By Michael Nolan
Second only to my love of the heirloom tomato (any variety) is my love for home grown cucumbers.
I can still remember growing up and wandering around in the wilds of my grandfather’s garden.
Every time I would meander by one of the plants that bore those little dark green oblong pieces of deliciousness I just had to grab one and eat it right on the spot!
You may have rightly assumed that I have a couple of cucumber plants in my garden for the Summer of 2008. I couldn’t resist that insatiable need for the bumpy non-waxy and flavorful cukes that come out of my own garden — quite the stark contrast to the gargantuan tasteless hot house things that appear year-round on the supermarket produce aisle.
Well today it happened. The very first plants in my garden to produce produce (*giggle) for the season were my trusty container-bound cucumbers. Right there in my front yard nestled against the front wall of my patio I saw no less than eight tiny little cucumber babies already starting to form.
Needless to say, I gushed about it for the next hour, to perfect strangers at an event I attended that had absolutely nothing to do with gardening. But then again, where I am concerned there is nothing that really has nothing to do with gardening. I can find a correlation in almost any aspect of life.
What I found amusing was how resilient these particular plants were. Both have been attacked by a resident psycho bunny who is bigger than two of my dogs, and I have yet to stake-and-vine either of them. I think I should do that tomorrow, come to think of it.
Here’s an interesting bit of cucumber plant trivia that many of the bewildered strangers today were entirely unaware of:
Cucumber plants produce two distinct types of blooms — male and female. It is entirely normal and expected that the male blooms will fall off. The female blooms on the other hand, are what will eventually become the cucumbers themselves. If you seem to have a problem with the females falling off before they produce, a quick swab of the nether regions of both male and female blooms will help the pollination process along just fine.
If you haven’t seized the opportunity to grow cucumbers in your own space, I can’t recommend them highly enough. They will respond well in large enough containers, provided they are receiving enough light, water and drainage. A little touch of organic compost tea once a week doesn’t hurt, either.
In most areas of the U.S., you actually still have time to drop two or three cucumber seeds in the ground now if you like. Just be sure to plant them in a hill (my hills are always 6-8 inches taller than the soil line surrounding them). Just remember that cucumbers are fast growers and they will need some vertical space if you really want them to take off, and sit back. They’ll start popping up soon, those precious little cukes of love!