Simple Bread and Butter Pickles Made From Garden Cucumbers

Cucumber on the vine
Cucumber on the vine

Now that the cucumbers are growing in my Florida garden, I was reminded of a simple bread and butter pickles recipe I found a few years ago. No canning was involved. Fortunately I was able to find my printed copy.  (Recipe Link Below)

I don’t do canning, but I love bread and butter pickles made with fresh from the garden cucumbers. These pickles are stored in mason jars (or any jar) but there is no boiling required. Slice and mix the six ingredients (and add some of your own) and store in the fridge.

Include sliced onion and green pepper for flavor. Garlic cloves and hot pepper slices may work as well. Other herbs could be added to change the flavor, like fennel and dill.

And by the way, you don’t need to use a specific type of cucumber.  I am growing two types, and I can’t remember what they are, but as you can see in my photo below, one type is very long!

The shorter, regular looking cukes taste better, but when making pickles it doesn’t matter.  There are many other ways to use fresh cucumbers from the garden.

Cucumbers and onion

The recipe calls for 7 cups of sliced cucumbers, so wait until you have a bunch to use up. Cukes don’t last long once they are picked, so plan to make pickles the day you pick the cucumbers.
A mandolin slicer makes all that slicing go fast.

Note:  One thing I changed in the recipe was the amount of sugar. The recipe calls for 2 cups, and I reduced that amount to 1 cup.  I also added a few slices of hot red pepper and fennel sprigs.

making bread and butter pickles
All ingredients get mixed together in a big bowl

Spoon the mix into clean mason jars. Divide up the remaining liquid into the jars, cover and put in fridge for 5 days. Then begin eating!  They will be good for months.

mason jars
Clean mason jars

The full recipe can be found here: Mamaw’s Refrigerator Bread and Butter Pickles.

bread and butter pickles mason jars
The cukes are marinating and will be pickles soon!  My mix fit into these 4 jars.

Cut Worms, Pill Bugs and Squash Vine Borers Invade My Space

My little garden has been growing like mad, but now the cut worms and other creatures are making a mess of it.

Cut Worms

I’ve seen black worms eating leaves, and they are not picky which plant they attack. These are the cutworms – pictures below. Cutworms can also nip a new seedling at the base and kill the entire plant, but these are concentrating on the leaves.

Cutworm eating fennel
Cutworm eating fennel
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Black spots are tiny worms
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Small worms huddled together
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Tiny cutworms living underneath a cucumber leaf

It turns out getting rid of the cutworm is easier than getting rid of the other pest, the pill bug. I can pick the worms off the plants. The large ones are fairly easy to spot, and my garden is small. I plopped them into my tray bird feeder and the cardinals came and had a meal!

Pill Bugs

My other problem is all the tiny bugs, which I believe are Pill Bugs. They are everywhere from huddled along the wooden sides of the raised bed, to deep down under the soil. And I’ve found them munching on my cucumbers too.

At first I thought these were a form of the cutworm. These bugs range from tiny to fingernail size. I thought they were harmless, but have found them eating the vegetables, so they need to go.

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Along the inside edge of the raised bed

As I was inspecting the garden, I found colonies of the pill bug along the edges of the garden. Too many to pick off. And as I dig, I find more underground!

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Single pill bug

I’m always looking for organic, natural ways to deter destructive bugs because I don’t use harmful sprays in my yard.

I read that the cutworm will eat corn meal and that will kill it. I’m hesitant to use cornmeal because of the raccoons that visit my yard each night.  I don’t want them digging through my garden because they smell corn!

One site suggested using Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth. I just happened to have some of that!  It’s made of crushed fossils which cut open bug that crawl across it which causes them to die.  I sprinkled it over the dirt in my garden paying attention to the edges.

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Pill bugs roll into a ball when disturbed
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Bug on the cuke – hard to see, but he’s there a little left of center.

Besides these two destructive pests, I’ve got worms boring into my cucumbers and summer squash. While I was outside dealing with these bugs, an orange wasp (it’s really a moth, but looks like a big bee) was buzzing around my garden. Come to find out it is a squash vine borer moth looking to lay it’s eggs in my garden!  The link has a photo of what those eggs look like.

