Friday, October 31, 2014

DIY Cucumber frame

This post should be called the engineering design challenged mom's guide to building a cucumber frame! But will go with DIY cucumber frame for sake of simplicity.

There are climbing cucumbers and bush cucumbers - I have grown both. I do however prefer climbing ones for two simple reasons being that the bush cucumbers tend to be smaller and the fruit has a tendency to hang on the ground.

Cucumbers are on of those foods that we eat a lot of, but cannot store well. It's always a toss up with how many plants to plant and whether we will actually be able to use them all before they are spoiled by pests, hot weather or neglect.

I normally plant an early crop in a tub and choose the round lemon cucumbers and then around about now plant some into the vegetable garden. Last year I attempted to make a horrid farm for them to climb over and planted spinach under the frame hoping the cucumber growth would shade up the delicate spinach leaves, but this caused failure of two crops.

This year I thought I would try a more traditional way and have made a spiffing new frame from recycled wood and a bit of garden mesh. So here's how and engineering design challenged mom made a cucumber trellis.

You will need:

-3 1.5m long wooden poles of about 7-10cm diameter with one sharp end
-A length of plastic garden mesh
-Staple gun
-A well appreciated and handy Sam!

The dimensions of the poles are based on my bed which is 3.10m in length. If your bed is smaller you may only need two poles, but the middle one gives good rigidity.

Unroll the mesh and staple it firmly to one pole aligning the top of the mesh with the flat end of the pole. Halfway down the length of mesh staple your next pole and then again at the end of the mesh length.

Dig a hole for each pole in your bed and use a hammer to bang the sharp edge of the pole into the soil compacting it around the pole when filing up the hole again. I ran my climbing frame down the center of the bed. On the sunny side I will plant tomatoes in front of the cucumber and on the shady side I will plant lettuce. This allows me to grow three vegetables in one bed making use of vertical space.

I also left about a 20cm gap between the soil level and the mesh as a cucumber vine can support itself for this little bit and having the higher mesh allows it to grow higher and create more flowers.

I then planted up the bed and hopefully in a few weeks will have a positive report to give you all.

Are you growing cucumbers this year?

Friday, October 24, 2014

5 reasons why people don't grow vegetables

Having just returned from the UK on a lovely visit with my sister and her family we returned to find our garden into the full swing of spring.

One of the gardens yesterday
The tiny seedlings that were planted before I left are knee high, spinach has bolted, potatoes are ready to be dug out, tomatoes putting out their first flowers and cucumbers climbing up their trellis.

What a joy to know that from now on we will be eating daily from the garden. There is a huge amount of satisfaction in walking through the garden and seeing food for today, some for tomorrow and others for later in the month growing there.

It is pesticide and fertiliser free attested to the fact that bees and butterflies are visiting, snails and slugs hide under the lettuces and caterpillars munch away at the leaves of the brassicas.

Cucumbers in a barrel
It got me to thinking about why people wouldn't want to grow some of their own vegetables and I came up with a few thoughts based on what people have said over the years. I hope my thoughts on each of these will help you climb over your obstacles and embrace a little bit of veggie growing.


While this may seem like a big problem it is actually only relative to what you want to grow. Even on our 300 m2 of arable land there are things I would love to grow but can't due to my space constraints. You simply need to grow what you can in the space that you have. Herbs can grow in containers on sunny windowsills, pots on balconies or like I do in pots on our paved area near the pool.

Making use of vertical space means that you can make a door sized bed and grow something climbing (beans, cucumbers, peas) in the centre of the bed, then grow something hip height around the outskirts of those plants like tomatoes and then right around the side of the bed you can grow herbs like basil or coriander.

Strawberry baskets dot all our walls
If you don't have a garden you can use a balcony to grow any of the plants mentioned above with some clever planning using pots and some form of climbing frame.


Tomatoes with their first blooms
I understand time constraints well. 4 children, homeschooling, home business, sports and cultural events, cooking from scratch, a menagerie of animals doesn't leave much time to twiddle my thumbs.

And, yes, I will admit that in the beginning it took time to establish a veggie garden and there are crunch times when you have to get plants into the ground or harvests processed but in general I do not spend more than 2 hours a week directly involved in the garden.

You need to simply decide what time you do have available and decide if you want to spend any or all of it in the garden. If you don't, then I wonder why you are reading this blog... :) :) :)

I also have Sam now to help me on a Friday which is has taken a huge load off my shoulders trying to keep up with the weeds, heavy garden work and general maintenance. We used to do this all until recently but with the current levels of work and study for my children I simply can't take up a whole day to work.

Sam has been a Godsend to us and has brought back the enjoyment of being able to do the nice things like sowing seed, planting out, tending too and harvesting.

Globe Artichoke


If you are like my Superman you want to know all the ins and outs before taking the first step. If you are like me, you will jump in with both feet when the idea grabs you. Together Superman and I make a good team balancing the need for knowledge with the ability to "just do it".

There are those out there who want to know all about soil ph and what to feed to which plant when, I honestly couldn't be bothered. I do know enough about what a plant likes - for instance our Blueberries need an annual dose of pine needles or Rooibos mulch - but I have gardened simply for a long time now making sure we feed the soil lots of compost, worm tea, Bounce Back, bone meal and making sure that I plant a legume in a cycle throughout the beds in a year. I believe the plants take what they need from the soil and as we replenish with each new planting they will be fine.

There is a vast amount of information to get started on the internet and in print. These books all pretty much say the same thing so getting one good book on growing vegetables is all you need. Troubleshooting is nice to do on the web as its quick to see what the plant needs, Youtube is a stellar place to go for gardening inspiration and you are welcome to join our little FaceBook group here to ask your questions.


Potatoes harvested yesterday
One of the things I needed to overcome was if after putting money into establishing raised beds we would face a crop failure and waste all the money. Well we have had lots of crop failures, but it wasn't money that I was worried about as I watched tomatoes die of blight, potato crops not come to pass, corn form weird kernels after waiting for them for 3 months...I was sad because of wasted time and then the loss of money.

Other people have told me they fear getting started and the commitment, others who worry about what people will say or not having the know how (see above). When we started we had a lot of people joke about our farm, neighbours who told us our compost heap would attract rats (we got cats to silence that) and our children would tell their friends they lived in a cottage plonked in the middle of a vegetable garden. I really do not worry about what other people have to say about our choice and we make sure our animals (read:chickens) don't bother them.

Perhaps fear of failure is something in your life, but I guarantee it manifests in other areas and is not directly related to veggie gardening, go on...give it a try...grow some tomatoes in a pot and you will soon overcome your fear.


Well, we all struggle with this in one way or another, don't we? There are so many things that pull at us in this age that we live in, not just living life but cyberspace can gulp up loads of time. Then we have a moment to ourselves and what we choose to do with it is between you and yourself. If you don't want to grow veggies because you are lazy, then so be it.

I would challenge you though that when you put the first lettuce in a bowl, peel your first carrot or dig up your first potato, this act will become more enticing than the couch, TV or FaceBook. But like I said, its between you and yourself.

I am sure there are other reasons people don't grow vegetables, but these were the ones I thought about today while enjoying beautiful spinach, broad beans, onions and potatoes during the day's meals.

Voted the Beauty of the day