This year is our third year growing vegetables. We now have three garden beds, a melon patch, three lettuce beds made out of old laundry baskets, and various plants in large plant pots. This year is also our most expanded year in vegetable variations. What I mean by that is instead of just growing cucumbers this year for example, we're growing four different kinds of cucumbers. This includes lemon cucumbers, boston pickling cucumbers, space master cucumbers, cucamelons, and your basic cucumber. All sprouted from seed, indoors, which I began in February this year. I already had the basic cucumber seeds, but the other seeds I got from Seedsnow.com. They were having a sale at the time, so I got a bunch of different vegetable and herb seeds, probably about 20 different seed packs, for around $35.00, which is a great bargain compared to buying already sprouted plants. You should definitely check them out. They have a huge selection of heirloom seeds, and you don't have to spend a lot to get a lot either.
Each variety of cucumbers has a different look, taste, and use. I don't need to explain the need to grow a basic cucumber, but have you ever grown a lemon cucumber?
These cucumbers are round and yellow, and grow to the size of a tennis ball. They don't have a lemon taste, just the color, but the skin is thin and tender, and tastes milder than a regular cucumber. The sweet taste of a lemon cucumber makes them perfect for salads and pickling.
Now the Boston pickling cucumber looks more like the traditional cucumber, but they are shorter, and can be harvested when they reach 3 to 7 inches, depending on your pickling needs. You can use them in any pickling recipe and make sweet pickles or dills because the flesh of these cucumbers is very receptive to pickling spices. I bought these seeds specifically for pickling, and just a few weeks after I transplanted them to the garden they began to flower, so I fertilized them, and shortly after they began to flower female flowers. I now have at least 4 or 5 cucumbers growing.
The space master cucumber, while similar in look and taste to the traditional cucumber, has one huge difference. This cucumber variety can be grown in containers, which is why they are called space masters. They have short vines, and grow to be very compact, while producing tons of delicious green cucumbers. I have my space masters growing in two 15 inch diameter pots, which are about 14 inches tall. With all the rain we have been getting they are doing well. I already have five cucumbers fertilized and growing in one of my pots.
The cucamelon cucumber is something new I heard about through seedsnow.com. I saw them advertised as a new addition for 2017 and had to try them. They are a mini Mexican gherkin. They don't get any bigger than a grape, and look like a baby watermelon. They are also known as a mouse melon, or Mexican miniature watermelon. But these are cucumbers, they just look like watermelons. The cool thing about these little guys is that they are both drought and pest resistant. Since they grow tiny cucumbers their flowers are small as well, about four millimeters in diameter. But just like their cucumber relatives they grow both male and female flowers.
They are slow starting when establishing themselves. I transplanted my little guys into a large plant pot in May and their shoots are just now beginning to grow up their trellis. I also only see one flower on one plant so far, but I know in time they will grow much taller and begin to grow more flowers. From what I've read about them they can grow up to ten feet tall under the proper conditions. I have them in a large pot, with a wooden trellis over them that I got at Lowe's last year. I also read that they are perfect for salads, so I'm really looking forward to trying them.
Building Our Third Garden Bed
The garden bed where I transplanted my lemon cucumbers and Boston pickling cucumbers is a new garden bed my son and I built this year. The idea of building this new bed came from my son's failed attempt at building another garden bed last year.
He had tried to build a garden bed with some old wood that was given to him by someone in our neighborhood who knows my son, and knows that he likes to build things. Unfortunately my son didn't have enough wood so it was too shallow to use. But I didn't want the wood to go to waste. So this year I had an idea that came to me when I received an email from the Home Depot garden club. They were advertising their planter wall blocks for building garden beds, which you can see here, Home Depot Planter Wall Blocks.
These blocks are perfect for building garden beds because all you have to do is slide the wood pieces into them instead of having to nail them together at the corners. That's because the wall blocks are the corners. Plus they are inexpensive, so you don't have to spend a lot either. We got our wall blocks for $2.54 each.
Building Our Garden Bed
Since we were using wood we already had in order to lower the cost of buying new wood, we decided to make this garden bed six feet long, by three feet wide. That way there would be plenty of room for our cucumber plants, and some companion plants, which I will get into later in another post. Since each wall block fits six inch tall wood, we needed eight wall blocks, two for each corner, so that our garden bed would be around twelve inches tall. Also, the slots the wood fits into are two inches wide, so make sure the wood you use is either two inches wide, or that you have enough to double the wood and put two pieces in each slot if your wood is only one inch wide. See the image below to see how that works.
In order to use the wood my son already had, which was one inch wide, we doubled it. Which worked for one of the shorter sides which are three feet long. We did have one piece that was two inches wide, but the rest was only one inch, and we cut them all down to three feet long in order to be able to use all our old wood for both of the three foot long sides. That way the only wood we had to buy was for the length of the garden bed, which is six feet long. We also bought wood that was already two inches wide, and six inches tall so we only had to purchase four pieces of wood altogether. I was determined to save as much money as I could on this garden bed.
For those of you who aren't aware of this, Home Depot and Lowe's will cut wood that you buy from them for free. So don't worry if they don't have the exact length of wood you need. Sometimes they might even cut a piece or two that you bring with you if you are also purchasing wood from them. That was the case for us this year. We brought in a couple pieces that we also needed cut and Home Depot cut those along with the pieces we purchased. So it doesn't hurt to ask!
