Crazy cucumber (Ecballium elaterium) is a herbaceous perennial or annual. It got its unusual name due to its ability to scatter seeds over fairly long distances - about 6 m.
The homeland of this remarkable plant is the Black Sea coast. Often, a completely different plant is mistakenly called a mad cucumber, which, meanwhile, belongs to the same pumpkin family - echinocystis.
Unlike mad cucumber, this crop grows in the wild in North America. It is also called the lobed prickle, and in the scientific community it is called Echinocystis lobata. Echinocystis often plays the role of an ornamental plant that is grown in garden plots and indoors.
Crazy cucumber: description and main characteristics
Crazy cucumber is a herbaceous vines and is able to climb vertical supports to form a dense green carpet. Thanks to the supporting structures, the shoots of this plant can grow and rise to a height of about 6 m.
The foliage is light green and consists of long-petiolate leaves. The length of the leaf plate ranges from 5 cm to 15 cm. The shape of the leaves is lobed: each of them consists of 3-7 triangular lobes.
During the flowering period, bisexual flowers are formed, which differ significantly from each other. Stamen (male) flowers, as a rule, are small in size and form not too dense inflorescences, resembling panicles in shape. Pistillate (female) flowers are larger than staminate ones: they form bunches located on the lower tiers of the stem.
The flowering period begins in early June and finishes in September. Since mad cucumber is a honey plant, it attracts a large number of bees and other insects at the time of flowering due to the sweet scent of the flowers.
The fruiting period is in August-October: miniature pumpkin-like fruits ripen on the stems, the length of which is 1-6 cm. Juicy pulp and numerous seeds are hidden under the hard shell of the fruit. At the moment when the pressure of the accumulated juices becomes maximum, the fruits of the mad cucumber literally shoot out the seeds, scattering them on the sides.
Crazy cucumber has become widespread in various regions of Europe and Asia as a climbing ornamental culture. Crazy cucumber seeds often take root in the wild, as this plant is resistant to winter cold.
Seedling growing instructions
The most reliable way to grow mad cucumbers on the territory of a garden plot is to sow seeds for seedlings and then transfer them to a garden bed. The laboriousness of this method is compensated by a high percentage of survival in a greenhouse.
You can also purchase ready-made vine seedlings, however, they are not easy to find in specialty stores and nurseries. Seeds for sowing seedlings can be purchased at the store, or you can collect them yourself from the fruits of a mad cucumber.
When purchasing ready-made seeds, you should pay attention to the production period indicated on the package. Only 2-year-old seeds are suitable for sowing, after 3 years the germination rate drops sharply. If it is decided to use the seeds collected on the beds for sowing, it is recommended to do this immediately. Since dried seed is most likely not to germinate.
Since the seeds can only be obtained after opening the fruits of the mad cucumber, you have to wait for this moment. The difficulty lies in the fact that the fruits are massively throwing out seeds at a certain moment, which is not easy to determine. Some gardeners prefer not to wait for the seed pods to open, but to speed up the process.
To this end, the fruits are placed in a bag, which must be shaken until they discard the seeds, which must then be washed and dried.
Time for sowing and planting in open ground
The best time for sowing mad cucumber seeds in open ground is May. In this case, seedlings will appear quite quickly. However, the seeds of this plant are frost-resistant, so they will take root even if planted before winter or early spring, when the ground has not yet warmed up.
How to process mad cucumber seeds
Seed preparation for sowing begins in the first half of spring. They should be placed in the refrigerator (not in the freezer) 30-60 days before the intended sowing.
After a while, you need to spend scarification - violate the integrity of their shell, so that it is easier for the sprouts to break through the protective layers. This can be done using ordinary sandpaper or a manicure file. It is enough to rub the sharp edge of the seed a little, without pressing too hard, so as not to cause too much damage to it and damage the germ.
After scarification, the seeds must disinfect, for which they are soaked in a solution of potassium permanganate of a pale pink color. Its temperature should be at least +28 degrees, it is desirable to keep it constant. For this, the container with seeds can be placed on a battery or heater.
After a day, the seed should be placed in wet sawdust and left for a few more days. In the absence of sawdust, you can use toilet paper. The air temperature in the room should not be lower than +25 degrees.
It is quite easy to determine the degree of readiness of seeds for sowing. Tiny white roots should appear on them.
It is necessary to prepare for sowing in advance, first of all, it concerns the soil. You can purchase ready-made potting mix at the store. A universal soil designed for growing various plants is suitable.
However, it is best to prepare it yourself to accommodate the culture's preferences. The composition of the mixture in equal proportions includes such components as quartz sand, coarse fraction, leaf earth, peat and humus older than 3 years.
A good solution would be to purchase peat containers, in each of which you can plant 2 seeds. The seed should be deepened by 2 cm, while being careful not to damage the primordium.
Squirting cucumber. Seedling care rules
Crazy cucumber seedlings do not require much maintenance. It is important to provide her with a constant temperature regime - from 21 to 24 degrees Celsius. Some growers prefer to place seedling containers in greenhouses and greenhouses, but in this case the seeds will germinate more slowly.
After a couple of shoots appear, you should choose the strongest and healthiest, and remove the second. Then you need to wait until the first true leaves appear. Having noticed the first pair, you can feed the young plant with a universal fertilizer containing a large percentage of nitrogen. This element influences the growth of green mass of plants. Water the seedlings of mad cucumber with this solution every 14 days.
