Saturday, July 13, 2013

Playing with your vegetables

Now that the weather has warmed, the cucumbers are taking off, sending their feelers and tendrils off in all directions.  Rather than pulling cucumbers out of the nearby tomato plants, I train them to grow up a piece of fence panel set upright where they are planted.
There are two ways to do this:
The Easy way: gently pick up the vine and weave it in and out of the fence panel gaps, wrapping the curling tendrils about the cross wires.  The tendrils are those little thin curly bits that shoot off the stem.
The fun way:
Cucumber tendrils are thigmonastic.  Like a Venus flytrap, although not as fast, they move when touched or disturbed.  (To read more, check out Wikipedia.)

First choose a vine to be trained with a nice long tendril.
Lay the tendril across the wire it is to wrap itself to and gently tap it so that the tendril softly bounces against the wire.  Within a minute or two the tendril will start to bend, then wrap itself around the support.
There are small hairs on the tendril that will hold it in place while it gets a firmer grip.  In about an hour, provided that it remains undisturbed, the plant will have a sound hold.
Pretty cool stuff, huh?  Squash, cucumbers, and all sorts of other closely related plants can be trained in this fashion.  Sometimes gardening is more than just grubbing about in the mud.  Have a little quiet fun.  Enjoy those little discoveries.

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