Growing Great Cucumbers
Growing great cucumbers for your salads is easy to do. Novice gardeners should start their vegetable growing journey with these great, easy to grow plants. You can get a great variety to fit almost any situation. Combining these and the huge amount of fruit you get, cucumbers are a real popular vegetable to grow.
Select a location that gets a full 6 to 8 hours of sun per day. These love the sun. You can plant these in rows, hills or even containers. I love to plant one plant per 5 gallon container. This helps in watering, weed control and training them to grow up a cage. Using a self-watering container is a fantastic way to have great cucumbers throughout the season.
Keep these away from tomato and sage plants. They don’t grow as well when near these. Some companion plants that grow well near cucumbers are : nasturtiums, marigolds, peas, carrots, beets sunflowers, dill and radishes.
Types of Cucumbers
You can pick from slicing, pickling and even burp-less ones. Growing these different varieties are all the same. Just the end result differs. The burp-less ones are for those of you who have trouble digesting them and tend to burp after eating one.
Soil pH and Fertilizer
You want the soil pH to be between 5.5 and 6.8. Apply lime if the pH is low. Use a general purpose organic vegetable fertilizer. You’ll want to make sure that there is not too much Nitrogen in your fertilizer. One with a lot of nitrogen in it will make the vine grow too much and the fruits will suffer.
Spacing and Planting
Sow your cucumber seeds about 1/2 to 1 inch below ground. About 9 to 12 inches between them is required with about 3 to 6 feet between rows. This is just the general recommendations. However if planting in containers then you’ll want a 5 gallon bucket per plant.
Thin out the weaker ones once you see about four leaves on them. Keep only the best plants. When planting seeds, the ground temperature should be above 60° F. When very young the seedlings are real sensitive to cold weather so plant after last frost.
Though these can be grown on the ground, the fruits will not be as good as when you grow them on a trellis. There will also be more insect and disease problems when grown on the ground. You can train them to grow up a trellis, stake, wall or fence.
I like to use a ‘tomato cage’ and train them on it. When the vines grow out and you want to support them, use some soft cloth or string to tie them up. I’ve used my wife’s old nylon stockings before. There is a good hemp string that is useful also. Just don’t use anything hard like metal wire or the plastic ties. They will injure the vine most likely.
It’s best to water the ground and not the leaves of cucumbers. Using a soak hose and a timer that comes on early in the morning works great. Please don’t water in the late evening as the leaves and stalk will be wet during the cooler night and this allows fungi and other diseases to grow. Try to water so that the leaves and stalk can dry before nightfall.
Water deeply and consistently. Roots will grow 3 to 4 feet down, so you need a good soaking to give them the water they need. Not enough water or too much will be your biggest problems. A good water meter will be your best friend when starting vegetable gardening.
Keep weeds under control by hoeing or mulching the plants. Mulch is great as it prevents weeds from growing, helps retain moisture and composts helping improve your soil.
You will notice that the roots of cucumbers are rather shallow and they really spread out horizontally from the plant. So be careful when weeding. A good Hula Hoe works well as you just skim the ground with it.
After the first stalk and leaves appear, cucumbers will be quite susceptible to adult striped or spotted cucumber beetles. Hand pick these off and kill them unless you use some insecticide. Look under the leaves for squash bugs.
You’ll see eggs from these and must destroy them before they get a good start. Mites along with aphids will hurt the plant and fruit but unless you have a ton of them, they aren’t a huge problem.
Unless the flowers get cross-pollinated you will not get any fruits. You want lots of honey bees and beneficial insects to help with pollination. A good way to hand pollinate is to get one of those old, real soft makeup brushes women use. Gently use the end and brush each flower going from flower to flower. Jumping from one flower on one plant to another flower on another plant is best but hard to keep up with.
There are a couple of varieties that don’t need pollination. But these are best grown in a greenhouse by professions, so you probably want to steer clear of these if you see seeds for sale.
These have quite a number of diseases that attack them. Crop rotation is a major way to help control this. Move your cucumber crop to different areas in your garden as much as possible. A three year crop rotation is best.
If they have problems with nematodes, rotate over a grass area to prevent this. Having well drained soil helps with a lot of the fungi, root rots and fruit rots.
Purchase your seed from reputable companies is another great way to get disease resistant plants.
Cucumbers are ready to harvest around 45 to 60 days once planted. A good green one is what you want. Once you start to see them turn yellow, they will being to taste bitter. You should be able to harvest them about two to three days apart. Make sure you cut them from the stem and not pull or twist them off. When you pull or twist them you run a great chance of hurting the vine.
About the author- Just-John has been a gardener for over 40 years and is mildly successful sometimes. For more information on vegetable gardening, go over and visit his web site.