Thursday 30 December 2010

Project Cucumber

In 2010 I grew a couple of plants of the outdoor cucumber variety "Marketmore", which produced a very good yield. I aim to do even better in 2011.

The 2010 cucumbers were grown in a redundant compost bin. It was one that I had made myself from scraps of timber, several years ago. Over the years it had become very dilapidated and the wood was rotten, so I ceased using it for making compost - and by this time I already had three plastic compost bins anyway. This is what it looked like

I decided recently to remove the old compost bin altogether and replace it with a rather more "scientific" arrangement for growing cucumbers. The plan is to have a couple of big containers that will provide a good depth of compost for the moisture-loving cucumber plants without relying on the poor, dry soil in the border. This way I will be able to provide completely new compost each year. There is also a secondary motive for removing the compost bin: I want to make enough room to plant a Buddleia bush, which will be not only decorative, but also good for attracting butterflies.

So today I removed the bin. First - off with the woodwork (a two-minute job with the aid of a large hammer!)

You can see that there was a nice depth of compost. However, apart from the top few inches it was very dry and crumbly, because the roots from the nearby shrubs had grown upwards into the rich compost, sucking out much of its moisture. I used my trusty Trug-tub to re-distribute the compost around the garden, as a mulch.

I also pruned VERY hard the overhanging Philadelphus (Mock Orange) shrub, which had got very gangly, and the Callicarpa bush. These two had provided the uprights for my cucumber-support frame, so I have left suitable branches to make this possible again. In due course I will construct a trellis of canes or branches, over which the cucumber vines will be able to climb.

There we are then - job done. It's too early to think about planting cucumbers or Buddleias just yet, but when the time comes I'll have a head start. I must make a trip to the garden centre again soon, to identify some suitable containers...

Isn't it a shame that the brick wall you see in my pictures faces North? If it was South-facing, it would be a brilliant place to grow peaches or nectarines. Still, I love that wall because it gives me privacy, and makes my garden feel much more secluded.

While I was removing the bin today I had to re-locate a couple of plants. Some of them were Lemon Balm. They had some lovely purple-coloured roots and shoots:-

Lemon Balm self-seeds very freely, so even if these particular plants don't survive the trauma of re-location, I know I'll never be short of it in my garden.


  1. Good luck with the cucumbers, I normally have two plants at the end of the greenhouse which do really well.

  2. Greetings from rainy Southern California.

    I added myself to follow your blog. You are more than welcome to visit mine and become a follower if you want to :-)

    May God bless you and your family in 2011 ~Ron

    And always remember: Smiles don't have to be saved for a rainy day. It's good to waste them :-)

  3. Marketmore is a great variety, I had them in 2009, but in 2010 I decided to try another variety - I was disappointed.
    So in 2011 I'm back with Marketmore cucumbers.

  4. Hi Damo; What variety of cucumber do you grow? Do you have an old favourite that you grow every year, or do you try something different each time?

  5. Hi Vrtlarica; What was the variety that didn't do well? I want to avoid it!

  6. Hi The Old Geezer; Thanks for following. I hope you will enjoy my blog. When the weather bucks up I'll be writing mostly about gardening, but right now it's mostly about food...

  7. Hi Mark. I didn't know cucumbers could survive that much shade, growing against a north wall. Makes me wonder what I could get away with in my own garden, though I am the only cucumber fan, so no point in using precious planting space on them. How's the new camera?

  8. The bees will love your buddleia too - we have what I call buddelia walk on our allotment plot. Basically a buddleia at the end of several vegetable beds. They came from just pushing twigs into pots which rooted and provided me with too many plants for the garden.

  9. What a nice idea how to grow cucumber. I think I would like to grow marketmore variety next year after reading your post. We grow cucumber in polystyrene container and I just post about it too. I put grass clipping, green kitchen waste and horse manure into the container more than half full. Then we put in potting mix.

  10. Hi Janet; It seems that cucumbers will grow pretty much any place you put them. I too hadn't expected them to do well in that very shady spot, but I wanted to try making use of the compost for something and I had heard that cucumbers (and marrows and squashes) enjoy growing in very old compost.

    Hi Green Lane Allotments: Is it just my perception, or are butterflies much scarcer than they used to be? When I first moved into this house in 1991 my neighbour used to have a Buddleia bush and we would sometimes see upwards of 20 Red Admirals on it simultaneously. These days you're lucky to see one.

    Hi Malay-Kadazan Girl; The "compost" mixture you are using for your cucumbers sounds pretty powerful. It should produce some good results. I will probably make do with compost made from kitchen and garden scraps.

  11. Hey Mark, I adore a good cucumber, I didn't have much luck with them this year apart from a few at the beginning of the season. Lucky for me that my dad is a much better gardener than his offspring and he was able to supply me throughout the season.

    Good luck with yours, and happy new year :)

    ps thanks for adding me to your blog roll, I'm very chuffed.

  12. Hah! Is it true that Dads always know best? Actually, much of the success of gardening relies upon experience, so they probably do...

  13. I had no idea that lemon balm grew like that. mine just keep growing leafs more and more.
    I hope your cucumber grows nicely.

  14. Yes, they probably do. At least I am old enough to appreciate than now!

  15. Nice looking cucumbers! I wish I had a couple of them now! Mmmm!

  16. Are the Marketmore the variety that need pollinating or do you nip the male flowers off them. I'm getting mixed messages about this.


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