What to Plant: Seeds; Transplants are often available but must be handled carefully
Dates: See Vegetable Planting Calendars
Nutrition: Vit K, anti-inflammatory cucurbitacins
Seed Viability: 5 years
Soil Temp: 60º F – 95º F (95º F)
Planting Depth: 1/2" - 1"
Germination: 3 - 7 days
Spacing: 12" - 36" trellised depending on culture and variety; 6' un-trellised (see Planting)
SqFt Spacing: 2 per square if trellised; 1 per 2 squares for bush varieties
Days to Harvest: 50 - 70
Length of Harvest: 6 - 10 weeks
Bed prep: Prepare beds by adding compost at 1/3 of volume and SROF at ½ cup per square foot. Two or three inches of compost mixed into the top 6" - 8" of soil works well. Mix well by spading.
Planting: Cucumbers are traditionally planted in hills. The hill is deeply cultivated with compost or composted manure, and 4 - 6 seeds are planted in an 8" - 10" circle in the center of the hill. After germination, the plants are thinned leaving the 3 strongest plants. Hills are not always practical for the backyard garden, therefore cucumbers are grown on a trellis. Erect your preferred trellis then plant 2 - 3 seeds in each hole, 10" - 12" apart along the base of the trellis. Cover with soil, tamp and water well. Keep moist until germination is apparent. Thin seedlings after germination, leaving the strongest in each hole. Bush cucumbers are also available and can be grown in containers or in the garden spaced about 24" apart.
Watering: Twice a week without sufficient rainfall. Cucumbers are 90% water and need moist soil to develop quality fruits.
Aftercare: Keep bed free of weeds – mulch. Watch for disease or pests. Side dress with 1/2 cup SROF when blooming begins and again every 3 weeks until the vines begin to yellow and die.
Harvest: Cucumbers are best when picked relatively young. There are many varieties of cucumbers and each has a peak harvest time. In general, slicers should be picked at 6" - 10", dills at 4" - 6" long, and other picklers at 1" - 6" depending on canning style. Remove any overgrown fruit immediately - the vine will stop producing if fruits are not removed regularly or are allowed to grow too long. Harvest daily - cucumbers can double in size in one day.
Cucumber Pests: Cucumber beetles transmit several bacterial diseases that affect cucumbers. Use floating row covers from planting until blooming for bush varieties and hills. For trellised vines, place a sheet of aluminum foil at the base of the seedlings, cutting slits to accommodate the stems. The beetles avoid the reflective material. Vine borers - spray Surround WP on the bottom few inches of stem. Reapply after rain.
Additional Information: The first 10 - 12 blossoms will be male, do not become concerned if you do not see fruit develop at first. Male flowers are borne in clusters of 3 - 5 flowers, females are on separate stems. Male flowers will generally outnumber the female flowers 10:1. Cucumbers are dependent on bees for pollination. Misshaped fruit is a symptom of poor pollination.
Cucumbers may be trained to a single stem, with all suckers that will become branches removed. This will allow closer spacing within the row - as close as 6" - 10". The sucker can be found in the leaf axil, beside the flower cluster. Just snap it off with your fingers being careful not to damage the flower stem.
History: Cucumbers have been a part of human diets for a long time. Excavations in Thailand reveal that cucumbers were part of their diet as early as 9750 BC. Pickling to preserve cucumbers has been in practice for centuries. The Egyptians ate brined cucumbers with most of their meals, and the Bible records that the Israelites complained to Moses that they missed the cucumbers they had enjoyed in Egypt. They were prized by the ancient Romans and Greeks. Columbus brought cucumber seeds to the New World.