Each wall block is 8 in. x 8 in. x 6 in., so you will need wood that is six inches tall. Or you can use wood that is three inches tall and just double that if you need to use wood you already have. You can even use wood that is two inches tall, if you have enough, then you will need to stack three pieces. In the above image we used six pieces of wood that was one inch wide and two inches tall.
The image below gives you another view where we stacked wood that was two inches tall. Although the top piece is two inches wide, and the stacks below that piece are the one inch wide pieces. Basically, use what you have to make it work. It still works, and will save you some money, if you have leftover wood.
You don't have to build your garden bed as a raised bed as we did, it can be a bit more difficult to put together if you do. Why is it more difficult? Because you need to use chicken wire for the bottom, and small rocks on top of the chicken wire to prevent the soil from falling through the chicken wire when building a raised bed. But in order to prevent the chicken wire from eventually warping from the weight of the soil over time you will need to support it underneath with blocks. Plus, since this bed doesn't require you to nail the wood together, making it much easier to take apart and move if you ever needed to, that means the chicken wire isn't attached to the wood. The only reason our bed is raised is because the area where we had to put it floods during our rainy seasons, which we are going through right now. June is one of the months that gets the most rain in our area of Texas. My advice, put this garden bed on the ground. Use either three or two blocks at each corner, and you're good to go.
Each of these varieties of cucumbers produce shoots, and from those shoots they grow little vines that wrap around whatever they can to support that shoot. While there are some varieties that grow in a bush, these guys do not. So, you will need a trellis for their shoots to grow up and connect to. Otherwise, once they begin to grow, their shoots will grow in any direction they can and grasp onto anything they can. I recently found one of my lemon cucumber shoots growing in the opposite direction of it's trellis, and it had wrapped its little vines around my basil plant. I had to carefully unwrap those vines, move the entire shoot onto the trellis, and then rewrap its vines around the trellis so that it would stay put.
The image above was taken a couple of days ago. These are my Boston pickling cucumbers and lemon cucumbers. My Boston pickling cucumber shoots are the three on the left, and my lemon cucumbers are the other shoots on the right. But you can see from this image that their shoots are trying to grow all over the place, especially my lemon cucumbers. After each rainfall, we've been getting rain every day for the last five days, I have to go out and redirect their shoots because a good rain really gets them growing.
While there are many different options for building a trellis, I have two suggestions. One works well with cucumber plants that are in a pot, and the other can be made to work with cucumber plants that are in a garden bed, like my cucumbers in the above image, or cucumber plants in a plant pot.
My first suggestion is a wooden trellis, which I'm using with my cucamelon plants. I bought the wooden trellis at Lowe's last year when I was one trellis down, so I really needed it at the time. It cost me around $14.95, and while it is a good trellis for a plant or two, it can get pricey if you have multiple cucumber plants in pots. But it's still a good option, and useful, which is why I'm mentioning it. I apologize for the photo, we have a lot of shade on our back porch and my phone camera just won't do a better job, but at least this gives you an idea of what the trellis looks like.
The second option I recommend costs a lot less, depending on how you choose to use it, which is trellis netting. I bought mine at Home Depot for around $3.98 each. It comes in a small bag, and can be found in the garden center. The reason why this trellis netting works so well with either a garden bed or a plant pot is because of its size, which is 5 feet by 8 feet. For long garden beds you can use it long ways stretching out the 8 foot side across the garden bed, and for around plant pots you can use it by stretching it out on the 5 foot side. You might have to let most of it dangle on the ground using it this way, but it still works.
For our cucumbers in our garden bed we have a wooden fence behind it, so we just attached the trellis netting with nails. There are ties at each square section of the trellis netting, so we just hammered a nail into the wooden fence at each square and tied the trellis ties to each one. You can also buy wooden stakes or poles and tie the trellis to those.
For my space masters in plant pots I used another method using two stakes, a wooden dowel, bamboo stakes, and garden wire. They are only around three to four feet tall, but they work for my needs. You can always buy stakes that are taller in order to get your trellis at the desired height for your needs, since depending on which way you use the trellis netting you can make your trellis 5 feet tall by 8 feet long, or 8 feet tall by 5 feet long. In the image below I'm using the trellis netting the narrow way, and the remaining netting is sitting on the ground behind my plant pot. I don't want to cut the netting because I can always reuse it on another trellis if I need to.
We had to dig the holes for the two stakes deep enough so that they would be sturdy, even against tough winds. I then used three bamboo stakes on each end like a tepee, and tied them together with gardening wire. I didn't put the bamboo tepees as deep in the ground as the stakes, but just deep enough so that they stay in place. Then I placed the wooden dowel on top of each of the two tepees of bamboo stakes, tied the dowel to the bamboo tepees with the gardening wire, and then tied the trellis netting across the wooden dowel.
While these could have been built taller, and probably wider, I made it work with the space I had. I also have a second space master on the other side, which you can see in the above image behind this trellis. I also built a third trellis using the netting the long way, 8 feet across and 5 feet tall. That trellis sits behind two plant pots that have my basic cucumbers planted in them.
While the shoots for each plant will grow above the height of each of my trellises in my garden bed and my plant pots, it isn't hard to just redirect them downward once they get to the top of their trellis. I don't think I could ever build a trellis that is tall enough to not have to redirect each shoot back downward. The better each plant thrives, the taller their shoots will be, and that is a good thing because then you get a lot more cucumbers.