the raised beds they are in seem to stay too wet. I almost pulled them out this weekend but didn’t because they are still hanging on and blooming.

I didn’t check the flowers closely to see if there were both male and female flowers on the plants. Most members of Cucurbitaceae family are monoecious, meaning that there are separate male and female flowers on the same plant. You definitely need bees to get the pollen from the male flowers to the pistils of the female flowers. If that doesn’t happen, then the fruit, which botanically speaking is actually a berry called a pepo, won’t form properly. Some serious gourd and pumpkin growers actually don’t want the bees to pollinate their cucurbits but would rather do it themselves with a tiny artist's paint brush, to cross two different plants. I’ve never tried it but I once saw a horticulturist pollinating cucumber flowers that way while I was on a walking tour of the Land Pavilion at Disney World about 20 years ago.

Hand pollinating is a labor intensive and tedious way to get cucumbers. I’d rather take my chances and rely on the bees, the weather, and the absence of squash bugs and vine borers to get my cucumbers. The odds are definitely in my favor that now and again, I’ll have a great cucumber year.

Are you having a good cucumber year?

24 comments:

cat said...

no good cukes here..:( it's been so dry and buggy that the what the borers didn't get to, and the heat didn't fry, were so bitter that they were inedible. i ended up pulling all the plants and am going to start over in the fall...*sigh* our first year here, 2007 was a bumper crop year though.

and yes on the taste of a homegrown cucumber...makes me keep planting and trying, because when it's right it's sooooo good! :)

Joanna said...

I'm having a good cucumber year, and that's an understatement! I've put up probably 2 years worth of pickles, and can't give the cucumbers away fast enough. I've had the same problem you have with the overgrown cucumbers- one was embarrasingly *yellow*.

Earth Girl said...

I just picked three bags of cucumbers to deliver to our church's food bank this morning...after canning pints and pints of bread and butter pickles. Last year...no cucumbers.

Marie said...

Not a good cucumber year in my PA garden. All the cukes were small and misshapen. I'll try again next year because we love the taste of homegrown cucumbers too.

Caroline said...

The cucumbers are doing better than anything else in my hot, dry garden. I have pickling cucumbers in a container, watered regularly. The vines are starting to look peaked but as long as the cucumbers keep coming, I won't pull 'em out.

Entangled said...

I was having a good cucumber year until the plants got angular leaf spot. I didn't know what it was and had to look it up. Then some critter chewed off every single 'Poona Kheera' flower and tiny fruit. The plants appear to be growing out of it after our recent hot weather, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Darla said...

We had a terrible year with 90% of our veggies.....and yes we will try again next year! You cannot beat fresh veggies from your own yard...

lisavollrath said...

I harvested a whopping three cukes from my two vines before they died in the Texas summer heat---but hope springs eternal, because I have seedlings going for the fall planting.

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

You know I am. :) ~~Dee

selina said...

this is actually my frist year growing cucumbers, but it's been great so far. my lemon cucumbers have not disappointed.

my pickling cucumbers got planted late but they are just starting to produce so i am very excited!

the inadvertent farmer said...

We have lots of cukes but some are bitter and some are not...its a crap shoot as to which you will get when you bite down! Kim

Kathy said...

Ours didn't even sprout. The former veg gardener always started them indoors. The current veg garden direct sowed them. That might have made the difference.

Helen said...

I'm having a no cucumber year. But that's for the very unmysterious reason that we didn't plant any. Next year, now that we've got an allotment to call our own, I hope to have a very good cucumber year.

Enjoy your cukes!

Rose said...

No, I'm not...but then I didn't plant any:) I am, however, having an exceptional green bean year! The good thing about beans is that all those extras that we can't eat fresh are being blanched and stored in the freezer for those cold Midwest winter days.


Reading three posts at once today (it's a busy week here)...I am glad to hear about the tomato blight; no, I don't mean I'm glad--I'm glad that you informed us. That happened to me last year, and I am being very vigilant in watching for any signs of this year. Last year my Dad sprayed some kind of fungicide on his tomatoes to save them. Beautiful Monarch on your last post!

And yes, I remember hearing the "Inch by Inch" song by John Denver, but I had no idea there were so many versions. I think I like Arlo's the best:)

Vickie said...

Nope, not a good one for us, but we didn't really think we'd do well with our first try at growing cucumbers. Maybe next year and maybe DH will listen to me and we will put up a fence for the vines to climb, get some air and we can actually see the cukes if they occur.
My mom and dad's gardens in Kansas are doing wonderfully in the cuke department. Dad brings his cukes down to my mom's house to go with her prolific cukes and she's been making refrigerator pickles and bread and butter pickles like a little one woman pickle factory. Can't wait to get our share in October. Yum!

Limette said...

I've never had a good cucumber year. Most was 6 or so off a dozen plants.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I might have to give cucumbers a try next year in a pot. I've grown them in the ground many years ago (don't ask how long) and enjoyed them immensely. I'm glad you & Dee are enjoying your bountiful harvest of them.

Connie said...

I have had a fantastic cucumber year, as well. I pick a bucketful every other day, and lots of overgrowns go to the compost here, too. There's always a few that hide.

Diana said...

Carol - You ARE having a good cucumber year! They are beautiful and I'm sure they will be tasty. I did not have a good cucumber year - I think that spot in the bed has powdery mildew and all I got was one little deformed cucumber about 2 inches long and and inch and a half across. I will try in another bed with seeds this week. (And I've had to hide cucumbers in previous years, too...it's ok!)

Stella said...

We are having a great cucumber year here in KC. We have more rain than usual and less heat. But cucumbers are the only thing that is doing well. Just now getting tomatoes that should have been ready in July.

CommonWeeder said...

No. My cukes didn't even germinate. And it was raining so hard and long that I didn't notice for a long time. My cukes will come from the Farmer's Market this year.

Muum said...

no good year for me. Mine ended early when 1 cuke did not come up, and the Armenian came up and then the seedling died. :(

Linda said...

I hear what you're saying about hiding over grown cucumbers in the compost bin. I would be resorting to that as well but the girls (chickens) have been so obliging as to eat any evidence that I've let my cukes grow too big.

I think cucumbers are rather sneaky. They hide during the day and I'm convinced they can grow at least foot at night.

Heidi Shiver said...

I am having an amazing cucumber year here in SE PA and have been doing a lot of pickling.