In my quest to start my garden, I picked crop number two. The tomatoes are going to come along nicely, I am sure. Over the weekend, I noticed that several stores we visited had their gardening supplies prominently displayed, so I took that as a sign that everyone is beginning to get their gardening gear ready for the upcoming spring. Although it does not feel like spring here with snow on the ground, I suppose that I should get ready for my first summer as a gardener.
Cucumbers are the next pick for a crop. My first stop, as it should be for all would-be gardeners, was to do a little research. I was a bit surprised at what I discovered. Apparently cucumber plants need a bit more in terms of room for their root systems that I had anticipated. I have some tins that I thought I would be able to use to grow them, but I realized in my research that it will be impossible. The should be kept about 2 feet apart if you are planting along the ground, so I know that I will need larger containers.
One tip I read was that you should give them plenty of growing room or build a trellis for them. I have decided that a trellis will be the way to go for our upcoming cucumber crop. I am going to get some big pots and put them at the bottom of a four-foot concrete wall we have out back. Then I am going to get that wicker-type crisscross fencing that you use to make little privacy fences out of. I have seen it in small strips, so I will get a few to put along the concrete wall for the cucumber plants.
The I will take a string and tie it at the base of each plant (when I get them) and at the top of the trellis wall. I read that doing so will help the cucumbers to stay the course. I will begin to intertwine the string and the cucumber vine so that it will learn to grow in the proper place. From my research, I have discovered that controlling the growth of the vine is the most important chore for cucumber farmers.
The seeds will take about 60 days, or two months, to germinate. I am going to start them indoors in small containers, moving them to a small storage shed outside when they begin to sprout. (I do not want to tempt my cats too much.) Then once they seem fairly hardy, I will take them and transplant them into larger pots outside. The plants will grow as large as their space allows, and it will be necessary throughout the summer to cut back the side growth on the plant. These growths result from the main vine trying to spread outward, which is okay if you have a free-growing garden. Otherwise, it will be necessary, as I will do, to cut back the stems fairly often.
The cucumber plant will be in harvesting season for a few weeks. It should yield about one pound of cucumbers for every foot of vine I have growing. Since I am thinking now that I will only have two plants, since they seem to be a bit of work for a very novice gardener, I should have about eight pounds of fresh cucumbers this summer. Although eight pounds is not much, I am hoping to be able to expand some over the next couple of summers.
It will be necessary to harvest the cucumbers fairly often, about every two days, during the course of their fruit production time. That means that I need to pay careful attention to them throughout the summer. Instead of just ignoring them (which has been my tactic with houseplants), the cucumbers will have to become part of my daily routine. Allowing extra fruit to hang around on the vine causes the plant to cut back on its production, so I will be sure to gather the fruit as soon as possible.
After doing my research, I have more respect for farmers who grow cucumbers as I am learning that there is more work involved with them than some other crops. Still, I am excited for my tiny cucumber farm!
By Julia Mercer