Cucumbers are tropical plants and they tend to thrive when temperatures are high and water is in plenty.
This tells us that growing cucumber is meant for warmer weather. These plants are tender to frost. So, you must set them in the garden until the temperature of soil has reached above 22°c.
Even if you find soil temperatures to be around 22°c, avoid plantation until 2 weeks after the last recorded frost date.
Cucumbers are categorized into bush and vining varieties.
Vines will grow along the ground or climb up trellises.
Bushes are compactable and space friendly.
In general vining varieties have a high degree of produce when compared to bush variety.
If you are facing space shortage or growing plants indoors then bush variety will meet your needs.
You can improve the overall yield of the season by planting a number of cucumber crops in close succession(about 2 weeks apart)(this method is applied when you are growing cucumber with bush variety).
Cucumbers require fertile and warm soil for healthy growth. pH needs to be slightly acidic and should be in the range of 6.0-6.8.
Add compost to your soil.
Now, plant the seedlings by maintaining the spacing of 36-60 inches (Spacing depends on the variety that you have chosen).
Vine varieties require a minimum of 1 foot spacing between the plants.
If you are in an area where spring season is both cool and long, you should warm your soil to about 4°c by covering with pine straw, chopped leaves or wheat straw.
Basics On Taking Care Of Your Young Cucumbers:
Straw mulch is immensely uncomfortable for slugs and cucumber beetles.
Take time to trellis your vines. This will save a lot of space and keeps the cucumbers clean.
Cucumbers grow fast and do not require a lot of care. Moist the soil with an inch of water weekly. If the temperatures are high and no proper rains, increase the amount of water.
Use soaker hose for watering the plants. Drip irrigation also produces desirable results and keeps leaf diseases away.
Fertilize cucumbers with liquid food. Apply liquid food for every two weeks directly at the roots of the plant.
Granular, slow-release fertilizers are a further option. So, sprinkle around the plants after plantation.
Start your seeds indoors three weeks before you start transplantation in the soil.
Cucumbers prefers a bottom heat of around 22°c. If at all, a heat mat is not available, place your seeds flat on the refrigerator.
Before plantation select a spot for planting. The selected spot should get enough amount of sunlight.
Soils should be neutral, slightly acidic or slightly alkaline. If you have clay soil, add compost. Whereas if your soil is heavy, add peat to the soil and if you are unsure about the kind of soil that you have to deal with, it will do good to have a soil test done.
Mix some compost or aged manure to the soil then plant about two inches deep.
Proceed to work into the soil about 6 to 8 inches in depth.
Make sure that your soil is drained and moist.
Soggy soil reduces your chances of growing fine, healthy and tasty cucumbers.
Sow your seeds 1 inch deep into the soil in rows. Maintain a spacing of 10 inches between them.
If you are transplanting seedlings, maintain a minimum spacing of 12 inches.
If you use vine variety to grow cucumbers, using trellis is a phenomenal idea. The trellis will save a lot of growing space and protect cucumbers from damage caused by moist grounds.
Caring Your Cucumbers:
Protection With Netting Material:
When you are planting seeds into the ground, take care to cover with some netting material. This helps in keeping the pest from digging out the seeds to feed on.
When you start seeing the seedlings emerging, keep your water sessions frequent. After you observe the formation of fruit, increase the amount of water(4 liters/week).
Inconsistent watering will make the fruit bitter. Water in the morning and afternoon and always take care to keep the watering hose away from plant leaves.
Keenly observe the growth of your seedlings. Once they have reached 4 inches in height, thin them. Maintain one and half feet space between individual plants.
If you add organic compost before plantation, you may only want to add little amounts of composts or manure to your plants. If you opt to add fertilizer to your plants then select one that is low in nitrogen levels but high in potassium and phosphorous.
Apply this at planting, exactly one week after blooming and every three weeks with some quality liquid food. Target the soil around the plant and apply directly to it. Over-fertilizing makes your plant stunted.
Take time to spray your vines with sugar water. This will attract bees and allow the setting of a high number of fruits.
If all the first flowers are male flowers your cucmbers will not set fruit. You must know that both male and female flowers must be growing in the same period because this may not happen early in your plant’s life. Eventually, gender balance will naturally establish itself and you will be able to enjoy observing your first fruit emerge.
Improper fruit formation is observed due to poor pollination by bees. This is especially observed when bees are prevented from effective pollination by factors such as insecticides, cold temperatures and rain.
You must keep in mind that gynoecious hybrids must have pollinator plants.
Dealing With Cucumber Beetles:
If you discover that the stems of your seedlings are being bitten off, your cucumber leaves are yellowing and there is the presence of holes then you may have stripped cucumber beetles to deal with.
These beetles leave their sites of hibernation early on in the season to feed on seedlings.
Their attacks on your seedlings will often end up in your plants dying early.
This happens when the ravages of the cucumber beetles combine with the destructive action of the beetle larvae on the roots of your seedlings.
