one less heirloom

While going through the seed catalogs with a highlighter pen, it is something of a relief to find a packet of seed I don’t want.  This classic American heirloom, the famous Lemon cucumber, was not a success in my garden.

First of all, it’s a huge plant and several vines ended up trailing into my tomato plants, where the leaves promptly caught mildew (shown in the photo), causing me to rip them out in real fear for the tomato plants.  (And I’ll tell you now they all did just fine, in case the thought of a tomato plant in danger of foliage disease causes your pulse to subtly quicken, as it does mine.)

Even the vines that didn’t get mildew, however, made precious few cucumbers.  I should have known I was in for trouble when a fellow South Carolina gardener said, earlier in the season, “I can never get those to mature.”

Of course that’s exactly what happened to us, too.  After a glorious start, where the vines set so many teensy baby cukes I could hardly believe my eyes, only a handful of them ever got beyond the size of a ping pong ball.  And, as F. said, even then there was nothing to them.  No amazing or unusual flavor, just an ordinary level of crispness, and a skin that was a bit thicker than our hybrid pickling cucumber, Sumter.

Either I screwed up, or this heirloom doesn’t appreciate the hot and muggy conditions of the Carolina piedmont.  But since we’ll only be here for one more gardening season, I’m not going to experiment with valuable garden real estate to try and find out what the exact culprit may be.

My one regret is that the bees just loved them.  But then, the bees loved so many things in the garden, many of which I plan to plant again, and I’ve got even more pollinator delicacies planned for them in 2010.

Bees are the bees’ knees, you know.

10 Responses to “one less heirloom”

  1. M.E. Don’t feel too bad. I couldn’t get lemon cukes to grow here in SC or in the Seattle area which is much more temperate. I have never been able to find their sweet spot.

  2. I am intrigued with the name lemon cucumber and would have high hopes for some sort of lovely citrus taste. So, no? It is good that you can move on to something else.

    • Me, too! That’s why I grew it, actually. Well, that and the form, which is oval to round and with yellow skin! The inside looks like a regular cucumber. They’ve been grown in American gardens for over a hundred years… but apparently don’t like mine 😦

  3. It was not a winner in my garden too!

  4. It’s all about trial and error, isn’t it? And you’re right – the bees will have plenty to feast on in your lovely garden. I love watching the bees in the garden. Working hard and, it seems to me, enjoying every moment. We had mason bees this summer – first time in this garden – and I was delighted because they are such friendly bees and super pollinators.

  5. M.E.
    My first visit here, we are your neighbors to the north!

    We grew lemon cukes last year just north of Durham, they did not do great we did get maybe 20 cukes. Everyone around us had a bad year with all the cukes last season. I would not count this one out so quickly. I know several farmers in our area that have grown these for many years with great success. I enjoy them greatly, much more than standard cucumbers.

    • I’m so glad you stopped by, Randy. I went by your blog to check it out, and you have some incredible photos there. I’m in love with one particular shot of a cardinal already!

      I won’t drop it entirely, I’m sure. We have no idea where we’re going to end up living after F. gets done with grad school this year, and I have a small plot here, so I think I’ll conserve the cucumber space for more performing varieties. If I were going to be here for a few more years, I would certainly experiment to find their preferences and see if it was impossible to get them to do right. As it is, if we’re still in North America (and I suspect so), I plan to give them another shot another season.

      I cherish those old American heirlooms, you know 🙂

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