NZ Gardener - Garden Diary 2018 - - Growing Tips -

KEEP YOUR CUCUMBERS ON THE DRY SIDE. An ex­per­i­ment by NZ Gar­dener staff writer Bar­bara Smith found dry was def­i­nitely bet­ter than con­stant mois­ture. ”I’ve strug­gled to grow cucumbers in the past. Pre­vi­ous plants pro­duced a hand­ful of fruit be­fore dy­ing an ugly, lin­ger­ing death from mildew, mould, white­fly or fun­gus. I fig­ured that cucumbers, be­ing mainly wa­ter, should get thor­oughly wa­tered, so I planted them right on top of the soaker hose at the start where the flow is strong­est and the soil is sog­gi­est. This time around, I’d run out of room so I popped a sec­ond ‘Le­banese’ cu­cum­ber plant in the cor­ner of a wooden raised bed that dries out eas­ily. I’d run out of time too and planted at the start of De­cem­ber – a good month later than I usu­ally do. The first one, planted two weeks ear­lier in the pre­mium soaker hose spot, pro­duced three cucumbers, and is now sulk­ing (Fe­bru­ary) – alive, but there’s no sign of more flow­ers. Plant number two was blasted by wind for weeks on end and the raised bed re­peat­edly dried out. Its wind-dam­aged leaves are not a pretty sight but so far it’s pro­duced over 30 cucumbers, in­clud­ing five on one mem­o­rable Sun­day night after a week­end away. It shows no sign of stop­ping – there are plenty more flow­ers and lots of new growth. I even­tu­ally twigged that cucumbers don’t need con­stant mois­ture after all. In fact, many of their close rel­a­tives are na­tive to semi-deserts or prairie lands. Deep wa­ter­ing once or twice a week along with a thick mulch is a bet­ter strat­egy.”

GROW­ING CUCUMBERS UP A FRAME or te­pee re­duces the amount of space they take up and there’s less trou­ble with dis­ease be­cause of the in­creased air move­ment. Pow­dery mildew is al­most in­evitable, es­pe­cially in hu­mid re­gions, but you can delay the spread of the white fun­gal plague long enough to still get a de­cent number of fruit without re­sort­ing to heavy-duty chem­i­cal war­fare. Keep an eye out and take ac­tion as soon as you spot ghostly white spots, usu­ally on the old­est and low­est leaves. Spray weekly with a mix­ture of 250ml whole milk (blue top), 750ml wa­ter, ½ tea­spoon bak­ing soda and a few drops of dish­wash­ing de­ter­gent. Thor­oughly cover all leaf and stem sur­faces un­til they’re drip­ping. The milk and bak­ing soda form an al­ka­line bar­rier that isn’t con­ducive to the acid-lov­ing fungi. This method doesn’t cure in­fec­tions but does slow its progress.

WATCH OUT FOR WHITE­FLY AND MITES un­der the leaves. Spray reg­u­larly with Na­ture’s Way In­sect & Mite Spray from the first signs of in­fes­ta­tion.

CU­CUM­BER SNACKERS Our favourite way of us­ing up the cu­cum­ber glut is also the eas­i­est – cu­cum­ber sarnies, or thick slices of cu­cum­ber (mi­nus the bread) with a tasty top­ping (see be­low). Us­ing a cookie cut­ter, cut your cu­cum­ber and bread into fancy shapes for spe­cial oc­ca­sions!

TOP TOP­PINGS FOR CU­CUM­BER SLICES • Smoked sal­mon. The pep­pery hot smoked ver­sion from Ocean Blue is par­tic­u­larly good. • Cream cheese with freshly-ground black pepper by it­self or with half a cherry tomato or a snip of chives.

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