Gardening fosters that adaptive quality in us. It keeps us humble, flexible, and creative. I started out the year determined to grow lots of cucumbers and finally put up a stellar supply of pickles. A dream for another year, I’m afraid.
No one likes to talk about pests, bugs and bacterial wilt. This is definitely not that sexy post that makes the neighbors jealous. I’m gonna do it anyway, though. Not because pests and disease are interesting topics (well maybe they are if you’re an entomologist), but because this is a gardening blog and thems the facts, sometimes.
If you grow cucumbers, you better know about this here little bug.
Otherwise, one day you might step out to your garden, hoping to see it doubled in size, and find this.
Oh sad day!
Truthfully, I haven’t known all that much about this beetle; so keen on cucumbers that it has derived a name from what it preys on – simply, the cucumber beetle. I’ve been lucky and not had to deal with it until this year. [ Can I be honest and just say that this year seems like an especially buggy year? Remember those peas I struggled to grow at the beginning of the season? ]
Well, the tough thing about the cucumber beetle is that it transmits bacterial wilt. If this happens to you, those otherwise healthy looking plants, might look a little slumped. Or perhaps a leaf or two will shrivel like this.
Then, the whole plant will crumble. I actually thought my cucumbers just needed a good watering at the end of a super hot week. That didn’t help, though, and we’ve lost over half our crop now.
One way to prevent this sort of a loss, is to practice proper crop rotation, i.e. don’t plant your cucumbers where you planted them last year. If you do, whatever bug overwinters in the soil, will wake up in the spring and find their favorite food right there. Instead, plant your cucumbers far away for the previous year’s location. You may still get some cucumber beetles, but they won’t have quite the same window of time to get a stronghold on the crop.
I admit, I’ve always found it a challenge to fully practice crop rotation as our urban growing space is limited. A challenge, but not impossible. I have successfully been keeping at least a three year rotation in our beds. Tended helps me by allowing me to map out what is growing where and plan my next year accordingly. This way, nothing is growing in the same spot as it did the year before, and in fact, nothing is growing where it did even two years ago!
This year, I decided to “rotate” the cucumbers just to the other end of the same bed, rather than moving them to a different bed. Bad idea. I’m not holding out much hope for what is left of our cucumbers now. They aren’t thriving, that’s for sure. We just harvested our first cucumber today. It is a little lady, but we sure like her. Meet, the Lemon Cucumber.
This little yellow sphere is a cucumber, I promise. Sweet, crispy, and juicy, I think we’ll be growing this variety all the gardening days ahead.
What is your favorite variety of cucumber?
Anyone else experiencing a greater than usual onslaught of pests this year?