Cucumbers have come a long way. If you grew them twenty years ago and gave them because you got a lot of scabby, pulpy, disease-ridden fruits. Or the fruit never set, or they turned out great but gave you indigestion, try again? But these days there are several good disease-resistant varieties. The seedless ones, less bitter ones, even burpless ones that you don’t have to peel. There are also ones with new shapes, such as the skinny yard-long cucumbers and the little yellow ones shaped like lemons.
The sexual problem has been even solved, cucumber yields used to be diminished by the fact that each plant has separate male and female flowers. The males bloom first but near no fruit. The females bloom about a week later. New gynoecious varieties produce more predominantly female flowers than males for a bigger yield but are sold with a few male-bearing seeds to ensure pollination. Some varieties do not even need to be pollinated at all.
Select a Site for Cucumbers
Native to the tropics, cucumbers like warm weather but not intense, dry heat. They are not frosted hardy, but since they grow and mature quickly 55 to 60 days usually. It is easy to get a crop even with a short season as long as you plant them in full sun. Well, before you decide where to put cucumbers, you need to think about how they are going to grow.
The plants have long vines that take up a lot of room. They can be allowed to sprawl on the ground as they grow. But this way you will need to allow about 9 square feet per plant that’s a six-foot by nine-foot plot. If you grow six plants an ample number unless you are doing a lot of pickling; one cucumber plant can produce a lot of cucumbers. Therefore, a nice way to grow them is to let them climb up the garden fence. Getting cucumbers off the ground not only saves space, but it gives me healthier, cleaner fruits.
Also, with the fence method, normally do not have to erect a whole separate support structure. Some people grow them up to stakes or up string or wire trellises, pinching the growing tip. When it reaches the top and pruning side shoots to reduce the weight of the vine. Wire circular help-up by metal stakes is a good method. Moreover, please be in mind that you will have a big, heavy vine so whatever support you provide must be a very strong one.
Select a Soil and Planting Cucumbers
Well, clay soils with plenty of humus in them give the highest cucumber yields, but sandy loam that warms up quickly will produce an earlier faster crop. You need to prepare the soil by adding plenty of organic matter, preferably rich compost or well-rotted manure because cucumbers are like fertile soil. The pH can be anywhere from 5.5 to 7.0 and add lime to raise the pH if it is lower.
Therefore, cucumbers are often started indoors to extend the season but don’t bother unless you can keep your seeds at 70 to 80 degrees by day and no colder than 60 degrees at night. Otherwise, it is better to wait until the soil has warmed up. If you do sow indoors, keep the planting medium moistened but well-drained. It is suggested to use peat pots works best because I can later set them out in the garden without even having to disturb the roots something cucumbers particularly dislike.
Sow seed in a pot without firming the soil and thin to the tallest seedling snipping, pot pulling the discards. They should be started about five weeks before planting time, which is usually the last average frost date. But if the ground and the air are still cold, harden them off for a while before you plant. Hence, presoaking the seeds will help them to germinate.
If you sow directly in the garden, you can plant in hills or rows. Therefore, rows work better if you are using vertical support. Moreover, when the seedlings are a few inches tall thin to a foot apart in the row, or to three plants in a one-foot hill. Make sure, you enrich the hill or row before you plant. A nice way to do this is to dig a trench, put a few inches of rotted manure in the bottom, and then cover the manure with an inch or two of soil, so it cannot come in contact with the seeds.
One other planting note, if the cucumber you are planting is a gynoecious variety, the seed packet will tell you so, and you will find that the seeds producing male flower plants are dyed a distinct color. Moreover, set aside 2 or 3 peat pots and plant them with only male seeds. Hence, then mark the pots containing them, and tie a colored string to the plants when you set them out. You need only one or two plants with male flowers for pollination, but you don’t want to neglect to plant those or destroy them by mistake when thinning.
Well, you need to mulch is particularly worthwhile for cucumbers and for many reasons. Any that lie on the ground is better protected from disease and rot if there is mulch for them to lie on. Also since the fruits are mostly water the plants need an abundant water supply. Then the mulch will support keeping the soil evenly moist.
Thus, mulch will also keep down the weeds. This is really important because weeding can damage cucumber roots to the point where the whole plant dies. Also, you should be carefully weeding and cultivating are fine. When the plant is small, but when it gets to about a foot high give it a good top-dressing of fertilizer or manure, and then mulch it.
You will still need to soak the plants in dry weather. If you have planted in hills, you might like to try the coffee method, putting a can in the center of each hill. For rows try a soaker hose along the row. But try not to brush against the plants when they are wet either from watering or from the rain this is how disease spreads. And do not confuse steady moisture with standing water. The plants require good drainage.
Pests and Disease
The worst cucumber pest is also the culprit behind some cucumber diseases. The cucumber beetle striped in the east and spotted in the west can damage the plants by chewing. But does even more harm by spreading bacterial wilt and mosaic. Pick off any beetles you find, checking for them inside the flowers.
You can also try hosting them off, covering plants with fine mesh netting, or spraying both sides of the leaves with a mixture of one handful of wood ashes. The one handful of hydrated lime and two gallons of water. If this fails, dust with rotenone. Another safeguard is to make many plantings several weeks apart in case one whole planting is destroyed.
If all the plants make it then you will just have an extra-large harvest. Cucumbers are generally prone to certain fungus diseases such as anthracnose, downy mildew, and powdery mildew. Fungicides will help, but the best defense is to buy resistant varieties. However, do not use sulfur with cucumbers because it is toxic to this exclusive crop.
Well, cucumbers are one of those vegetables that have to be picked, whether you have so many of them or not. However, feed them to the animals or the neighbors or the compost pile, but don’t stop picking.
If they yellow on the vine the plant will stop producing altogether. Check the seed packet to see how big each variety is supposed to get, and harvest them when they reach that size. Twist them off the vines gently or snip them off with clippers, but use two hands, and be very careful not to break the fragile vines.
Varieties of Cucumbers
Most cucumbers are either slicing types for salads or cooking or pickling types. The pickling ones are smaller, faster producing, and have little knobs all over them. Thus, good slicing varieties are open-pollinated, Market more 70, and Burpee Hybrid. Superset and Slicemaster are gynoecious. Sweet Success is said to be seedless, burpless, disease-resistant, and delicious as well, and it doesn’t need pollinating. I haven’t tried it but would like to.
Moreover, some good pickling cucumbers are Wisconsin SMR 18, Ohio MR17, and West India Gherkin. Some bush cukes for small spaces are Bush Champion, Space master, Bush Pickle, Patio Pick, and Pot Luck are good for containers. Moreover, extra early express is a quick crop and a good producer. Victory is a disease-resistant gynoecious variety that is good for northern climates. Thus, try the Armenian Yard Long and Lemon. And among the burpless, Burpless, Tasty green Burpless and Sweet Slice Hybrid are good bets.