Crop Tips from Members

Here members share their successes and failures with each other, alphabetically by crop.  To share YOUR tips, email our webmaster.


Bill Pelan writes:

For several years now, I have been trying to find a way to grow cucumbers and squash, without losing them to cucumber wilt, squash vine borers, squash bugs and cucumber beetles. Last year was the first time I have succeeded in having cucumbers for the entire summer. Here is what I’ve learned.

The main problem is dealing with wilt. It is a bacterial disease spread by cucumber beetles. Unfortunately, just one cucumber beetle feeding on a nearby infected plant and then on one of your healthy vines can spread the disease. Complete elimination of feeding by these beetles is needed for success. Last year I grew my vines on a vertical trellis of chicken wire about 3’ wide and 6’ tall with 3 or 4 plants on each trellis. I covered the trellis on both sides and top with reemay insect barrier fabric secured with clothespins. At the ground I placed bricks on the cloth to secure the bottom. It is important that there are no gaps through which insects can enter.

I planted seed at the base of this trellis and the vines grew upward. Normally, the cover would need to be removed when the plants begin to bloom, in order to allow for pollination. Here is the trick. I planted a parthenocarpic cucumber variety named ‘Sweet Success’. A number of parthenocarpic varieties are available. Parthenocarpic plants set fruit without pollination, and better yet are seedless, so they remain edible even when quite large. Because of this I was able to leave the cover on all season and simply remove clothespins when I needed to pick. For added insurance I sprayed Neem on the cover a couple of times when I was spraying other vegetables and had leftover spray in the tank. One of Neem’s main modes of action is as an insect repellant. I had far more cucumbers than my family could eat.

This year I plan to expand to growing parthenocarpic varieties of summer squash. I’ve chosen the variety ‘Cavilli’ available from Territorial Seed. I plan to drape reemay fabric over the plants and secure it to the ground. I think I will also grow my cucumbers on the ground this year in the same fashion. Keeping the upright trellis closed with clothespins was a little troublesome. I plan to amend the soil heavily with leaf mold from Northway and an organic fertilizer. Then cover the ground with black plastic to keep the fruit off the soil and suppress weeds. For watering, I sink 1 gallon plant pots in the ground and plant the seeds around the outside of the pot.

I’ve also ordered a new Neem product called Nymbiosys. It is the only 100% neem oil product available that is labeled for use on vegetables. All of the other neem oil products are 70% extracts. They are basically the junk that is left over, after the chemical companies extract the most active ingredient, azadiractin, from the oil and sell it separately at an elevated price. It is available from Neem Tree Farms in Florida.

Stop by for a visit and I’ll be glad to show you around.


The photo on the left illustrates what happens when young kale isn't protected - it gets eaten by cabbage loopers.  The kale on the right, photographed on the same day (early October) was grown by Donna and Brian, who protected it with row cover (the white mess on the ground to the right) until it was about a foot tall.

Another member reports great success with Bacillus thuringiensis or BT. 

'Sun Gold' is grown exclusively by one member.  It produces like crazy and is the perfect size for snacking - her grandchildren love it.