Cucumbers are a gardening favorite. Crisp, delicious “cukes” are easy to grow and can be used in many salad recipes. They can also be pickled and stored for later use.
The cucumber is a warm weather crop that matures in about 50-65 days. Cucumbers are in the same family as pumpkins and squash so they require similar care. The plants produce long vines that need lots of room for growth. If you have a trellis or fence nearby, it is easy to train the vines of your plants to grow upward off the ground.
There are varieties of cucumbers that grow into bushes that take up less space. Yellow and white varieties are also available. Cucumbers can be classified as slicing or pickling types. Slicing cucumbers are most often used sliced and added to salads. Pickling cucumbers, as the name implies, are pickled and used later. Although pickling cucumbers are usually smaller, the larger slicing cucumbers can be pickled after slicing or cutting them into smaller pieces.
Grow cucumbers in beds for best results. This gives them plenty of room for the creeping vines to spread. If you plant your cucumbers near a fence or trellis, start by clearing away all dead plant debris and weeds.
Cucumbers do well in most medium weight soils. Start by adding a three inch layer of compost or dried manure to the soil. Till the soil to a depth of about twelve inches, mixing the compost or manure thoroughly. The organic fertilizing material will improve drainage and provide nutrients for the growing plants.
Cucumbers can also be started inside in pots or growing trays four weeks before you plan to transplant to the outside garden. Plant seeds 1/2″-1 1/2″ deep and cover with soil.. Space seeds three inches apart. Transplant the seedlings to the outside garden when they are about three inches tall. Use a trowel to loosen the soil around the base of the each plant. Avoid disturbing the roots. Dig a hole deep enough to accommodate the roots. Transplants should be spaced 12″ apart. Add a two inch layer of straw mulch around plants to help retain moisture and discourage weed growth.
Plant cucumber seeds outside after the danger of frost has passed and the soil is about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant seeds in rows three feet wide and two feet apart. Plant seeds 3″-5″ apart. Thin the plants when they are about three inches tall to allow 12″ between each.. Seeds should sprout in 7-10 days.
Water your plants regularly, especially when the plants start to flower set fruit. Avoid wetting the flowers as this can lead to flower rot. Keep the soil moist but not wet. Water plants in the morning before the sun gets high in the sky.
Cucumbers are ready to harvest in 50-75 days, depending on the variety and how you intend to use them. Pickling cucumbers can be harvested when they are 2″-5″ long. Larger slicing cucumbers are ready to harvest when they are 6-8″ long. The cucumbers can be separated from the vine by simply pulling or clipping them off with scissors. The more often you harvest, the more the plants will produce. You can get seeds from your cucumbers by allowing them to mature fully. Slice open the mature fruit and scrape out the seeds. Place the seeds in a single layer on a paper towel to dry. After about a week of drying, put the seeds in an airtight glass jar and store in a cool dry place. You now have seeds for next season’s planting.
Cucumbers are high in vitamins A, C and K. They also contain considerable amounts of phosphorus, potassium, iron and manganese. Because of the soothing and cooling properties of cucumbers, they are often added as an ingredient in beauty lotions. Sliced cucumbers placed on the eyelids have been shown to soothe the skin and reduce the incidence of wrinkles.
Cucumbers can also be grown indoors in pots. Use pots six inches or more in diameter. Plant one to three seeds in each pot. Place the pots on a sunny window sill and water regularly. As the plants grow, train the vines along the window sill or make a small trellis out of a square of wire fencing to provide support and room for growth.
Cucumbers are one of the most popular gardening crops around the world. The ease of growth and prolific production make cucumbers a favorite for beginning gardeners. With a little care, you should be able to have an bountiful harvest of this crisp, delicious and nutritious vegetable.