Cucumbers, relatives of squash, melons, and pumpkins are a nutritious and tasty fruit [veggie-fruit], and are a good source of many essential minerals. They are also said to help aid digestion and constipation. Many people use cucumbers on their skin as a beauty aid, a cleansing cosmetic to soften and whiten. Cucumber juice is used in beauty products.
Cucumbers can be planted directly from seed, or from transplanted seedlings. Place cucumber transplant or Seeds outside only after the danger of frost has passed in your region.
In USDA zone 4 and further north , you’ll need to use short-season varieties and utilize cold frames. I generally start my cucumber seeds indoors, in peat pots several weeks before moving them outdoors. This practice leaves time for a second planting for fall harvest in mid- to late summer.
Loose, sandy loam soil is preferable, but cucumbers are a highly adaptable plant and will thrive in any well drained soil. Remove rocks, large sticks and trash before preparing the soil. Leave fine pieces of plant material such as dead grass and small weeds. They will help enrich the soil when turned under.
About a month ahead of planting, Spade the soil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. This is about the depth reached by most shovels or spading forks, and is ideal for growing cucumber transplants.
Plant cucumber seeds 1/2 to 1 inch deep and thin the seedlings to one plant every 12 inches in the row or to three cucumber plants every 36 inches in the hill system.
Plant cucumber transplants 1 to 2 feet apart in rows 5 to 6 feet apart when they have two to four true leaves.
Don’t allow the transplants to become overgrown within the containers this will hinder the transplant and adaptation process.
Tip: Pinch off the growth tip of the plants after they have developed 6 or 7 true leaves. This will encourage the production of side shoots.
How to Grow Cucumbers using Trellises
A cucumber fence or similar support is advisable. Cucumber plants in individual peat pots or cell packs experience minimal transplant shock and become established rapidly.
Flexible, long-lasting, galvanized wire fence allows closer planting and easier picking.
Cucumbers can be grown in hills, in rows along a wire trellis, or trained to climb a wall or wooden trellis. They also make an attractive container plant.
I have had the best results using trellises. They produce more – and straighter fruits, get better air circulation and fall prey to fewer disease and insect problems than cucumbers permitted to sprawl across the ground.
Cucumbers thrive alongside Corn and Beans they all require much the same conditions-rich soil and plenty of moisture. Cucumber vines growing with corn helps to anchor corn and discourages raccoon’s, for whatever reason they dislike cucumber.
Cucumber also repels many varieties of ants. Radish ,Marigold, and Nasturtium grown with cucumber repels cucumber beetles.
Bush Beans, Pole Beans, Lettuce, Onions, Peas, Savory also share a symbiotic relationship with cucumbers. Cucumbers do not fare well in close proximity of Potatoes and various aromatic herbs.
Basic Care of Cucumber Plants
Cucumber vines have shallow roots and require ample soil moisture at all stages of development. When cucumbers begin to mature, adequate moisture becomes essential for fruit development.
The critical period for moisture is during fruit set and fruit development.
Cucumbers need at least 1 inch of water weekly during the growing season. Always soak the soil thoroughly when watering. this helps to promote good root development. Inexpensive water timers are available.
Fertilizer and Soil
For best yields, incorporate compost or well-rotted manure before planting.
Cucumbers are a quick-growing crop, and must be well supplied with moisture and plant nutrient elements throughout the growing season. Scatter 1 cup of a fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or 10-20-10 for each 10 feet of row. Work the fertilizer into the soil and leave the surface smooth.
About a week after blossoming begins, and again three weeks later, use a high nitrogen fertilizer to side-dress the hills. Do not excessively fertilize as this will produce luxurious vines and scrawny low quality cucumbers.
Compost and Mulches will conserve soil moisture, prevent soil compaction and minimize rotting of the cucumber fruit, as well as suppress weeds. Black plastic mulch can be a valuable aid in keeping the soil moist and minimizing weed problems.
The soil pH should be between 6.0 and 7.0. See – Tracking and Adjusting Soil pH.
Cucumbers Harvest, Storage and Preserving
Harvest cucumbers before seeds are half-size. This will vary with variety. Pickling cucumbers will be more blocky and not as long as slicers. Store slicing cucumbers in the refrigerator. Place in plastic bag. Storage life is about one week. Do not Freeze cucumbers.
Cucumbers for pickling should be cooled quickly in ice water and can be kept up to two days in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Do not Freeze them. See: Preserving the Harvest: Pickling