Saturday, April 30, 2016

How to Grow Cucumbers

What are the secrets to avoiding bitter Cucumbers? Here are some things you can do to grow perfect cucumbers.

Cucumbers planted in the garden are very prolific producers and can be great for pickling or eating fresh in salads or just freshly peeled. Cucumber, Tomato and Onion salad in an Italian dressing has always been one of my favorites. Cucumbers eaten on a regular basis are a great way to get re-hydrated during the summer months. I often find myself grabbing one off of the vine while I'm working outside in the summer heat.
Since it is a warmer season vegetable, cucumbers should be planted, as with most other vegetables, after the last chance of frost.  Check the date on the seed packet for the expected last frost, as it is different across the United States. I keep the USDA’s website as a favorite on my computer for a variety of information.

*** I cannot stress the importance of having good soil to support these prolific producers. I work a LOT of compost or manure into the soil the previous November (here in North Central Texas) and let it rot throughout the entire fall and winter months. I loosen the soil two weeks before planting my seeds.

Planting by seed has always worked best for me. I plant multiple seeds in groups four feet apart and then thin all but the strongest one plant. 
Spacing between rows should be at least six feet as the plants can easily grow together. If you are planting so the cucumbers can climb a sturdy fence, I would plant seeds about 4 inches apart and thin to the best plants about one foot apart.

In my home state of Texas, if I am going to plant a second crop I make sure I have plenty of time for the cucumbers to reach maturity prior to the first frost late in the growing season. Cucumbers usually need about 2 months to reach harvesting size.
If you’d like to produce great looking and tasting cucumbers, you’ll need to mulch heavily; approximately four inches of straw,  water regularly; about an inch per week spread throughout the week and harvest before they get about 8-10 inches long. If you let them grow bigger, or fat, they tend to get pithy and dry on the interior.

If you are using fertilizer from the local nursery or hardware store, I would fertilize more often at half of the normal rate each time. I would fertilize with about one pound per 100 square feet of row and apply it as often as every 2 to 3 weeks. I then water the fertilizer in very well each time.

Personally, as stated above, I use compost or manures in the fall months and do not need to add additional material during the growing season.
A salad cucumber on top and a pickling cucumber on bottom.

You can scatter finely ground finished compost underneath the plants if you desire, however, this can get cumbersome, as you’ll need to lift the plants to place the compost. You risk plant breakage applying compost this way.

Insect problems consist of cucumber beetles (spotted or striped), spider mites and squash bugs (true bugs). You can identify a problem if you see evidence of chewed leaves, tan colored mottling. The leaves typically turn very crisp, indicating spider mite damage. Control spider mites with a miticide. Mildews can be controlled with fungicides.
Check out my article on canning up "Refrigerator Pickles"

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