Even though the cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) are thought to have originated in northwest India, where theyhave been cultivated for over three thousand years, their wild ancestors have been consumed by humanity since long before your grandpa was born. Excavations in and around Thailand revealed cucumbers were eaten as early as 9700 BC. Pickling came along shortly thereafter. By the era of the Pharaohs, Egyptians ate brined cucumbers at almost every meal. According to the Bible, the Israelites in the wasteland complained to Moses that they were really missing the cucumbers they had loved in Egypt.
Cucumbers reached Europe early in its history as well. They were a favorite of the ancient Greeks and Romans. According to Pliny, Emperor Tiberius demanded cucumbers every day at his meals. It is reported Columbus brought the cucumber to the new world and that cucumbers were in high demand with early settlers. Through the 18th century, cucumbers had typically been grown all around the globe.
CAN I GROW CUCUMBERS?
No summertime garden should ever lack cucumbers. They may be the easiest vegetable to grow and are very prolific. Planted in an area of the garden which receives full sunlight and has an evenly moist, fertile soil, your cucumber growing prowess will be without doubt and achievement in this endeavor is almost assured.
Like different summer time vine plants, cucumbers are heavy feeders and demand a regular supply of water. Supply lots of organic matter (compost, nicely-rotted manure) into the soil before planting to help it hold moisture. It is essential to provide the nutrients the cucumbers will need as they grow. A soil pH of 6.8 or higher is desired.
If your planting area is small, cucumber plants will do just fantastic on a patio or deck – if they receive plenty of sunshine. Bush cucumber sorts like ‘Picklebush,’ ‘Salad Bush‘,’ and ‘Bush Champion‘ may be grown in bins. A five-gallon or larger pot can accept one or two plants without problem and offers fresh cucumbers during the entire summer season.
CUCUMBER SEEDS OR PLANTS?
Like various cucurbitaceae, cucumbers dislike having their roots disturbed and may be problematic to transplant. But, if you require early planting, it’s often worth the risk to begin a few cucumber plants indoors in peat pots approximately two or three weeks before the season kicks off. Due to the fact cucumbers are easily injured through frost, planting ought to lag behind schedule until the soil temperature reaches 60 degrees fahrenheit and all possibility of frost is past. This is often at least two weeks after the final frost date.
The desired approach of cucumber planting is direct seeding within the garden after the soil has warmed; as the seeds will no longer germinate in a soil chillier than 60 degrees. Simply push two or three cucumber seeds an inch into the soil, spacing the plantings 18 to 36 inches apart. (Bush types will tolerate a closer spacing.) If the soil is moist and warm, the seedlings will pop out of the ground almost immediately, so stand well back or you could lose an eye! – Actually, you can expect them to sprout in two or three days.
Cucumbers do not require much attention once planted so they are the perfect crop for ne’er-do-well drunkards and the uninitiated gardener alike. There are three guidelines to make sure an amazing harvest is forthcoming:
- Cucumbers crave warmth, they can abide with cool spring plants such as peas, spinach, and lettuce.
- Offer constant moisture. A continuous water supply is essential for the best fruits. An drip irrigation device should be placed right in the cucumber patch. If this isn’t possible, water deeply once every week, applying at the least one inch of water. Frequent but shallow watering will reduce yields.
- Feed cucumbers well. Cucumbers, like other cucurbits (squash, melons, and pumpkins), are heavy feeders, much like we are at a buffet. Fertilize soil prior to planting, but fertilizer is not critical early in the season. However, when the cucumber plants begin to blossom and set fruit, it is advisable to provide a liquid fertilizer which will help maintain the plant’s production and increase yields.
To improve cucumber yields, don’t forget to utilize the following two techniques:
- Use black or brown mulch. Because a hot, moist soil is crucial for best results, use darkish mulch on the cucumber bed. This can accelerate growth and increase yields by maintaining soil moisture and maintaining a high soil temperature. The mulch may also keep weeds at bay.
- Always account for the vertical aspect while making plans for your garden. Consider planting vining cucumber types like ‘candy achievement’ and ‘Tasty green’ vertically on a trellis, fence, or other supporting structure (an old set of crutches from when you overindulged and broke a leg while celebrating a family member’s wedding, for instance). This enables you to maximize use of your available garden area and aids in containing the vines and preventing them from sprawling all over your finely coiffed garden. Researchers have verified that growing cucumbers vertically dramatically increases yields when the vines are exposed to higher air flow and extra sunlight versus vines on the ground.
INSECTS AND DISEASES
Insect pests that assault cucumbers are: cucumber beetles, aphids, and spider mites. Cucumber beetles can cause the maximum harm, especially to seedlings, and carry wilt disease from plant to plant. A floating row cowl positioned immediately over rising or transplanted seedlings will decrease cucumber beetle infestations by keeping moths from laying eggs on the vegetation. Make certain to get rid of the quilt once cucumber plants blossom to allow pollination. Application of pyrethrum or rotenone may substantially lessen pest damage.
Cucumbers are vulnerable to vine crop diseases such as anthracnose, bacterial wilt, downy and powdery mildews, mosaic, and scab sickness. Many hybrids today have superb disease tolerance. If you do have issues with diseases in your cucumber patch, pick out only disease-resistant sorts. Additionally, be sure to rid the cucumber bed of debris and remove detritus from the growing area.
CUCUMBER HARVEST GUIDELINES
Like most vegetables, cucumbers are tender and tastiest when harvested younger. Cucumbers are usually ready for harvest when approximately six to eight inches in length; pickling types at three to five inches. Do not allow fruit to over ripen on the vine as this signals the plant it is time to go to seed. Pick the fruits to encourage further production. Harvest your cucumbers in the early morning hours before the sun hits them (it is easier to sneak up on them as they will still be dozing). Cucumbers harvested in this manner will possess an excellent taste and texture.
About 31-41 days earlier than the first expected frost in your part of the world, pinch off all of the blossoms on the cucumber plant.
RECIPES & STORAGE
Cucumbers are at their optimum served raw, sliced, or grated into salads, dressed with yogurt or sour cream, or eaten whole (with large quantities of cheap beer). Wash and trim them, then slice into spears or grate them (but mind your fingers, especially if you have been drinking). There’s no need to peel homegrown cucumbers (flavor and dietary value actually suffer from this arcane practice) unless the recipe calls for peeling, of course. On a warm summer day there may be nothing like a cold cucumber salad – whether it is German with sour cream, chopped chives, and a sprinkling of paprika or Oriental with black olives, raisins, and chopped water chestnuts.
You can cook cucumbers as well if you’re feeling adventurous in the kitchen. Add diced cucumbers to soups or sauté slices in butter and serve with a sprig of dill or mint.
Unfortunately, cucumbers don’t store well due to their high water content. They will generally hold for up for one week inside the vegetable crisper of the fridge. If you have gone crazy during planting and end up with a caboodle of cucumbers, pickling those rascals is the only way to preserve them. Get out your favorite pickling recipes (sweet, sour, sweet and bitter) and pickle as many jars as you are humanly able. That way, you will be able to revel in homegrown cucumbers during the long, cold, depressing, bitter, lonely winter and in all likelihood into the next spring – if you survive.