Right or wrong, it’s not always easy for gardeners to talk about the things that aren’t growing well. But sometimes those very things teach the most indelible lessons.
From the beginning my cucumber plants have had a rough go this year. The rains came and stayed for a month. Now the plants are positively sickly.
Since there are so many similar diseases that can kill cucumber plants, I decided to submit a question and some images to Ask an Expert, a service run by the Extension Agency.
A prompt and thorough answer came the next day; Downy Mildew. Arg.
“There are few management practices that can be used to control downy mildew in the home garden.”
“The early appearance of downy mildew in Michigan, along with the wet and humid weather, may make cucumber growing especially challenging this year.”
Well, suck it up and learn, mister.
The first change I’ll make in next year’s cucumber plantings are the varieties. I planted open pollinated heirloom varieties this year in hopes of saving seed. I’d rather have a harvest than no seeds and dead plants. So it’s Downy Mildew resistant hybrids all the way next time.
I may have aggravated the problem by spacing the plants too closely along the trellis. I planted 9 plants on a trellis that might have done better with 3 or 4.
Gardens aren’t always easy to figure though. Last year my cukes were amazing, planted using the same spacing. They eventually succumbed to disease, but not until I had cucumbers coming out my ears.
That leads me to believe that timing may have more to do with the problem than spacing. Last year’s cukes went in early; for various reasons this year’s crop was planted almost a full month later than last year’s. An early start means a greater likelihood of getting the cukes harvested before disease hits.
So much to learn, so little time.