Growing Crops: Cucumbers

A salad isn’t a salad without cucumbers, in our opinion. Thin-sliced, skin-on. There are a number of varieties to choose from, depending on the space you have available and the purpose for which you are growing your cucumbers. After all, pickles are simply puckered up cucumbers.

The long, vining type of cucumber includes the Burpee Hybrid, Burpless, Early Pride, Early Surecrop, Fanfare Hybrid, Marketmore, Poinsett, Slicemaster, Straight Eight, Sweet Slice, and Sweet Success varieties. You can order a packet of Marketmore seeds here:

The more compact, bush type of cucumber includes the Bush Pickle, Salad Bush, and Spacemaster varieties. You can order a packet of Spacemaster seeds here:

Pickling varieties include Boston, Early Green Cluster, Gherkin, Little Leaf, Miss Pickler, and Saladin varieties. You can order a packet of pickling cucumber seeds here:

Best Climate to Grow: Warm and protected from the wind.

Light Requirements: Lots of sun.

Soil Requirements: Extremely rich, fertile soil that is high in nitrogen and has a neutral pH level. Amend as needed and be prepared to fertilize again during the growing season.

Feeding and Water Requirements: Apply an organic fertilizer that is high in nitrogen once or twice during the growing season, and keep the soil moist at all times – drip irrigation is a must. Mulching will help retain soil moisture and help keep the cucumbers off the bare ground as well.

When to Plant: If you are going to sow the seeds indoors, start them 4-6 weeks prior to the last frost date in the Spring; harden off and transplant the seedlings into your garden at least 2 weeks after all danger of frost is past.

If sowing directly into your garden, do it at least 2 weeks after all danger of frost is past.

Planting Depth and Spacing: If you are planning on training the vines to climb a tipi or longhouse-style trellis, have your trellis in place before you plant! Dig two planting holes 12 inches apart, on the outer side of your trellis pole with the pole equidistant between the two holes. Sow 2 seeds per planting hole, 1 inch deep. Once the seeds germinate, remove the weaker of the two seedlings.

If you are planning on letting the vines trail along the ground, build small mounds that are 4 feet apart and dig three planting holes in those mounds in a triangular fashion, each hole 12 inches from the other. Sow 2 seeds per planting hole, 1 inch deep. Once the seeds germinate, remove the weaker of the two seedlings.

If you are growing a bush variety, plant your seeds 2 per hole, 1 inch deep, and 3 feet apart in rows that are 4 feet apart. Once the seeds germinate, remove the weaker of the two seedlings.

If you are transplanting seedlings, simply transplant them at the space intervals indicated above. Be very careful not to traumatize the root systems when transplanting.

Container Requirements: A large container at least 8 inches deep is recommended. The bush varieties are particularly well-suited to container growing, as you don’t have to worry about them taking over your house or porch. However, you can also grow the vining varieties. You will simply need to make sure there is a trellis of some kind either in your container or next to it to train the vines to climb. As with other container vegetables, you will need to take extra care when feeding and watering. You will likely need more than one application of nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer during the growing season, and drip irrigation specific to container gardening combined with mulching should take care of the water requirements.

Harvesting and Storage: Harvest your cucumbers before they are mature, as they rapidly become inedible if they have been allowed to grow past their prime. Use a sharp knife to slice through the stem about an inch above the cucumber itself. They will keep for about a week in the refrigerator, if stored properly in the vegetable crisper section. Aside from canning for pickles, cucumbers should be eaten fresh.

Harvesting Seeds: Use a melon baller or spoon to scoop the seeds out of the middle of a number of your cucumbers. Rinse well in a mesh strainer, winnowing out the goop and the thin, translucent, flat seeds. Set the remaining good seeds out on paper or clean cloth towels to dry thoroughly before storing in a cool, dry place until time to plant next season.

Pests to Monitor: Aphids, Cucumber Beetles, Flea Beetles, Slugs, and Snails. Visit our pest control beneficials, barriers, scare tactics, homemade organic pesticide, and commercial organic pesticide pages to see your options and choose your weapons.

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