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Cucumbers more than just a food

Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Gardeners keen on growing their own cucumbers will be purchasing plants about now for establishing in sunny, sheltered positions or for growing in their glasshouses.

Cucumbers along with watermelons and rock melons need warm settled weather to do best and if the weather is not settled they will sulk and preform poorly.

I find that in Palmerston North I can grow great crops of cucumbers in my glasshouse but outside they are only mediocre. If you are in a part of New Zealand where you have great summers, then you will likely have great crops of cucumbers growing in any nitrogen rich garden.
In areas where chilling winds are common then you need to create a special environment to grow cucumbers.

I have found that one or two cucumbers planted into a compost rich 20 litre container will provide sufficient room for their root development and hence a good crop.

Cucumbers can be trained up a stake with soft ties for support and if you are growing telegraph types this method is the best to obtain long straight fruit. (Yes they are a fruit not a vegetable as they have their seeds inside)
The following is a way to provide a sheltered start to your cucumber plants so you can obtain fruit early, even if the weather conditions are not so favourable.

Take a 20 to 40 litre container that has drainage holes and fill the container with a good compost to the height of about two thirds, then place a layer of chicken manure and cover this with more compost to a height of just under the rim of the container. (If you cant get chicken manure use any other manure or blood & bone and sheep manure pellets, some Neem Tree Granules can be added as well.)

Now place a 6 foot stake into the centre of the container and plant one or two cucumber seedlings near the stake. Next take 4 bamboo stakes about 5-6 foot long and place these at the sides of the container at the 4 cardinal points. Taking plastic wrap you run this around the outside of the bamboo stakes making two or three runs around the base part and then working upwards. If you do the upper part too tight the stakes will start to bend in and you may need to pin a couple of slats of wood or a small bamboo stakes across the outer stakes to form a cross and keep the stakes from bending in.

Also leave a small air gap at the base so air will circulate upwards and reduce possibilities of mildews.

This will also allow you to water onto the mix at the base rather than overhead. You have created a temporary shelter to trap heat and establish your cucumbers, later into summer the plastic wrap can be removed. As the cucumbers grow tie them to the centre stake with stretch type nylon ties.

For addition food and as a booster use Cucumber Booster once a week mixed as according to the instructions on the jar. Cucumbers can be attacked by powdery mildew at any time dependant on conditions and very likely later in the season. Spray once a fortnight with a solution of baking soda (1-2 heaped tablespoons to a litre of water with Raingard added) Ensure the spray covers the whole plant including under the leaves.

Pest insects and mildews can also be controlled with regular sprays of Neem Tree oil all over the plant. Just wash the fruit prior to eating.
An North American Indian friend of mine, Running Bear, sent me a whole lot of facts on Cucumbers which I would like to share with you;
1. Cucumbers contain most of the vitamins you need every day, just one cucumber contains Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.
 2. Feeling tired in the afternoon, put down the caffeinated soda and pick up a cucumber.  Cucumbers are a good source of B Vitamins and Carbohydrates that can provide that quick pick-me-up that can last for hours.
  3. Tired of your bathroom mirror fogging up after a shower?  Try rubbing a cucumber slice along the mirror, it will eliminate the fog and provide a soothing, spa-like fragrance.
  4. Are grubs and slugs ruining your planting beds?  Place a few slices in a small pie tin and your garden will be free of pests all season long.  The chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminum to give off a scent undetectable to humans but drive garden pests crazy and make them flee the area.
 5. Looking for a fast and easy way to remove cellulite before going out or to the pool?  Try rubbing a slice or two of cucumbers along your problem area for a few minutes, the phytochemicals in the cucumber cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, firming up the outer layer and reducing the visibility of cellulite.  Works great on wrinkles too!!!
  6. Want to avoid a hangover or terrible headache?  Eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed and wake up refreshed and headache free.  Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes to replenish essential nutrients the body lost, keeping everything in equilibrium, avoiding both a hangover and headache!!
7. Looking to fight off that afternoon or evening snacking binge?  Cucumbers have been used for centuries and often used by European trappers, traders and explores for quick meals to thwart off starvation.
  8. Have an important meeting or job interview and you realize that you don't have enough time to polish your shoes?  Rub a freshly cut cucumber over the shoe, its chemicals will provide a quick and durable shine that not only looks great but also repels water.
  9. Out of WD 40 and need to fix a squeaky hinge?  Take a cucumber slice and rub it along the problematic hinge, and voila, the squeak is gone!
  10. Stressed out and don't have time for massage, facial or visit to the spa?  Cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water, the chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber with react with the boiling water and be released in the steam, creating a soothing, relaxing aroma that has been shown the reduce stress in new mothers and college students during final exams.
11. Just finish a business lunch and realize you don't have gum or mints?  Take a slice of cucumber and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds to eliminate bad breath, the phytochemcials will kill the bacteria in your mouth responsible for causing bad breath.
 12. Looking for a 'green' way to clean your faucets, sinks or stainless steel?  Take a slice of cucumber and rub it on the surface you want to clean, not only will it remove years of tarnish and bring back the shine, but is won't leave streaks and won't harm you fingers or fingernails while you clean.
  13. Using a pen and made a mistake?  Take the outside of the cucumber and slowly use it to erase the pen writing, also works great on crayons and markers that the kids have used to decorate the walls!!
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