The link above will give you lots of info about how to prevent the borer moth from laying it’s eggs all over the vegetables.

One idea is to use a Floating row cover.  If the moth can’t get to the crops, it can’t lay the eggs.

Another suggestion which I found to be a simple try is to place a yellow bowl of water in the garden to attract the moth and drown it.

Blossom End Rot Problem on The Squash

I’ve been having a blossom end rot problem with my Summer Squash. After reading a bit about the disease, I found a couple of solutions to try.

Vegetables will begin to grow and look fine, but then the ends will turn brown and rot the fruit like in my image below.

First, overwatering is a concern. Because it tends to be very hot here, I do water my garden every morning. Plants in pots outdoors, like my Persian Lime Tree, need lots of water.

The problem with too much water on the yellow squash, or zucchini which is similar, is that calcium leaches out of the soil and the plant can’t get enough to grow the squash correctly.

So adding calcium can help.   I decided to try adding eggshells, but store bought organic calcium may be the better way to go.  It’s not cheap, but this problem can affect many types of vegetables so the bag would probably come in handy.

squash blossom end rot
Squash blossom end rot

I have read that one way to add calcium to garden dirt is by adding crushed, dried eggshells.

A mortar and pestle can be used to crush the shells to make a fine powder. This can be added to the soil.  However, I also found this page at the Garden Myths site which claims that eggshells basically do very little to enhance soil.    They say that grinding the shells to powder and adding to acidic soil is your best shot for this idea to work.  They claim that eggshells remain intact for long periods of time and do not break down to add nutrients to the soil.

In the end, what the suffering plants probably need is additional calcium (in whatever form you choose to use) and possibly less water.  Read more about Blossom End Rot at the Gardeners site.

Air Plants Need Only a Branch to Grow

No dirt needed.  Air plants seem to be just that – plants that grow in air. This is one of the coolest plants that grow in Florida.  It is a type of bromeliad.

You may see air plants in the wild way up on the branches of oak trees. Or sometimes they grow off the side of the tree or closer to the ground.

air plant
Air plant down inside my Schefflera plant

Yesterday I happened to spot a small clump of air plants down inside my Schefflera.  I thought it may have attached itself to the branch and wanted to get a photo.  As I began picking the dead leaves off the plant, I realized it was not attached.  It had fallen out of the nearby oak and lodged itself in the Schefflera.

I’m not sure which type of bromeliad this is.  Could be the leatherleaf or broad needleleaf type.  Below is a picture of the dried flower attached to the plant.

air plant flower
Air plant dried flower

The roots are used to attach itself to the host tree, which in this case would have been one of the tall oaks in my yard. The shape of the leaves funnel water, insects and other things down into a “tank” where minerals are absorbed to feed the plant. There is no need for dirt and this is why they can attach to a limb and exist happily there.

roots of air plant
Roots of air plant

There is still a small oak branch which runs through this air plant. It must have broken off the tree in high winds and sent this air plant to the ground.

air plant
See the little oak branch?

After Hurricane Irma I found a large air plant in the yard. I picked it up and put it in the low branches of a shrub. I hoped it would be okay, but the leaves began to fall off and eventually the whole thing fell apart. It was too damaged to survive, or didn’t have the right stuff to live.  Maybe I should have set it some place else.  It was beautiful.

I believe this one is called the “Giant Air Plant” according to the UF site (link below).  It is now endangered thanks to the infiltration of the Mexican bromeliad weevil (and possibly hurricanes.)

giant air plant
Giant Air Plant blown from a tree during hurricane

Unfortunately people seem to think they should collect them as souvenirs. Also, with all the land clearing and building that goes on here, their natural habitats (trees) are being destroyed. Between that and the Mexican bromeliad weevil, which kills the plants, 10 of Florida’s 16 native bromeliad species is threatened or endangered.  This is according to the University of Florida which has a page about Florida’s Native Bromeliads. Visit the page to see photos of the many different types found in the state.
The photo below shows a unique way to display a bromeliad and tropical plant collection in the yard.

old car used as plant stand
Photo credit: Pixabay