Instructions for sowing seeds in open ground
In addition to planting seedlings in the ground, directly sowing seeds is practiced, bypassing the stage of preparing seedlings. In this case, it is necessary to follow certain agrotechnical recommendations.
Favorable time to sow mad cucumber outdoors
The best period for sowing mad cucumber seeds in open ground is considered to be autumn or the first half of spring.Spring sowing is best done no later than May. In this case, the seed treatment already described above is required.
When sowing in the fall, it is not necessary to scarify the seeds. Since at low air temperatures, seedlings will appear without problems.
Optimum temperature for sowing
It is recommended to start sowing mad cucumber seeds in open ground at an air temperature of no higher than +8 degrees. Otherwise, the seeds will start to germinate quickly. And in the case of autumn sowing, they will die during winter frosts. It is important that the seeds overwinter safely and begin to germinate with the arrival of the spring heat.
Crazy cucumber is quite picky about the composition of the soil, especially the level of acidity. It is necessary to choose a site with neutral soil, although this culture will take root on slightly acidic soils. Avoid soils with high acidity.
How to sow a mad cucumber correctly
When sowing mad cucumber seeds, it is important to maintain a certain interval between planting holes. The optimal distance is from 0.4 m to 0.5 m. It is necessary to deepen the seeds by 1.5 cm, if the soil is loose - by 2 cm.
Two seeds must be placed in each planting hole in order to choose the strongest of them after the seedlings appear. Immediately after sowing or planting seedlings, the beds must be spilled abundantly with water.
The timing of emergence depends on environmental conditions - air temperature, humidity level. It is necessary to immediately take care of the supporting structure so that the young vine grows from the very beginning in the direction chosen by the owner of the plot.
How to plant rabid cucumber seedlings outdoors
When planting seedlings of mad cucumber in open ground, certain recommendations must be followed.
Choosing a place for planting seedlings
Choosing a place for planting mad cucumber seedlings is not difficult. Since this culture successfully takes root both in areas well-lit by the sun, and in the shade or partial shade.
For planting on a hot sunny day, it is recommended to choose a shady place. An important point is wind protection. Because strong gusts can damage young vines. In this regard, it is recommended to choose places for planting located near tall buildings and fences. The walls of buildings and hedges will not only protect young vines from the wind and will play the role of supporting structures.
Preliminary preparation of the soil on the site will allow the seeds and seedlings of mad cucumber to successfully take root. This culture prefers loose and nutritious soils. Therefore, before planting, the site should be dug up and fertilized with urea. For this purpose, you can use granules and sprinkle them on the dug soil.
This procedure will make the soil less acidic. And it will also increase its nutritional value, which will have a beneficial effect on the growth rate of seedlings. To make the soil looser, when digging, you can add a little coarse sand to it.
Planting rules for seedlings
If the seedlings are in peat pots, you can plant them in open ground directly in them. At the same time, it is important to observe the interval between the landing holes of at least 1 m.
At the bottom of each hole, a nutrient layer is first poured, consisting of a thoroughly rotted mullein. A seedling is placed on top of the first layer. And then the remaining space of the hole is filled with earth extracted from it during excavation.
The soil around the seedling should be well compacted, and then moistened using warm water. It will not be superfluous to remember that the high adaptability of mad cucumbers to any environmental conditions contributes to their fleeting wildness. Replenishing the ranks of weeds, they begin to take away nutrients and moisture from other plants growing in the vicinity.
Crazy cucumber: rules of care
Caring for a mad cucumber is not difficult and comes down to the simplest procedures that even a beginner can handle.
How to water a mad cucumber
Crazy cucumber most of the season does not need frequent and abundant watering and is content with rainwater that enters the soil at the time of precipitation. The exception is the hottest and driest periods, when it is still necessary to water the beds with these vines. For watering, you need to use only warm water, and for the procedure, use a watering can.
Crazy cucumbers will take root safely, bloom and bear fruit without the use of fertilizers. However, it will be possible to achieve the formation of a powerful green mass with the help of dressings. Fertilizers should be applied every 14 days, alternately applying organic matter and mineral complexes. Top dressing must be combined with watering so that nutrients are evenly distributed in the soil.
To obtain a powerful green mass, the main attention should be paid to fertilizers containing large amounts of nitrogen. For those who want to use folk recipes for self-preparation of fertilizers, there are a number of proven mixtures.
So, you can dissolve 1 liter of poultry droppings in 20 liters of well-settled water at room temperature and use the resulting mixture for watering beds with mad cucumbers.
Alternatively, you can dilute 1 liter of mullein infusion in 10 liters of warm water.
How to properly form a bush
The formation of bushes of mad cucumbers is carried out by means of fasteners to the supports. When the plant reaches 1 m in height, the upper part of its stem is attached to the supporting structure. Thus, the stem remains upright, and its lateral shoots also begin to grow upward. Supports not only allow you to shape the vines, but also protect them from possible damage under the influence of strong winds.
How to harvest mad cucumber seeds correctly
The collection period for seed pods is in September. After they open, the seeds must be collected, washed and placed to dry for 3-4 days. At the end of this time, they are collected in paper bags, in which the seed will be stored.
The collection of seeds is carried out not only for the purpose of their subsequent sowing, but also in order to prevent their uncontrolled spread. Since the fruits of this plant can shoot up to 6 m, this crop can conquer new areas every year.
In the future, these natural landings will be difficult to get rid of. For this reason, it is advisable to weed regularly around the rabbit cucumber beds to prevent them from spreading as a weed.