grown either for pickling or slicing, have become one of the most
popular planted crops in today's home garden. Although cucumbers
require substantial growing space, they can be grown in small gardens
by training vines onto trellises, or they can be grown in containers.
The cucumber ranges in size from the small gherkin type to the long,
thin slicing variety. There are also yellow and fruited varieties.
Cucumbers are a subtropical crop, requiring long warm days, plenty
of sunshine and balmy nights. Many new varieties have shorter growing
seasons, making them ideal for the shorter summers in the Northeast.
bear two kinds of flowers, pistillate (female) and staminate (male).
The first flowers, which are staminate, drop from the vine and do
not bear fruit. Subsequent flowers include both male and female,
and pollination can occur. Recently, gynoecious plants (those bearing
female flowers only) have been introduced. The seed packet will
have specifically marked seeds indicating that the marked seeds
must be planted as well for proper pollination.
thrive at relatively high temperatures; 65-75 degrees F is the ideal
temperature range. The plants do not tolerate frost. As a fast-growing
crop, cucumbers require a substantial amount of moisture and plant
nutrient elements throughout the growing season.
Cucumbers can be grown successfully in many types of soils, but
they will be most successful in loose, well-drained soil,well supplied
with organic matter and plant nutrient elements. Work in organic
matter such as well-rotted manure or compost before planting. The
soil pH should be between 6.0 and 7.0.
Lime and fertilizers are best applied using soil test results as
a guide. Prior to planting, you should add a complete fertilizer
such as 5-10-10 or similar analysis according to label recommendations.
One week after blossoming begins, and again three weeks later, use
a high nitrogen fertilizer to side-dress the hills. Do not over-fertilize,
as this encourages vine growth and retards fruiting.
can gain growing time by starting the plants indoors 10 to 14 days
before anticipated planting time. Use peat pots or pellets and avoid
disturbing roots when transplanting. Planting outside should be
delayed until the danger of frost has passed in the spring--usually
late May in southern New England. Cucumber seeds can be planted
in hills consisting of four or five seeds per hill spaced at 4 to
5 feet apart. They can also be planted in rows 2 to 3 feet apart
with rows 5 to 6 feet apart. Certain varieties make excellent container
can conserve soil moisture, prevent soil compaction and rotting
of the fruit and help suppress weeds. Black plastic mulch can be
a valuable aid in keeping the soil moist and minimizing weed problems.
Organic mulches such as peat moss, cocoa shells or buckwheat hulls
also work well, also providing the added bonus of improving the
insects and diseases must be controlled in the planting. Cucumber
beetles, aphids, mites, pickle worms, bacterial wilt, anthracnose,
powdery and downy mildew, and angular leaf spot are potential problems
in the cucumber planting. The early and continuous control of the
cucumber beetle is critical to success in growing cucumbers. The
cucumber beetle can infect the plant with bacterial wilt as early
as the cotyledon stage, when seedlings are just emerging from the
ground. Bacterial wilt causes plants to wilt and die. See GreenShare
Facsheets on cucumber beetles and
bacterial wilt for more information
and control recommendations. Avoid using insecticides in the garden
when pollinating insects are working the flowers.
are ready for harvest 50 to 70 days from planting. Harvest according
to size depending on intended use. Cucumbers become bitter if they
are allowed to grow until they begin to turn yellowish. Harvest
by cutting the stem 1/4-inch above the fruit.
picking of cucumbers is essential as they grow and reach optimum
quality. Delayed harvest results in reduced quality products and
less productive plants--fruiting is an exhaustive process for the
Pamela J. Bennett, Ohio State University Extension, 2000