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Past Articles Library | Kids Gardening | The Magic of The Cucumber in a Bottle

Gardening for children can be dull and boring especially when it competes with TV, Internet, and electronic games.  But interest and wonder can still be found when a little mystery is created in the garden.

The process begins by preparing the garden soil for cucumbers. Start this procedure by mixing compost and/or well-seasoned manure into the top 3 inches of soil.  Cucumbers are shallow rooted so there is no need to add soil amendments any deeper than 3 inches.  Once the local frost-free date has arrived and the soil is warm it is time to plant the cucumber seeds.  To do this, one must first mark off the garden space where the cucumbers will be located.  Measure the area off so that there is 1-2 feet between hills and the rows are 12 inches apart.  Mark the location for the hills with powdered milk.  Create “hills” of soil where the marked locations are present and plant 2 to 3 seeds per hill at a depth of ½-1 inches.

Another approach when it comes to starting cucumbers is to plant the seeds indoors 3 to 4 weeks before the local frost-free date.  To start the cucumbers indoors follows the same process as above but instead of using plastic pots consider using biodegradable containers.  This will ease the transplanting and reduce plant stress.  Typically cucumbers do not transplant well when their roots are disturbed when they are pulled out of pots.

A further approach consists of planting either seeds or plants in a container garden.  The procedure is the same for either when they are planted in a container.  Any variety that has terms such as bush in the name works well in containers and does not require trellising.

Once the seeds germinate, thin out so that each hill or pot has one plant each.  Set up the trellis or fence and begin training the cucumber up the vertical space.

If the garden soil has been prepared correctly, the only addition to the soil that is need is a side-dressing application of nitrogen once the plant begins to vine.

After the cucumber plant is established and begins to fruit, this is the time that garden magic can appear.  To create a cucumber in a bottle requires a few supplies.  These include several 2-liter bottles, rinsed out and labels removed and cucumber plants with young cucumbers. 

To begin the process, look over the cucumber plants and select a few young fruits.  These fruits need to be small enough to fit through the opening of the 2-liter bottle.  Once these fruits have been selected, gently place the immature cucumber through the neck of the 2-liter bottle.  Allow the fruit to grow in the bottle until it cannot come through the neck of the bottle.  After this has happened the cucumber is ready to pick and the magic is ready to begin.

If this magic is done on trellised cucumbers, secure the bottle to the support with old pantyhose or zipties.  If the bush variety is being used, the bottle will not need to be supported.

But you are not limited to only using cucumbers for this magic trick.  This process works with well with tomatoes, pumpkins, and even squash.  Also, try different colored bottles for this project.  Not only will this create a kaleidoscope of color in the garden it may also affect the ripening or growth rate of certain fruits.

Magic in the garden occurs from sunup to sundown.  This includes the mystery of pollination, seed germination and fruit formation.  While the Internet can explain these natural wonders and even provide video of these processes without stepping outside one’s door, the mystery of the cucumber in a bottle is still not solved to the youth.  Parents can still create that mystical garden magic that brings garden fairies abound with just a plastic bottle.

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