You think of cucumber and immediately three things come to mind: salads, cucumber sandwiches and pickles. The applications of this incredibly diverse vegetable (technically a fruit) are limitless. Cucumbers originally came from Southern Asia but their popularity with travelers prompted cultivators to grow them just about everywhere these days, with certain varieties becoming regional specialties.. Cucumbers are filled with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Magnesium, Potassium, Riboflavin, Calcium, Iron, Copper, Zinc and Thiamin. That means that the cucumbers keep the skin healthy and hydrated, help reduce the risk of cancer, help lose weight, provide more energy than a cup of coffee, keep your hair glossy and make your bones strong. Cucumbers are one of the few vegetables that you can grow outside as well as inside. But be warned, if you grow them inside then they might be dwarfed. To grow long and cute looking cucumbers, you will want to grow them outside.
There are basically three varieties of cucumbers:
- Slicing Cucumbers
Cucumbers grown specifically for eating fresh are called slicing cucumbers. These are the type of cucumbers you would usually find in a salad. They are long, with slightly tougher skin and have a very short storage life. For home gardens, the most popular slicing cucumber types are Green Sleeves, Market More, Raider and Sweet Success.
- Burpless Cucumbers
This variety is a lot sweeter and a lot wider. Some burpless cucumber types can grow up to two feet. The burpless cucumbers contain a very low amount of seeds. They are also known for being easily digestible. For home gardens, the most popular burpless cucumber types are Orient, Sweet Slice and Burpless Hybrid.
- Pickling Cucumbers
Pickling cucumbers are specifically cultivated for the pickling process. They also have a very long shelf life. On their own, the taste of pickling cucumbers rates lower than that of slicing cucumbers and burpless cucumbers, but that changes once they have been pickled. For home gardens, the most popular pickling cucumber types are Pickle Bush, Regal and Saladin.
2. Best Time to Grow Cucumbers
Cucumbers grow best in a very warm and preferably dry environment. The best time to plant them is probably early summer; however, some varieties of cucumbers grow better if you plant them very late in the summer. You can plant the slicing an burpless varieties very early on in the summer. Pickling cucumbers however need a lot of heat. So if you choose the pickling variety to plant in your garden then make sure to plant them when summer is at its peak.
Though you can get a lot of different types of cucumber seeds online or from a grocer, it is recommended that you only experiment with a single type of cucumber if you have just started gardening. Growing multiple varieties at the same time might affect the health of the cucumbers. As mentioned before, different varieties of cucumbers need different temperatures to grow fully. Planting two varieties together with different weather requirements will hurt one another. Both will need different sun exposure durations and both will have different watering needs as well as nourishment requirements. The wrong variety will not grow as you expect it too. Plus it will leach the nourishment and water that the right variety needs to grow. Therefore, one will stunt the other’s growth.
4. Preparing the Soil
The soil needs to be light, loose and sandy to accommodate the growth of cucumbers. Soil rich in clay might also work but only if it has been modified with organic material.
Rich compost and aged manure is thought to be the best type of fertilizer if you wish for cucumbers to be long and strong. Other than that, you should seriously consider buying a well formulated fertilizer if you want to have a good crop. The magic numbers to look for in the best fertilizer for cucumbers is 10-10-10 NPK (Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphate). The nitrogen in this mixture will significantly increase the growth of plant foliage, while potassium and phosphate ensure that the fruit comes out healthy and big. You need to apply fertilizer once every three weeks.
6. Preparing the Soil
Since cucumbers need weather that is dry all the time, make sure you choose an area that sees plenty of sunlight. Clear the ground of any other type of growth and specially weeds. Loosen the soil as much as you can.
7. Planting the Seeds
You don’t really need to dig too deep to plant the cucumber seed nor do you need to plant them in a specific pattern. But planting them in a straight pattern will help them grow faster because this way, the plants will be appropriately spaced. If the seeds are planted too close together in a random order, then there is a chance that one cucumber will try to occupy another one’s space. This means that neither of them will be able to grow fully. Plant three to four cucumber seeds in the ground using your fingers. Leave a space of about 18 inches and repeat this until you either run out of seeds or the ground.
8. Watering & Staking
The cucumber plants will grow outwards. So you can use guide sticks, which will enable the plant to grow in an upwards motion. This will ensure that the plant doesn’t get crushed and expands as much as it can. This will make the process of watering them that much easier. You should water the plant once a day, preferably before noon. Make sure to lightly spray the plant and not to drown it in water.
9. Organic Pest Control
Chemical based pesticides might show you instant results, but they will also poison your body with deadly toxins. You have plenty of options for organic pesticides. But make sure to check the label for tested and approved products. The organic pesticides will help you protect the cucumbers from Cabbage Lopper, Flea Beetles, Aphids, Cutworms, Thrips, and Stinkbugs. The Flea Beetles eat the leaf and stem of the cucumber plants. If the plant is not healthy, then it will not be able to grow healthy fruits. But you have to be even more wary of the stinkbugs. They are mostly sap eating bugs but can easily spread from one plant to another, thereby destroying the entire crop.
If you wish to make your own all natural insecticide then here is what you have to do. Take two cloves of garlic and blend them together with four cayenne peppers and a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Boil the paste in water for thirty minutes and then strain the water and get rid of the residue. Add a little liquid dish washing soap and use a sprayer to spread it on the crop.
Cucumbers are usually ready for harvesting fifty to seventy days after planting. Or in plant terms, ten to twelve days after the cucumber flowers bloom. If you are still unsure then check the sheen and glossiness of the cucumber. Take a cucumber and clean it with a wet tissue. Look out for a dark green reflective glossy sheen. That pretty much confirms everything. If you pluck the cucumbers too early then they will come out bitter. Make sure to clean them thoroughly after you have harvested them. After that you can use the cucumber with or in anything.