Up the Fence with Cucumbers.
I remember meeting a young city boy a few years ago who didn't know that cucumbers and pickles were the same plant. That was an education for me because I didn't realize that everyone didn't know that. I didn't hesitate to remove that young man from that group that didn't know. Told him about the relationship between cucumbers and pickles. Less than a couple of years later, I was pleased to discover the same young man was growing his own garden and proudly showed off his gardening techniques for growing his own cucumbers. He had gone from a complete novice concerning cucumber growing to nearly an expert.
Eaten fresh or preserved as pickles, cucumbers are a popular vegetable and an easy one to grow. As long as rain or irrigation is available, they only require between 55-60 days to grow from planting to picking in most areas of the country.When grown up a fence, two square feet of the garden plot will provide each person in your family more than enough for a season full of this cool, juicy, tropical cultivar.
Types of Cucumbers
Cucumbers range from small pickling cucumbers called gherkin to long thin "yard-long french typed ones used for slicing. when choosing a cultivar, be certain that you get the right type for what the purpose you have planned. Get a slicing cucumber for cucumbers that you want to eat fresh and a pickling type for making pickles.
Bush type cultivars have small compact vines that require less space, but, since mine climb a fence anyway, I get the trailing vine type heirloom cucumber.
Before planting, I amend my soil with as much compost and well rotten manure as possible because cucumbers love the nutrients provided in humus. I make certain that my bed is well drained and that there is at least 6 hours of direct sun on the garden bed each day.
I avoid planting my cucumbers too early. This is a common mistake of novice gardeners. I wait until 3-4 weeks past the last frost in the spring so that I am certain that the soil has adequately warmed. I usually have already planted a spring crop of peas along the fence in which I plan to grow the cucumbers. I wait until the peas have bloomed and are setting their first pods before planting the cucumbers on the other side of the fence in which I planted the peas. That way, I am certain that I have waited long enough before planting the cucumbers.
I keep the area around the fence mulched at all times so that when planting the cucumbers, all I have to do is move the soil aside so that I have a one inch deep hole, sprinkle some kelp into the hole and then and drop in the seeds into the hole, water well, then cover with an inch of soil and water again. I plant cucumber seeds about a foot apart along the fence under the pea plants.
Care During the Growing Season
I make certain that the cucumbers are watered at least one inch per week for the entire cucumber season. If the cucumber plants do not get enough water they will stop growing and dry out. In addition, the cucumbers themselves will become very bitter.
I maintain a thick layer of mulch around the cucumber plant and can easily pull up any weeds that manage to poke out of it. This also helps maintain adequate moisture for the cucumbers.
As the cucumbers begin to grow, I aim the runners toward the fence and the cucumbers will train themselves up the fence. Once the cucumbers reach the fence, I pull back the mulch and add a second sprinkling of kelp along with a sprinkling of blood meal and add a generous helping of additional compost or composted manure and cover that with more mulch. w
Naturally Combat Pests and Diseases
The most common pest against cucumbers is the cucumber beetle. They chew on plants and spread diseases such as bacterial wilt and mosaic. I combat them by inspecting the leaves and flowers daily and and pick and kill any of the peoples you locate. Sometimes I plant a few radishes near the cucumbers to act as a lure away from the cucumbers.
Sometimes under severe infestations, I cover my cucumbers with a floating row cover, but remove after flowering begins to allow bees to pollinate or else no cucumbers will form.
Another common cucumber pest is the squash borer. These pests burrow into the main stem of the plant and leave sawdustlike droppings. With a sharp knife, I cut into the area at the base of the affected stem, remove the worm and bury the slit into a pile of moist garden soil so that the plant can reroot itself.
I prevent cucumber diseases by rotating crops every year. I do not plant cucumbers in the same ground, but rotate with other plants that are growing along my fence. I utilize the fact that there are two sides to every fence as well as the full length of fence. One year I will plant my cucumbers on one side of the fence and the next year on the other side future down. Minimize disease spread by never working in garden when wet and by keeping garden properly watered and mulched.
I pick cucumbers often so that they do not turn yellow. The size of the cucumbers I pick will be determined by the variety I chose to grow. If the seeds of even one fruit are allowed to mature, the whole vine will stop producing. By picking regularly, I can extend my harvest for many weeks. To remove the cucumbers from the vine, I gently twist or cut cucumbers and am careful not to damage the vines in the process. Cucumbers will keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks. For long term storage of excess cucumbers, I make pickles or relish.
Tip for Bitter Cucumbers
A strange but effective way to get rid of bitterness in cucumbers is to cut either end of the cucumbers, then take the cut off end piece from one end and rub it cut on the opposite end of the cucumber. Next do the same with the other end of the cucumber with the opposite cut end piece. Throw away the end cuts, but the rest of the cucumber will be sweet and not bitter. I don't know why it works, I only know that it does.
© 2014 Donna Brown
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