Reflecting on a Season of Growing Cucumbers
This year, I grew five different cucumber varieties. Here are the results so far—plus, some ideas on how to use lots of cucumbers—from pickling recipes to natural health to cleansing!
This Year's Garden
This was an odd growing season for us here in New England. We called it a "Goldilocks Year." First it was too dry and then it was too wet. Our cukes and summer squashes—vegetables you think would like the extra heat and moisture—rotted instead.
I was looking forward to making lots of pickles—even though the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars ate most of the dill—but I only got a few jars done before the cucumber plants started to die. So I turned to pickling other vegetables. The dilly beans and zucchini pickles came out great but they were soon eaten and gone.
Once some garden space opened up, after the peas were done, we planted more cukes in their place to climb the fence. That was about 8 weeks ago.
Cucumbers do well if they can climb a fence or trellis. The tendrils of the vine help them climb the structures which keeps them off the ground and provides better air circulation; both mean less rotting and disease. Plus, the vines take up less space!
They are climbing well, blossoming, and some even have little cukes. Even though it is officially fall, if the weather stays warm we should have a late bumper crop. It is a gamble!
Learn more about Growing Cucumbers!
Will this tiny cuke have time to mature before frost? Only time will tell!
Growing them on the fence gives me a chance to see how individual varieties fare. When they are grown on the ground in a garden bed they get so intertwined with each other it is hard to tell which is which. I planted these 5 varieties:
- 'Homemade Pickles' is making the most growth so far. They are supposed to start producing at 55-60 days from seeding and have some disease resistance.
- 'Monika' is close behind in growth and has the first tiny cukes. It bears in 55 days and is parthenocarpic, which means that it sets fruit with no pollination necessary.
- 'Beth Alpha' is one of our favorites. It is a burpless Middle Eastern variety that should start bearing fruit after 50-55 days. No sign of fruit yet but the vines are growing well.
- 'Tendergreen' is another burpless variety that has thin, smooth skin. It should be bearing fruit after 55 days from seeding.
- 'Straight 8' was an AAS winner back in 1935 and has stood the test of time. It should be ahead of the rest since it is supposed to set fruit in only 52 days, but no fruit yet and the vines are the shortest of all.
The Many Uses for Cucumbers
I know that many of you are exhausted by the sheer number of cucumbers that you have harvested this year. Lucky you! If you have run out of jars to put them in and people to give them to, look at some of these unconventional uses for the very versatile cucumber:
If your bathroom mirror always fogs up after a shower, rubbing it with a slice of cucumber will eliminate the fog.
Lay some cucumber slices on your sunburned skin for relief.
You can use them to polish your shoes. The chemicals in a freshly cut cuke will provide a quick, water-repellent shine.
Cucumber is great for freshening your breath.
A slice of cucumber rubbed your faucets or stainless steel sinks will give them a streak-free shine.
Use the skin of a cucumber to erase pen and crayons marks - a home grown Magic Eraser!
Tighten your wrinkles and remove puffy dark circles by placing cucumber slices over your eyes.
Make Salt & Vinegar Cucumber Crisps by slicing them thinly and soaking them for an hour in equal parts olive oil and cider vinegar and a dash of salt. Then arrange them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake at 350 for 12-20 minutes, depending on how thin the slices are. Remove from oven when brown and crispy. Who knew you could bake a cuke?
Do you grow cucumbers in your garden? What's your favorite variety? Let us know in the comments!