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Never turn your back on a cucumber vine

Three days’ worth, two cucumber vines

Three days ago I picked all the cucumbers. I left no cucumbers over two inches long. I was in no hurry to go back, thinking that the weather was so dry that not much could be happening. But this morning there were oodles of cucumbers, and some of them were even too big to be ideal.

The ability of certain plants to grow and produce in hot, dry weather continues to blow my mind. It’s almost as though the cucurbits — cucumbers, squash, pumpkin, melons — tap into the high humidity, though I know that they don’t actually do that. The key — as was clear in my organic gardening books and as I am now seeing with my own eyes — is to have fertile soil, to plant things well apart, and to keep the weeds down. This is simply old-fashioned gardening the way our grandparents did it. I have had only .3 inch of rain in the last three weeks, which I’ve supplemented with a quick watering with the hose on particularly hot days when the temperature went to 95. These were not deep waterings, but just enough to cool things down, reduce stress, and buy time for rain.

Though the tomatoes seem to crave more moisture than the cucurbits, they are holding their own. Based on what I’ve learned this year, I’ll amend my planting next spring. The brussels sprouts took up a lot of space but never produced, so no more brussels sprouts. The cauliflower was finicky. No more cauliflower. The cabbage and broccoli, at least, earned its space. Next spring I’ll reduce the amount of space allocated to the cabbage family and save the garden space for more cucurbits.


  1. Trish wrote:

    The gardening catalogs all say that cucumbers need lots of water, but last year during a very dry july and august I got tons of cukes – enough for 115 quarts of pickles, and I must have given away 2 bushels. I never water my tomatoes once they are established – it seems to improve the flavor and I still get production. but I am in a very different area than you.

    Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Permalink
  2. admin wrote:

    115 quarts of pickles! You must have quite a garden. I sure hope you have lots of good help…

    Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Permalink
  3. Trish wrote:

    I didn’t have any help with the canning but it is a really easy recipe, and I didn’t do all 115 quarts at once. I have a big area for my garden, but my ground is so poor it makes me want to cry sometimes. If it has been dry for a while, cracks start to appear in the ground. Hoeing the weeds is impossible, and even trying to pull them is really frustrating – that clay really hangs on to them.

    Monday, June 20, 2011 at 8:09 am | Permalink
  4. admin wrote:

    I know how you feel. Gardening makes me realize that farmers’ lives have always involved a great deal of anguish and loss. It’s great that you have a large area for your garden, but I suppose the size makes it that much more difficult to work on improving it. Still, I feel sure that every little bit of sand and compost that you can add would help. My garden is too small, but that makes soil amendments more manageable.

    Monday, June 20, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

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