First Cucumbers and Zucchinis

The crew picked the season’s first cucumbers about a week ago. The tender young fruits were small and had a few bug-bites scabs, but they tasted of pure summer. This year, we’re growing ‘Socrates‘ because our favorite ‘Sweet Slice’ was unavailable due to a seed shortage. So far, they’re doing well, and we think they’re pretty good.

All our cucumbers are grown in greenhouses. You can read/see more about our trellising system here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout the summer, the crew will harvest cucumbers about five times per week. It’s pretty amazing to see the size difference in one fruit after 24 hours of growth during the warm weather.

This week, the crew is also starting to harvest the first zucchinis grown in a greenhouse, and they will cut summer squash about five times per week for the rest of the season.

Often times, the first zucchini on every plant will be stunted and somewhat misshapen. These fruits must be cut off to encourage the plant to keep producing. The ugly ones are sent to the farmstand kitchen, or they’re taken home and enjoyed by staff.

The zucchini harvest can, at times, be a real hunt. When plants are young, the fruits are usually easy to spot, but as the foliage grows more robust, the green zucchinis can be a challenge to spot.

The first zucchinis will make their way to farmers’ markets this week and weekend.

These plants have been helped along by the extra warmth and protection of both the greenhouse plastic and plastic mulch laid on the ground. True zucchini and summer squash season won’t start for another month or six weeks when our outside plants begin to bear. By scheduling successive zucchini (as well as other summer squash) plantings both inside greenhouses and out in the fields, we should have a continuous supply throughout the summer and into the fall.

Cucumber and Tomato Trellising

After finally getting some tomato and cucumber starts planted in greenhouses, it was time to begin the ongoing task of trellising.

The vast majority of our trellising is done with twine, and when possible, we reuse the same twine year after year. After cleaning out greenhouses at the end of the season, we stash away boxes of twine wound around special hangers.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In smaller greenhouses and greenhouses planted with cucumbers, twine hangers are placed on lateral wires strung down the length of the greenhouses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hanging twine in taller greenhouses requires a specialized tool (a piece of bamboo) to reach up to top wires.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gathering Together Farm grows its entire cucumber crop inside greenhouses, and the elaborate trellising system makes the harvest infinitely faster and easier than rummaging through prickly foliage looking for camouflaged fruits on the ground. The fruits also turn out to be much more attractive and marketable. Later on during the summer, the crew will pass through this greenhouse almost every day, twisting off a fat cucumber from each vine as it hangs suspended from the twine trellising.

The cucumber trellising system starts with a crew member affixing a plant clip (from Hydro-Gardens) around the base of each cucumber stem and clipping it onto a single line (one twine per plant).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then a crew member gently winds the twine around the stem a few times.

A little slack is left in the line, so it’s flexible enough to move but won’t let the plants fall as they get heavier.

Every two to three weeks, the crew will return to this house and secure the growing vines to their individual lines by continuing to wind the stems up and around the twine.

Larger greenhouses planted with tomatoes, get an independent trellising infrastructure because the tremendous weight of the growing plants and fruits could potentially collapse the entire greenhouse if it was suspended by the greenhouse frame alone.

T posts are driven into the ground at six foot intervals (two plants between each post).

Top bars on the T posts are strung with wires down the length of the greenhouse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ends of the lines are braced with serious wooden posts and anchors. The crew adds additional horizontal supports to keep the lines from flopping over to one side or the other when they’re fully loaded.

Later, a crew member ties a loose knot with the twine around the base of each tomato plant…

…and gently winds the twine around the stem up to the top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each tomato plant will eventually have two leaders, so an extra twine is hung next to each plant to support the additional branch in the future.

Trellising cucumbers and tomatoes is incredibly time consuming, and the infrastructure (especially the T post system) is quite expensive. Doing it well, however, leads to healthier plants, higher yields, better quality fruit, and an easier harvest.