For years I tried to grow cucumbers. I love them, afterall, so why should I not? Well, it seemed that the forces of nature were pitted against me and year after dismal year I’d fail – yet again! – at getting cucumbers to grow. It was quite disheartening.
Then, one year my uncle informed me that his neighbors, who have a bona fide farm and grow a variety of things very well, never plant until Memorial Day weekend. Egad!, thought I. That’s late! But, keeping in mind that we live in cool, often quite rainy, NW Oregon – well, I pondered that there may be some merit to this approach.
A few years ago John and I determined that we should perhaps try several different varieties of cucumbers – maybe the kinds that we’d planted previously just were not working for us based on the type that they were. That was also the year that my Mom’s health was declining rapidly – simultaneous to my Grammy’s final illness and subsequent death, and so we got a very late start on everything. I think it was probably June first by the time we got around to planting everything – and it was late enough that we decided we really ought to start with plants, not seeds. Because of our past failures, we reasoned that we ought to get several plants of several different varieties. We are also wholehearedly committed to planting heirloom – NOT hybrid – everything. We’re just picky that way.
So we got a dozen cucumber plants and got them planted. John built an ingenous trellis to train them on (see picture below), and we made sure to mound the soil up around the plants.
We found that planting when it was warm enough (duh!) and giving the plants a nice trellis were really the key elements to successful cucumber growing. Oh, and remembering to water them faithfully doesn’t hurt either!
Since then, we’ve tried a new thing… it has to do with the fact that we really don’t like wasting water, and that I’m pretty lazy when it comes right down to it. What we do now is this…
First, we make a bit of a hill – a long hilled up row, actually – where the plants will be planted. When it’s warm enough, we get them into the ground. (Some years – depending on how nutty life is – we plant seeds (and if we do, we typically start them indoors first), and other years we buy seedlings.) Once they’ve been planted and watered well and established a few days, then we sprinkle DE (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diatomaceous_earth) on the ground around the plants, then place a layer of news paper around the plants – tearing it so that the newspaper acts something like a skirt, then putting bark mulch on top of that. This process helps with pest control, weed control, and keeping the soil moist longer – so fewer waterings necessary!
Voila! It makes for wonderful cucumber plants, and even more wonderful cucumbers. We use the cucumbers in lots and lots of ways. The kids pretty much just straight up. I’ve got bazillions of recipes that I use them for, as well. As I said previously – there just isn’t any way possible to have too many cucumbers! If I ever find that I’m cucumbered out, then I have lots of friends to share them with until I’m ready to eat them again!
I should also say that my husband made some amazing dill pickle relish the year before last that used a variety of pickles – which is nice, because we typically have a variety of pickles! – and turned out beautifully. It’s about time to make some more!