Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Training Cucumbers Trellised Food

By Keith Markensen

Last year, I succumbed to the lure of a whim to train cucumber vines up in the air, and found the method so fine that Ill never go back to growing them on the ground again.

My "espalier" manner of growing cucumbers was good looking and good fun. It kept fruit out of the mud and made it easy to find and pick. I recommend it unqualifiedly, especially to those who have but limited garden space, as I do in my garden.

To make a fence for the vines to climb on I got three 8-foot lengths of pipe and drove them 2 feet into the ground at about equal intervals. I then strung two 3 foot widths of chicken wire between the posts and tied them at four or five points up the length of the posts with wire.

The soil was then dug deep on one side of the wire fence at five points, say 2 feet in from each end post and at three other equidistant points between. This was done just far enough out from the wire fence so as not to touch it anywhere with a shovel.

The beds were only a foot wide and practically round. In the bottom I put 4 quarts of well-rotted manure and mixed it with the soil. On top of that I put some rich compost and leveled it off with regular garden soil. It was then ready for seed.

I have used the disease-resistant, drought-resistant hybrid cucumber seeds for years with great success. The vines do stay green longer and bear longer than the regular run-of-mine cucumbers. Also, with the hybrids the larger 8 and 10-inch fruit is tender, green, crisp and small-seeded, whereas the ordinary cucumber vines begin to wilt and get brown in about a month and the larger fruit develops large seeds. becomes yellow and loses its crispness.

I push about five of the hybrid seeds into each hill and pack it down firmly. If all five germinate and no accident befalls them thereafter, I pull out all but three. I put brush over them for a couple of weeks to keep off dogs and cats and water the seedlings frequently until they are well rooted. After that they can take care of themselves in all kinds of weather.

When the vines begin to topple over from their own weight, I begin to train them onto the chicken wire. Sometimes they can be strung through the openings in the wire and sometimes they need to be tied.

I use a thick, cotton yarn bought at the dollar store, wind it around the vine three times and three times around the wire and tie it. As more runners develop, each one is tied to the wire similarly. Some of the vines will find their own footing on the wire but they have to be watched as they grow rapidly. Some vines have to be tied once or twice a week to keep up with the 2or 3-inch daily growth.

Its fun to watch little blossoms form into tiny cucumbers and then grow bigger and bigger each day.

More and more blossoms open and more and more tiny cucumbers develop until in a matter of a few weeks there are 6and 8-inch cucumbers there for you to pick off.

Some of them hang down through trellis, fences or fabricated fences until they reach the ground. Some are knee high. Some waist high and pre-fabricated fencing may be applied on those that are as high as your shoulder. When you pick them they are dry, clean and straight. No vines are trampled in looking for the fruit in a forest of leaves on muddy ground. Most of the fruit is in plain sight looking right at you.

I shall dig my beds on the opposite side of the fence this year. Thus, Ill avoid pulling up stakes and changing my location.

About the Author:

No comments: