The Star of the Vegetable Garden – 2012

As it gets around to seed catalog time, you inevitably remember the best performers you had last year. The ones you want to be sure you plant again. This last summer it was a mystery plant a friend gave me, Kay Whatley of the non-profit Grow and Share. She gave me a little 2×2 pot with a seedling that had lost its tag. She remembered that it was really in the melon family but it wasn’t a melon. I was intrigued.

Crazy cucumber
Crazy climbing cucumber (Photo by Connie Schultz)

For a few weeks I watched it struggle to get established and grow. Then it took off! It became a plant that was obviously vining with triangular lobed leaves that was setting yellow blossoms. Another week and I could see it set fruit that became long curved fruits one to two feet long.


After taking some pictures and downloading them to my computer, I tried to identify them on the internet. I finally determined that I had an Armenian cucumber (Cucumis melo var. flexuosus). A mild flavored cucumber that didn’t need peeling, did well in heat and humidity (yeah!) and was a prolific producer! It was also technically in the melon family just as Kay had said. Bingo! Its other huge asset was that it didn’t seem to be bothered much by bugs either.

Armenian cucumbers Cucumis melo var. flexuosus
Armenian cucumbers Cucumis melo var. flexuosus (photo by Connie Schultz)


Needless to say, I took cucumbers to church potlucks, I pickled them. We ate them with almost every dinner and in every salad and sandwich. I sautéed them and used them in stir fry. They kept producing until the end of summer when, as they tired, some squash bugs finally found them and drilled into their stems – and that was the end!

I was so glad for the gift of a friend that led to the discovery of a cucumber so well suited our southeast-zone 7/8 garden. One that took so little care and produced so much delicious fruit all summer long. What were your stars of the garden last year? Please share your greatest successes with us here! (Please identify your state/county/zone too – thanks!)

Connie Schultz, Master Gardener/Composter (’95, Cornell Extension) currently volunteering in Johnston County, North Carolina

2011 Search for Excellence Demonstration Garden Award Winner- 1st Place

Grassmere Historic Gardens- Davidson County, Tennessee

Visitors attend a class at Grassmere Gardens taught by the Master Gardeners.

Grassmere Historic Garden is located within the property of the Nashville Zoo.   Because of this, Davidson County Master Gardeners are in a unique position to draw people to the garden who may not have made a special trip just to look at plants.

Informational Brochures online as well as at the garden

Master Gardeners had cared for the gardens for years, but a few years ago, with a new group of Master Gardener volunteers, we made a conscious decision to take the garden from just a collection of plants and turn it into an educational setting; a real teaching garden.  We began by installing informational signs for the rose and herb gardens, but since the vegetable garden is the centerpiece, we made moveable signs since our crops change with the seasons.  As we researched our plantings, we decided to develop informational booklets on the various gardens; we have them on the medicinal herb garden, the antique rose garden, and we are now working on the second edition of the vegetable booklet.  The zoo is in the process of redesigning their website, and we have requested a page of our own so that we may post our booklets online.

With so many visitors, the volunteers within the garden are constantly asked questions.   To be prepared, we send out regular emails to the team  and then meet to discuss in detail what we are doing and why.  We get CEU credit for this, and are better prepared to deal with visitors.   And of course, since we are a demonstration garden, we are always trying different methods, and visitors are always interested in that.

Vegetable Classes Respond to Huge Public Demand

A couple of years ago, we began offering Saturday classes for two months in the early spring.  Perhaps it’s because of the local food movement, or just concerns over knowing what we eat, but the requests we received directly and from our feedback forms led us this year to really emphasize growing vegetables.  We taught separate classes on cool season crops, what to start from seed indoors, and on individual crops: tomatoes, squash and melons, corn and beans, and potatoes.    The potato class happened at the time of the first planting of that crop, so that we were able to demonstrate two different methods of planting for the class that day.    The zoo advertised the classes for us, and every Saturday morning we would have our regulars, who came every week, as well as visitors who just happened to wander by and stay to hear what was going on.

Davidson County Master Gardeners harvest the produce from their vegetable garden.

Written by Susan Hiles, Davidson County Master Gardener

For information about Grassmere Gardens and the Nashville Zoo visit

For more information about the Davidson County, TN Master Gardeners view their website at

2011 Search for Excellence Workshops Category Award Winner- 3rd Place

Grow Your Own Food- New Castle County, Delaware

New Castle County Master Gardeners teach vegetable basics classes.

In 2009 and 2010, the New Castle County, Delaware Master Gardeners offered numerous Grow your own Food workshops and demonstrations, in varying formats to their community.

Back to Ba$ics: A workshop series that included Master Gardener vegetable gardening workshops, developed to help people learn skills that they could use to save money, expand their resources, and live more simply.

Summer Tomato Tasting Event:  Master Gardeners and Master Food Educators offered a shared event in August in the teaching gardens to educate the community in vegetable gardening, and vegetable preparation.

Home Gardener Workshop Series Offered in Spring and Fall: This series featured the following workshops:  Starting Vegetables from Seed, Grow your own Food, It’s the Berries, Backyard Composting, Open Houses in our Vegetable Teaching Garden, Putting Your Garden to Bed, Edible Landscapes, Sheet Composting, Growing Vegetables at Home, Plan Your Vegetable Garden for Maximum Yield, and Potato and Tomato Planting Demonstrations, also in our Teaching Garden.

In total, there were 15 workshops that focused on the Grow your own Food theme, and over three seasons, more than 300 workshop attendees.

The demonstration garden open house was a well-attended event.

Master Gardeners worked together with the Horticulture Agent to develop workshops responding to community need.  The topics that Master Gardeners developed as part of their workshops/demonstrations included:  site/soil preparation, composting, plant selection, seeds/transplants, tips for growing vegetables, companion planting, integrated pest management (IPM), fall gardening, harvest to table, growing berries, and putting your garden to bed.

Vist the New Castle County Master Gardeners website at