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Catching the Climbing Cucumbers

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Cucumber wrapping around eggplant.
Cucumber grabs on to anything it can find, including other plants. My Boston Pickling cucumber wrapped around and intertwined with my Ichiban Japanese Eggplant.

By Renee Adam

The temperatures in Birmingham, Alabama, have been in the high 90’s and triple digits these last few weeks. Add in the high humidity that we often experience, and you’ve got a very good reason to stay indoors. But, all that changed here at my house last week as rain poured down and thunderstorms rolled in. I could almost hear our trees and bushes sigh with relief, as the rain amounts were enough to soak the roots and quench their thirst. Nice conditions in comparison to the weeks before!

The rain brought in cooler temperatures, too, which made the outdoors enjoyable again. Looking the garden over in the mornings and afternoons hasn’t taken much time recently, as I’ve picked the first round of fruits and veggies and am basically waiting for tomatoes to turn. (No more worries so far about birds pecking my tomatoes again, as Hooty, the plastic owl, has been keeping watch over my raised beds and done a wonderful job keeping them away).

Cucumber grabs onto anything it can find, including other plants.
Here’s an up-close photo of the cucumber’s vines wrapped tightly around the stem of the Ichiban eggplant. I worried it would strangle the eggplant.

If your garden experience is anything like mine, as soon as I think all is well, something is most likely “happening.” Let me explain….

I had planted extra cucumbers (Boston Picklers) later in the season because I really enjoy summer cukes and have battled flea beetles in the past. So, I put extra cucumber plants in this year for insurance. They are doing well (maybe they are a little on the small side since our weather was so warm and we hadn’t had much rain), maybe because I treated them with an organic substance called Neem oil to get rid of the flea beetles.

But Saturday when I went down to see how things were growing, I found the cucumber plant that seemed so tiny just days ago had now shot up and grown taller than my Ichiban eggplant and had actually attached itself to the eggplant stem, putting a strangle hold on it. It literally seemed to happen over night!

Climbers like cucumbers and squash can really take over a garden if you don’t have a place for them to climb and grow. I always place my wooden topiaries near my cucumbers for this very reason, but when I originally planted these cukes, they seemed somewhat small, and I thought it would take weeks before they would start really climbing. I guess that all depends on whether you have perfect growing conditions (long sunny days mixed with good amounts of rain).

Cucumber climb a wooden topiary.
I removed the cucumber vines from the eggplant stem and re-attached to the wooden topiary to keep on climbing.

I did gently unwind the cucumber vines that had attached to the eggplant and attach them to the topiary instead. Both plants are fine with the transition. In fact, the eggplant actually grew a new bloom!

If we had been out of town for a week or so, the cucumber could have easily smothered my eggplant. The directions for growing cucumbers say they will climb and to give them lots of room…so know that directions for planting most plants are almost always dead on, if the plant is growing as well as it should be.

Hope your garden is growing well and providing you and your family with yummy produce. Today…all is well. Tomorrow? Who knows, but no doubt I’ll surely learn something new!