Sunday, April 19, 2015

The new and improved cuke ladder

Last things first
Last year's cuke ladder was a mixed success.  The cukes were up off the ground, but I wasn't really happy with production.  Most of that is my fault and not the cukes', as I should have paid them more attention.  But the fact that the holes in the fence were too small and I started the plants beneath the ladder* resulted in lots of broken stems when I tried to train them. Since I'm doing green beans where the cukes were last year, it was time for a better cuke ladder. I hope the one you see above will be it.

It's actually nothing but a cattle panel supported by three fence posts atop a specially-prepared bed. It will eventually be a raised bed, but I'm out of cinder blocks atm and didn't want to use telephone poles in the back yard. While I'm still looking at options to get the mound further separated from the lawn, it should be fine for now.  I'll be putting 8 cukes in, so they'll be almost 18" apart. Because this faces east/west it'll get full summer sun, so I expect 8 plants will produce plenty, especially if I take care of them this year as I ought.

The process was simple:

1.  Dig a trench 12' long (the length of my panel + 1'), 2' wide, and 18" deep.
2. Separate the grass from the dirt and throw the grass beside the compost pile, roots up.
3. Mix the dirt with a wheel barrow load of compost and a 2-cu-ft bag of potting mix I got on sale at Wal Mart**.
4. Add a wheelbarrow load of straight compost into the bottom of the hole.  I did this for two reasons. Since I took a full wheel barrow load of grass and roots out, I was concerned that I would not have enough leftover dirt to get a mound when I put it back in.  The second is that I'm out of awesome compost and I'm afraid this load will be 'hot' (too much chicken manure), so I went deep with it.  If I have a failure to set cukes, this will be the reason.
5.  Shovel the dirt/potting/compost mixture into the wheelbarrow and then pour it into the pit. I could have shoveled it straight from the swimming pool*** back into the pit, but going to the barrow first mixed it better.
6. Attach the cattle panel to the stakes and then drive them in.

The hopefuls
I did note that I had about 5 earthworms to every grub I found, so that's a real change from when I started gardening here.  I also found a cow rib half-buried exactly in the middle of the pit, so Digging Dog has now taken to burying things anywhere she thinks I might garden.  She's been busy.

* Meaning they had to go thru it first to get climbing, which most never did.
** They had Miracle Gro at 1 cubic foot for $9.78 and 2 cubic foot for $10.  I bought every second cubic foot.
*** This was the inflatable pool in which only bass swam for the last half of the summer. No foolies.

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