Not much to harvest except cucumbers by the bushel


The vegetable harvest in our garden is starting late this year.

We’re finally seeing flowers on the beans and peppers, but there’s nothing to pick yet. A few cherry tomatoes are finally ripe, but not the bowls-full I’d expect this time of year. Even the yellow squash is sparse, which is probably a good thing since I get tired of it pretty quickly.

The best production is coming from the cucumbers we grow in a big tub on the driveway.

Cucumbers are native to India, where they’ve been cultivated for more than 3,000 years. By Roman times, they established in the area around the Mediterranean Sea, as well as east into China. Early Spanish explorers carried them to the Americas, where the cucumber was quickly incorporated into native diets throughout Central and North America.

Cucumber varieties found in seed catalogs are classified as slicers, picklers or seedless. The ones we’re growing are seedless English cucumbers. The plants produce an abundance of long, relatively thin fruits, straight if they come from the part I’ve managed to train up a trellis.

That was my experiment this year, since the English cucumbers we grew last year were entirely satisfactory as far as food production but the vines crawled all over the place. Picking them required an athletic game plan to plot out a path to get near the plant without crushing any of it.

This spring, the cucumber seedlings went into a big black tub along with a tall trellis. My plan was to train the vines up the trellis. Not only would this make it easier to approach the plant, but the hanging fruit would grow straight and be easy to spot.

The plan worked for a couple of weeks when I had time to coax the vines onto the trellis. After that, I had more to deal with in the garden than baby vegetables and, although I frequently checked the cucumber, its accelerated growth as the temperatures climbed defeated my trellis plan. Right now the trellis is full of cucumber vines, and so is the area for 6 feet around the pot.

Part of the problem is that I optimistically planted two cucumbers in a pot 24 inches in diameter. They both seem healthy enough, and they’re putting out fruit like crazy, but I’m now watering at least once a day. When the temperatures soared, it was twice a day. Next year, one plant to a pot and, hopefully, more vines on the trellis, fewer on the driveway.

Despite my miscalculations, our cucumber haul is the best of the harvest so far. I pick at least one cucumber a day, which we split at lunch or dinner. When I pick them in a timely manner, we eat them skin on, cut into sticks. They are sweet, never a trace of bitterness, about 15 inches long and a little over an inch in diameter.

Why cucumbers are so popular is a mystery. They’re 95% water and don’t provide much nutrition. But around the world, cucumbers have conquered gardeners and gardens, and they remain a summer treat in ours even when we have to dance around their sprawling vines and eat them every day.


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