The cucumber is a vegetable which can grow well in any home garden as long as the climate is warm enough. English cucumbers are longer and thinner with very little seeds and has thin skin which is edible. They are commonly used in salad recipes along with the skin as it contains healthy fiber. It can be eaten on its own as it has a mild, sweet almost non-existent flavor. They have very delicate skin so they are wrapped up in plastic for protection although you can buy them without cover from farmers’ stalls. They are sometimes labelled for sale as “burpless” or “seedless”.
Varieties: There are over 100 varieties of cucumbers although we may view them as just being cucumbers. There are the Armenian cucumbers, Garden Cucumbers common to North America, Kirby Cucumbers, Lemon Cucumbers and the Persian Cucumbers. However, the most common are the English Cucumber and the regular slicer cucumber. In the English variety there is the “Holland” and “Tasty Jade” which are very popular. English cucumbers are more expensive and its’ lack of seeds with tender skin makes for easy digestion. The English variety may grow as long as two feet.
a) When to plant: Wait till the last frost of the year is gone before planting. A slight frost could damage these delicate plants. It is best to plant at the end of spring or the beginning of summer. If temperature drops at night, ensure that your cucumbers are protected from frost.
b) Where to plant: Till the soil well by removing all sprouting weeds within the area and adding aged compost. Work the compost well together with the soil and till to a depth of at least 6 inches.
c) How to plant: Sow the seeds in small inverted mounds of about 1 inch deep. Sow 6 to 8 seeds per mound about 4 to 5 feet apart. For the cucumbers to grow well the nighttime temperature should stay above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
d) How to water: Cucumber plants have shallow roots and tends to dry out quickly unless frequently watered. The soil must stay moist at all times but be careful of over-watering and turning the soil soggy. English cucumbers are mostly water-based and need adequate moisture to grow.
e) How to harvest: In order to ensure the best texture and flavor, they must be harvested before they grow to full maturity. Any yellowing fruits must be removed so that the quality of the others are not affected.
Fertilizers required: Take care to fertilize only after the first flowers appear. You can add some organic fertilizers and root supplements for controlling disease or garden pests. An all-purpose water soluble fertilizer will work fine as also a balanced granular fertilizer. Water the fertilizer in well after applying.Take care not to over-fertilize as this way, you will have maximum yield.
Common diseases: There are different diseases that attacks the cucumber plant on different parts of its system and the entire plant as well. These are caused by different insects producing different diseases. Most common is the Powdery Mildew or Downy Mildew. There are different fungal attacks that causes the plants and seedlings to wilt and die, often referred to as ‘damping-off’.
Weeds and Pests: Cucumbers should be planted where there has been successful integrated cultural and chemical methods of weed control. Herbicides, used on cucumbers does not guarantee season long control so pre-planting control of perennial weeds is necessary. Some growers use plastic mulch to control weeds in the rows. Care must be taken not to plant in fields which may have residues of Herbicides from previous years. This can be harmful for the plants. For controlling pests the best option would be to treat seeds with fungicide, sterilize the soil and disinfect work areas. Apply insecticides as soon as you spot the appearance of pests and repeat as necessary.
Things to watch out for:
Tend to the plant daily if you want to train your cucumbers to a fence, trellis or a particular corner of your garden. Be careful while moving a vine as disturbance to the secondary roots of the cucumber plant will wilt up the plant. Water the roots of the plant taking care not to wet the leaves. You can speed up pollination by using cotton swabs to transfer pollen from the male flower to the female flower. Cucumber plants like moisture at all times so try to water the plant adequately.