Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cucumber Fail

Oh beautiful little cucumber, all full of promise... too bad I have to rip you out of the ground. That's right - this year I failed when it came to cucumbers. First of all, I planted all my japanese cucumber seeds in the back of a planter bed where they ended up being completely shaded by the much faster-growing zucchini plants. They sprouted, lingered for a while, yellowed, and died. Fortunately, though, I had one nursery-bought (gasp!) cucumber plant that came to me from a friend already sprouted. Now, I have been called a gardening snob, and this is not in any way to due to my skill or the state of my garden. It is because I consider growing anything that I did not personally start from seed to be cheating. I don't impose this standard on other gardeners - just myself. I grow everything from seed, including my tomatoes, which means I NEVER put nursery-bought plants in my garden. If I can't get it to germinate or it doesn't survive being transplanted, I don't grow it. I'm not sure why I do this to myself - my garden would be much more successful if I didn't. For some reason I just enjoy that extra challenge.

Anyways, getting back to the cucumbers. It was a good thing I made an exception to my rule and planted the cheater Orchard Supply cucumber plant. If not for it, I would have zero home-grown cucumbers, which are one of the very best things about a summer garden. I hovered over that first little cucumber multiple times each day, waiting for it to be big enough to eat. And when I finally harvested it, I immediately peeled it and put it in my salad. And it was... BITTER! If you've ever tasted a bitter cucumber you know there isn't anything quite like it. It's this horrible taste that immediately permeates your entire mouth and doesn't go away, even after rinsing with water. Hoping it was a fluke, I recommenced Operation Hover as more cukes grew on the vine.

All of them bitter.

It must be my fault, I decided, so I consulted my best gardening tool: Google. A search for "why are my cucumbers bitter" revealed the truth: my cucumber plant was "stressed." Either because the weather has been shifting from pretty cool to blazing hot, or because I don't water my garden on a predictable schedule, the plant is too stressed out to produce those crunchy sweet flowery cucumbers. And the death knell: "Once a cucumber plant starts producing bitter fruit, it will continue producing bitter fruit. You might as well pull it out and start over." Those are hard words to take, even when they are about a store-bought plant. But today I picked one more cucumber off the vine, hoping against reason it would be sweet. It was the worst one yet. So my solitary cucumber vine is off to the compost pile, to make room for some fall greens. I'll have to wait until next year to grow cucumbers... but for now I can always hope for the generosity of friends. :)

1 comment:

  1. I had a cucumber plant this year! it had one cute little cucumber growing on it about the length of my finger. I putting netting up around it but something still ate the whole thing. :( Next year. Thanks for the tips too!