Plant Care and Reading The Signs
Plant care is a two way conversation
Getting to know your plants
As as well as the obvious wilting signs of dehydration from lack of water or a pallid colour from a lack of sunshine, being too hot or too cold, indications of uncomplimentary PH levels in their soil, the methods that plants use to communicate with us can be quite subtle, and some of the signals can be a mystery unless of course you have the experience to recognise and translate them.
Talking to plants may be beneficial for us both, but it’s actually a two way conversation. Especially when we confine them to a pot or plant them in conditions far removed from their natural habitat. We are therefore completely responsible for their diet and health.
The story of a poorly cucumber
My education in this delicate language began when I noticed something happening to the leaves on my cucumber plant. Although organic in nature there was something definitely suspicious going on.
Transparent yellowish spots were appearing over the leaves, however the plant itself was still looking strong. Luckily, there’s lots of information available online, and it wasn’t long before I identified it as ‘Yellow Spot’. A common issue caused by a magnesium deficiency occurring in the Cucurbitaceae Family, specifically ‘the gourd family of flowering plants, belonging to the order Cucurbitales and containing 98 genera and about 975 species of food and ornamental plants.’ including cucumbers. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
So I had my answer and we, my cucumber plant and I, had begun a rapport.
Treating Yellow Spot
Yellow spot on the leaves of marrows, courgettes, tomatoes, gourds, cucumbers and many others can be treated with a quick dose of epsom salts, aka magnesium Sulphate.
Mix 2 table spoons of Epsom Salts in to 1 gallon (8 pints or 5 1/2 litres) of water, pour over the leaves and into the soil and maintain a good air flow around the plant. Here’s a link to just one of the more helpful and detailed sites I found.
Sounds great, but I still couldn’t understand why it happened in the first place. I had purchased a packet of cucumber seeds from a reputable source, sown them in a good quality John Innes Seed compost and placed the pots on my windowsill. The seedlings had been carefully tendered through germination in the warmth of the kitchen, looking out onto the garden.
Feeding plants as they grow
What I hadn’t appreciated at the time was that the seedling had grown into a hungry teenager plant. There simply weren’t enough minerals and nutrients in the seed potting compost to sufficiently nourish the plant, and the reason the leaves were looking so ill had simply been the result of a poor diet. The signs were there all along, I just needed to learn to understand them.
So instead of administering epsom salts I repotted the plants into bigger pots containing a good well balanced multi-purpose compost, in the hope that all of the required minerals etc now provided would help the plant recover naturally.
Did it work? It did. Or it has been a success so far. The leaves originally effected with yellow spot are still looking a bit poorly, but new growth has emerged to be healthy and green.
The signs are good. No chemicals, processed or force feeding intervention needed then, I just have to pay more attention to the natural requirements of the plants in my care, and as it grows I need to ensure I provide a good balanced diet. After all, I hope to be eating the produce, so it makes sense to provide all that nature intended. Lesson learnt.
Interesting fact, cucumbers originated in India, I live in the UK so our climates are rather different. If I am to help this plant grow big and strong, perhaps I just need to continue my research.