Cucumber Surprise

We are rather casual composters. No scientific layering, no compost “boosters,” no careful control of the ratio of green to brown material. It’s more like, dump the daily vegetable waste; toss the results of weeding the garden on Saturday; pile on the shredded newspapers and appropriate junk mail on Sunday. Toss occasionally. Since we live in the middle of the woods, come Fall, the whole thing is blanketed by two to three feet of leaves. The resulting earthworms are the size of small snakes.

The vegetable waste is almost a non-starter, since it is nearly all consumed by our resident ground hog, Chubby Chuck. Chubby is treated to all kinds of exotic fare: Mangos, avocados, bananas, a variety of melons, citrus fruit, nectarines, and plums, in addition to the more ordinary stuff, like carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, etc. Chubby is an equal-opportunity eater, gobbling everything available with the same relish. This system works well for all of us. Chubby is fat, dumb, and happy and all of my flowers are left intact.

This year, because of some unexpected travel, we had more than the usual amount of vegetables go bad. Three once-attractive cucumbers hit the pile without ever having been tasted. They were quickly covered over by newspapers and weeds, as we rushed to get maintenance chores completed before we left on yet another trip. Evidently, they also escaped Chubby’s notice. The day before we left, I spied scores of cucumber seedlings pushing up from under the weeds. There was no time to create a proper garden. A day earlier, Dan had been pulling the invasive crown vetch out of our sun-baked berm, which left a bare spot. I made a small indentation in the dusty soil, soaked it with a gallon of water, plopped two trowels-full of cucumber seedlings in the hole, and poured another gallon of water over them. A harsh beginning for seedlings that had birthed in deep shade, but when we returned home a week later, the cucumbers were lush, thriving plants.

I’m sure you won’t find this method of growing vegetables recommended in any book, but it’s a good lesson that all of our hovering and coddling isn’t nearly as effective as the hand of Mother Nature, with the right plant in the right place.

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