One of the reasons I like my community garden so much is that it’s a perfect mix of complete and partial weirdos. I say that with all the respect of a borderline total weirdo. For the most part our weirdness is manifested in our desire to grow our own food no matter what the cost. Dress up like a Potato Beetle with pool noodle antennae to scare off the real thing. No problem. Pee in the compost pile for optimal nutrients? Well maybe not that, but we’ve thought about it. This also means that most of us are pretty hard core when it comes to eating well.
Although I’m not going to lie to you, if I could grow Big Macs, I totally would. A girl can dream.
The man in the garden next to my plot has a garden that’s neater, tidier and more productive than mine. He has no apparent pests, his cabbages are the size of a biker’s beer belly and his tomato plants are so tall I keep waiting for a coconut to fall from one of them. That means he’s either King Weirdo or he’s secretly using illegal pesticides bought on the black market in China. Since he never plants his garden until the moon is right and doesn’t appear to have any chemical burns I’m going to go with the first option. He’s King Weirdo and his garden shows it.
But the one place I think I may have him beat is my cucumber growing method.
A couple of years ago I started string training my tomatoes the same way commercial greenhouse growers do. It was love at first blight. With the string method, disease like blight and wilt are less likely to take hold and kill a plant because the plants are kept smaller, away from the soil and with a lot of air circulation between them.
This year I decided to try growing my cucumbers the same way.
Let me first say it has not been a great year for growing. It’s been wet, cold and just generally unpleasant. It didn’t even start to get warm until July. Pests have been RAMPANT and so has disease. Maybe because we had such an unusually warm winter, maybe because pests come in cycles, maybe because the world is out to get me. Who knows.
String training cucumbers is done exactly the same way it is with tomatoes. Just run hang a line of string from something towards the ground and as the cucumber plant grows, wind it firmly around the string. They support each other. Like a hotdog and mustard.
The one thing you should do that you might not know about is trim the suckers. Yes. Cucumbers have suckers just like tomatoes do, only they’re harder to see because cucumbers are notoriously sneaky.
If you’ve ever pulled out a cucumber plant at the end of the season only to find a cucumber the size of clown car hidden in the leaves, you know all about this sneakiness first hand.
You probably think that cucumbers are supposed to have a billion vines sprawling all over the place but they’re way easier to manage when you keep the plant to one main leader, just like you do with tomatoes. Pinch out any suckers.
By this time of year my cucumber plants are getting pretty kind of sad looking, but often by this time of year they’re completely dead from wilt. These are a bit affected but they keep living and growing.
The other key to string training is to remove the lower, unhealthy leaves. As soon as I shot this photo I removed all the lower, dead, diseased leaves from my cucumber plants. No I didn’t. I didn’t have time, but I’m going to do it today.
When the cucumber vine makes it up to the top of the string, just pull it over and guide it down the string.
These are pickling cucumbers by the way, in case you were thinking that string training stunts the growth of cucumbers. It doesn’t. Those hydro towers in the background might, but the string method doesn’t.
- Pinch out suckers to make vines more manageable and cucumbers easier to see.
- Pickling cucumbers are a great choice if you never seem to eat your way through a regular cucumber before it goes bad.
- If you grow an heirloom variety of cucumber that has male flowers as well as female flowers you could end up with bitter cucumbers. When the female flower is pollinated by the male flower on these heirloom varieties the result is a bitter, inedible cucumber. So remove all the male flowers from heirloom varieties as soon as you see them.
- Need a good pickle recipe?
Here’s my favourite Bread & Butter Pickles recipe.
And here’s my Favourite Kosher Dill recipe.
This whole string method is working out so well that I’m already planning what I can string train next year. Basically I’ve decided on everything. If I can wrap a string around the stem, I’m hoisting it to the sky.
You get way less disease on your plants and you can plant at least twice as much stuff by growing it vertically.
I truly believe you could be successful at growing just about anything with the string method.
When you’re gonna dream – dream big.
And then dream bigger.