Controlling Cucumber Beetles:
Inspect your newly planted cucumber for the presence of this beetle.
Especially when your plants are still seedlings, be very watchful.
Cover your seedlings with row covers. However, you must remember to remove these for a few hours every day during blossoming time to allow for pollination.
Tilling your garden in late fall will expose cucumber beetles hiding in the harsh conditions of winter and thus cut down on their population the next year. Tilling will also make your soils easier to work on in spring.
Use natural predators for these beetles. A good example is soldier beetles. You could also opt for braconid wasps as well as some nematodes.
Dealing With White Flies:
Spray your cucumber with some choice insecticidal soap. Follow up this process a couple of times, or even thrice.
Cucumbers are especially sensitive to insecticides. If you introduce spiders and ladybugs among your plants, this will be especially good to combat white flies. They serve as a very potent control for these flies.
Try this mixture to put off white flies and control them.
Take a spray bottle. Mix 2 parts of rubbing alcohol and 5 parts of water with a tablespoon of liquid soap. Spray this mixture on the cucumber foliage, targeting those that you suspect to be under the ravages of white flies.
Bush Cucumber versus Vining Cucumber:
Gardeners often have many choices, especially when it comes to veggies. With cucumbers, this is no different.
Actually, even cucumber that an adept farmer or consumer may consider lowly comes in hundreds upon hundreds of unique varieties that have been bred for use either as slicers or as picklers.
With modern cucumber plants, growth is often conducted to include few male flowers as possible. This has the effect of increasing the produce. Little wonder then, that some individual would have hooked his attention onto the bush kind cucumber and endorsed it as a great garden plant even when the vining cucumber was still in widespread use.
Here is what you need to know about both kinds before you make up your choice on; your cucumber of choice.
The Bush Cucumber:
Primarily, these are bred for their phenomenal space saving qualities, seeing as they use up very little space with their very short vines.
Most varieties will only call for a maximum of 3 square feet per plant.
The cultural requirement is similar to those of the vining cucumber and they mature and ripen at just about the same time and rate.
Examples of popular bush cucumber varieties include the bush champion, pickle bush, parks bush whopper, salad bush, potluck and space master.
The Advantages Of Bush Cucumbers:
If you are a fan of indoor gardening, the bush cucumber is what you should opt for. It is ideal for indoor container gardening as well as small gardens.
Bush cucumbers are not very fussy with where you plant them, though you must ensure that you provide optimum growth conditions for your plant.
However, they will grow phenomenally in just about any well-drained space you plant them in your garden.
Especially if the air circulation is good, you can be assured of impressive returns.
For their size, the amount of produce that they give you are just phenomenal. However, they will also not overwhelm you with produce that is far too abundant for your use and consumption.
Basically, if you have a small family or are simply not that keen with a bumper crop of cucumber fruits, choose the bush type. It is space friendly quality and this makes it all the more ideal.
Vining cucumbers, especially if given the license to roam, use up quite the amount of garden space.
When they are trellised, however they not only make great use of available space, but they may also be used as landscaping screens.
Such varieties like burpee hybrid, dasher 11, country fair 83, slice master, saladin, sweet success, sweet slice or slice nice are immensely popular choices with regard to vining cucumbers.
The Advantages Of Vining Cucumbers:
Although vining cucumbers will often demand more planting space compared with the bush kind, they have been around for a longer time.
As such, they have been bred into a much wider range of sizes and shapes.
There exists no match, at least with regard to the bushing varieties, for such types as the lemon cucumber or the multiple white-skinned varieties of cucumber out there.
The vining kind often produces amazing amounts of fruit, especially when you compare them to the bush variety.
This leaves you with ample extras for trading to friends, picking and the like.
Troubleshooting With Regard To Healthy & Tasty Cucumbers:
If you discover that your vines are blooming but there is a marked absence of fruit, chances are there is something getting in the way of effective pollination.
First of all, you observe both the male and the female blooms.
The male blooms will be the earliest to appear, before dropping off. If this happens, there is no cause for alarm.
Within a couple of weeks at most, female flowers will appear each one with a small swelling at the base, shaped like a cucumber, this is what later develops into a cucumber.
There are several pests that bothers the cucumbers, squash bugs have a very defined affinity for cucumber seedlings.
The slug family, on the other, hand waits until the fruit has formed and is ripening before moving in.
The aphids love to colonize not just the leaves, but the buds as well. Straw mulch gives slug a very comfortable time, so you should opt for it, as well as setting up trellises which lift the fruit off the ground.
Harvesting & Storage:
Whenever your cucumbers are ripe and big enough for consumption, you may go about picking them.
Check the vines every day as the cucumber fruits start to appear because they tend to enlarge very quickly. The more you harvest, the more fruit the vines produce.
To remove the fruit cleanly, use some clippers or a knife, taking care to cut the stem just above the fruit. Tugging at the fruit will only leave you with a damaged vine.
