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September 2012

QuestionWe are a bit stumped at a plant that came up in our garden. For a long time, we thought it was a honeydew melon, but I cut one, and it had the flavor of a cucumber. Is it a squash that has grown larger than it should have? There were only two of these on the entire plant, and both fruits grew very large.


AnswerThe leaves look more like a watermelon. Did the plant grow from a seed left over from last year? If so, it could be a cross between a cucumber, squash, watermelon, etc--members of the cucurbit family will cross pollinate and the resulting seeds can give you some pretty interesting fruits. It should be safe to eat, and you may like the flavor, or not.

June 2012

QuestionMy husband and I have a great vegetable garden. We have, for the last few years, grown “burp-less” cucumbers that are wonderful. Toward the end of last year and just now we realize that are bitter. What is going on with this? Are we doing something? Could it be the weather?


AnswerIt most definitely can be the weather. Cucumbers contain a bitter compound called cucurbitacin, which can be present in the fruit as well as the foliage. If the plant is stressed, from dry conditions, high heat, or low nutrition, it can cause the bitterness. Try mulching your plants, moderating soil moisture and hopefully you can control the bitterness. The burpless varieties are supposed to have less bitterness, but they can get stressed too.

December 2005

QuestionWe had to give up a large landscaped house for a town house in Hot Springs Village. Therefore I have grown tomato plants directly in bags of soil on a sunny deck (with slits in the bottom of the sacks). What tomato variety do you suggest as the very best? Peppers have been successful, grown in bags of soil also; but what variety might you suggest as best? Has squash been successful? 

AnswerYou could ask ten different gardeners which variety of tomato is best, and you would probably get ten different answers. We all have our favorites. Usually when we grow tomatoes in containers, which I would classify as the bag method, the bush type of tomatoes is easier to manage. Tomatoes come as either determinate varieties--bush type, or indeterminate--those that keep growing. The determinate ones usually have a stronger stem and don't require the rigid staking. They are usually more manageable in size. For peppers, almost all should perform well. The banana type peppers may not be as nutritionally needy as the bell types, but with proper nutrition and watering, anything is possible. They sell space saving varieties of squash and cucumbers--more bush-like in habit, specifically for containers.