Cucumber - Cucumis sativus
Cucumbers do well in Zones 4 and warmer
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Full sun, or full morning sun and less than three hours of afternoon shade
Well-drained, light soil with compost worked in; pH 6.0 to 6.8
Regular water, keep soil evenly moist, but not wet
Grow trellised plants 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 cm) apart, or grow in 4 inch (10 cm) wide hills spaced 1 to 2 feet (20 to 60 cm) apart with three to four plants per hill
Cucumber mature very quickly so harvest them often to keep the plants productive. Best picked when small and the seeds are still soft. 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 cm) for pickling types and 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) for slicers
Comments: There are many modern hybrids that produce well, but most seed catalogs will highlight three traits: burpless, gynoecious, and nonbitter. Burpless varieties (also called Lebanese or oriental cucumbers) don't form the chemical compounds that make people burp. Gynoecious produce all, or mostly female flowers, which greatly increases yield per plant, they also tend to produce earlier (than nongynoecious ones), and set fruit all at once. Gynoecious cucumbers require another cucumber cultivar to pollinate them, but the seeds of the pollinator are always included with the packets of gynoecous cucumbers, so you don't have to worry about it. Nonbitter cultivars don't form the bitter compounds that can develop in the fruits when the plants have become drought-stressed from high heat. Cucumbers can also be divided into slicing and pickling (also called gherkins or cornichons), but young fruits of slicers can be pickled and large fruits of picklers can be eaten fresh, so it really isn't that critical to pay attention to.
Planting Site: Cucumbers prefer full sun, but they will tolerate full morning sun and less than three hours of afternoon shade.
Cucumber Planting & Growing Guidelines: Cucumbers don't like cold soil, and they don't tolerate frost, so wait for warm spring days and soil temperatures above 60° F (16° C) to plant, or warm the soil with black plastic for a week or two before planting. Schedule your last sowing of the season ten weeks before the first fall frost is expected.
Plant seeds 1/2 inch (1.25) deep with at least three plants for effective pollination. Grow long-fruited cucumbers on a trellis to help keep the fruits straight. Space trellised plants 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 cm) apart. Short, blunt slicers and pickling cucumbers can be trellised or allowed to run on the ground. When planted in hill and allowed to run, grow three to four plants to a 4 inch (10 cm) hill spaced 1 to 2 feet (20 to 60 cm) apart. Mulch to keep the soil moist and warm. Germination should take place within 5 to 10 days.
Cucumbers need regular food and water. Drought stress can cause some cucumbers to taste bitter, especially at the stem end of the fruit. It's normal for leaves to wilt on hot days, but they should recover by evening and nightfall. Prolonged wilting into the evening hours indicate water stress or disease problems.
If trellising your cucumbers you can use a fence, tomato cage, three stakes tied together to make a teepee, or a string attached to posts. Tie vines loosely to the trellis with strips of soft cloth.
Compact, bushy varieties with small fruit can be grown very successfully in containers. Water them frequently to keep moist, but not wet, and feed them every two weeks with soluble fertilizer like a 5-5-5 or a 10-10-10. If your container is large enough, you can put up a trellis and grow cucumber varieties that tend to have long runners.
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Fertilizing: Lightly broadcast some 10-10-10 over the area, till in, and then plant transplants or sow seeds. When the plants just start to vine, side-dress with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) per plant of 5-10-10, or one large handful of good compost which generally equals the same. Sprinkle around the base of the plant, but not up against the stem, and water in.
Pest and Disease Prevention: Select disease resistant cultivars. Use row covers to protect young plants from cucumber beetles and squash bugs, but remove when plants flower. Trellising will help improve air circulation and reduce mildew. Do not grow cucumbers or their relatives, such as squash and melons, in the same spot more often than once every three years.
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Cucumber Beetle, Spotted
Heavyweight Row Covers
Common Problems: Sudden collapse of cucumber plants indicate wilt disease, which is spread by cucumber beetles. Row covers help deter beetle attacks and some varieties are less vulnerable to cucumber or squash beetles. Cucumbers get bitter when there is a sudden spike of heat. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do about this. The good news is that when the weather cools down a bit, and evens out, the next batch of cucumbers will taste just fine. Try and help your plants withstand those heat spikes by keeping them evenly watered and applying some mulch around the roots to try and keep them cool.
Days to Maturity: 50 to 70 frost-free days, slightly less for gherkins or baby pickles.
Harvest and Storage: Pick fruits when the are the size you want, but they are better when picked small and the seeds are still soft. 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 cm) for pickling types and 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) for slicers. A yellowish tinge at the blossom end indicates overmaturity. Pick often, especially during hot weather to encourage continued production. If possible, harvest in the morning, they are sweeter then, and refrigerate them immediately. Don't wash them until you're ready to use them.
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