Do not allow the cucumber fruits to get too big. The reason for this they become bitter in taste. They will also keep the vine from giving more produce.
Yellowing at the bottom of your cucumber is a signal for over ripeness. You must remove the fruit immediately.
Harvest your lemon cucumbers just before they turn yellow. Although a major reason why they are called lemon cucumbers is because they turn yellow when ripening and end up looking like a lemon, allowing the fruit to turn yellow may result in a taste that is little too seeds for most people tastes.
Keep those cucumbers that you harvest in the refrigerator for a period of 7-10 days. However, the recommendation is to use them as soon as you pick them. This is to get the flavour while it is at its best.
If you do not eat a slicing cucumber all in one sitting, wrap up what remains in plastic wrap so as to prevent dehydration. Store in refrigerator.
Planning & Preparation Tips:
Always go for the disease resistant types. This is for obvious reasons-these will more effectively combat diseases thus boosting your chances of having a superb yield at the end of the day.
Always go for a fertile space that gets lots of sunshine every day. Cucumbers will do poorly in infertile soils. They may not make it at all if they are grown in places that are cold and receive no sunshine.
In order to have an earlier harvest as well as to greatly minimize the prospect of insect damage to your seedlings, start several plants indoors in individual pots. Trays with individual compartments are also a great substitute.
Set up several trellises or even a fence if you go for the vining kind. Trellises made of wire are best, as they make it easier for tendrils to wrap themselves around as the plant grows.
Only sow your seeds in your outdoors garden after the danger of frost has well and truly passed away, and are sure that come what may, the soil will retain sufficient warmth for optimum growth. Cucumber plants are extremely susceptible to frost damage.
Make your second sowing some 5 weeks later to get a late summer or early fall harvest. This is a good way to manipulate harvest timelines.
When you are seeding in rows, keep them neat. Plant your seeds about 1 inch deep and some 6 inches apart.
When you are seeding in hills do this: plant four seeds in one-foot sized diameter circles. Set them some five or six feet apart.
Caring For The Cucumbers:
When your plants are about 3 to 4 inches tall, start thinning them. Of course, this will depend on the type that you are working with (either pickling or slicing).
When growing your plants in hills, this is how to thin them: thin your plants to the healthiest two plants, in the phenomenon of plants having two or three leaves.
You must keep your soils evenly moist. Why is this? The reason is to keep your cucumbers from becoming bitter in taste.
About 4 weeks after you plant them in the soil, go about side dressing them. For every plant, apply two ample handfuls of compost. For each plant, keep the compost bands narrow.
After applying the fertilizer, apply a thick layer of mulch. Mulch will help in keeping the soil moisture locked into the soil, thus greatly benefiting the cucumber plants.
Tips On Controlling Pests & Diseases:
Be very keen in monitoring your cucumbers as well as other veggies that are in close proximity to them for any buildup of insect pests.
It could be that the most effective way for the home gardener to control pests, with the example of the very destructive cucumber beetle high up the list, is to involve habits that shake up the life cycle of these insects as well as their habits.
These will include you covering your young plants with some lightweight row covers up until flowering sets in. Also, exercise crop rotation-it is very effective in this.
If you do decide that pesticides and insecticides are the way to go, try to stick to the natural as much as you can.
The less toxic the insecticide, the better it will be to use. Now, the only trouble you may perhaps face with this is that cucumber beetles are a hardy lot.
There are not many effective natural, non-toxic insecticides available to deal with them.
You might have heard of Kaolin clay. Kaolin clay is perhaps the most effective natural insecticide choice to deal with cucumber beetles. It acts as a potent, long-lasting repellent to them.
There is a big problem with the usage of broad-spectrum kind contact pesticides (these include malathion, cyhalothrin, permethrin, carbaryl and pyrethrin).
The problem with these is that they not only kill the pests, they also kill off the beneficial predators as well as the parasites of the insect pests.
Insecticides are pretty much something you may have to resign yourself to using.
So, here is what to do with regard to them: read all the package labels keenly.
For example, be familiar with what they advise about the application and, say, harvesting.
Is it a stipulation to wait for a few days after application before you harvest?
These are the kinds of things you are looking to know.
You ought to consider capturing the pest that is ravaging your cucumbers.
However, this is not to be used as a substitute for pesticides or natural control-it is far too impractical to work anyway.
Rather, capture the insect or pest, lace it in a sealed bag, and then take it to the local garden centre.
Ask the staff to have a look at it and then give any useful advice they have on the best control method in your particular area.
Harvesting Your Cucumber Plants:
Harvest your cucumbers once they hit slicing or pickling size.
Actually, do your harvesting every two days to prevent the probability of cucumber fruits from achieving an excessively large size as well as keep the plant consistently productive.
Growing cucumbers entails different aspects that you need to master if you are to get the best output.
Right from selecting the type of cucumber to grow through preparing the soil, taking care of the cucumbers as they grow, keeping off pests and harvesting, you must be careful if you really want to get the most output.