Don't let cucumber growing get you down: Tips for success
How to choose cucumber seedsThere is a vast variety of cucumber varieties and hybrids available. And selecting the right one from this abundance can be quite a challenge. So, let's delve into it and figure it out.
Choosing cucumbers based on pollination method:Before you start planting cucumbers, it's important to select the varieties that you'll grow in your garden. Cucumbers can be classified into two types:
- Bee-pollinated: These are the varieties and hybrids that require bees for pollination. In this case, male flowers form on the central stem, which are necessary for pollination, and female flowers form on the lateral shoots, which need to be pollinated to set fruit.
- Parthenocarpic hybrids: In these hybrids, fruit sets occur without pollen or insect involvement. Cucumbers of this type develop throughout the plant.
When it comes to placement, parthenocarpic cucumbers are often chosen for cultivation in greenhouse conditions since it's more challenging for insects and wind to access them compared to open-air cultivation. However, they can also be grown in open ground. If the hybrid is compact, it can also be suitable for indoor cultivation.
As for the bee-pollinated plants, the fruits themselves differ from parthenocarpic ones. They tend to be more aromatic and they have a strong flavor. It's best to place them in open ground, in a sunny location with access to insects and wind.
Selecting cucumbers based on growth stage harvesting:
- Cucumbers that are harvested at around 3 days of growth, when they reach a size of approximately 1,2 in (3 cm). Not every variety is suitable for this purpose. Many breeders develop new varieties and hybrids specifically for harvesting during this stage.
- Cucumbers between 1,4 and 2 inches (3.5 cm - 5 cm) of the size and are harvested when the fruit is about 5 days old. They are mainly harvested from bushy cucumber plants.
- Mature cucumbers - they are harvested at around 7 days of growth.
Cucumber cultivation methodsThere are numerous methods for growing cucumbers. The agricultural techniques involved in cucumber cultivation are extensive and complex. However, we will try to understand the basics.
The first thing to determine is how we will grow the cucumbers:
- Through seedlings, or
- Directly sowing seeds in the soil on the plot.
The choice of cultivation method depends on when you want to harvest. Interestingly, cucumbers grown from seedlings will yield a harvest approximately a week later than those directly sown in the soil. This applies when both methods are done on the same day.
If you want an early harvest, it is recommended to grow cucumbers through seedlings. By the time the soil is ready and warm, you will already have well-developed cucumber plants. Since cucumbers grow quickly, it is advisable to sow the seedlings at the end of April or the first half of May to obtain a harvest in June. Subsequently, you can sow more seeds to harvest fresh cucumbers all the way through the fall (the cucumber's harvest period is approximately 40-45 days).
How to grow cucumbers from seedlingsCucumbers do not like transplanting as much as tomatoes do. Therefore, when choosing a container, it is better to opt for a larger volume so that your seedlings can grow until they are planted in a permanent spot.
Soil and sowingIt is better to choose highly nutritious soil with a lot of organic matter for sowing cucumbers for seedlings. Cucumbers require a lot of nitrogen in the beginning. The ideal soil is a combination of soil and well-rotted compost in a ratio of 1:1. Nothing else needs to be added. However, cucumbers are resilient plants, and if you don't have the option, this step can be skipped.
But pH level is important for cucumbers. It should be within 6.5-7.2. In all other cases, cucumbers stop growing and measures need to be taken to reduce acidity or alkalinity.
As for the seeds, cucumbers can be grown with or without soaking. However, in general, experience shows that seeds germinate equally well in both cases.But iIf you choose to sow dry seeds in the soil, make sure that the soil is very moist.
Note: Seeds can be of two types: treated or untreated. Treated cucumber seeds usually have a bright color. These seeds have a thin layer of fungicidal treatment on top. This means that they will not contract any diseases in the first phase of growth. This protection lasts for approximately 10-14 days. Such seeds should not be soaked in advance so that the protective coating does not lose its properties.
TemperatureThe temperature for cucumber seeds is crucial. The higher the temperature, the faster the seedlings will appear. But excessively high temperatures are detrimental as well. For example, at a temperature of 104°F (40°C), you may not get any seedlings at all because the seeds will simply boil in the hot, moist soil. Therefore, the temperature should be warm but reasonable. 77-89°F (25-27°C) is optimal.
To prevent your seedlings and young seedlings from growing too quickly, after the appearance of cotyledon leaves, it is advisable to lower the temperature to 60-64°F (16-18°C) by any convenient method: opening the greenhouse, moving containers outside, etc. This way, you will not have problems with your cucumber vine being too long and the distances between leaves being too great.
Note: Keep in mind that planting cucumber seedlings in open ground should only be done when there is no risk of frost.
How to care for cucumber plantsAs you may have noticed, we haven't touched upon the issue of feeding the seedlings. This is because cucumbers don't particularly require it unless there are obvious signs of nutrient deficiency. However, there is a situation that will be relevant for those planning to grow cucumbers in cold regions in order to increase the cold resistance of the seedlings before planting them in the ground:
Approximately 4 days before the planting day, it is better to fertilize your seedlings with fast-acting, water-soluble phosphorus-potassium fertilizers. The best option is to use potassium monophosphate or any other available fertilizer without nitrogen. The feeding should be done by spraying the foliage from all sides of the leaves. Use approximately 0.03 ounces per 34 fluid ounces of warm water (1.5 grams per liter of water). This will increase the viscosity of the liquid in the cucumber cells, allowing them to withstand lower temperatures.
Note: If peppers and eggplants grew in the area where you want to plant cucumbers last season, it is not recommended to plant cucumbers in that soil this season. The reason is that these plants are very susceptible to spider mites, and there is a chance that the overwintering pests may feast on your cucumber plants. The best combinations of crop rotation can be found in the article.
By the way, planting cucumbers after other crops is the best and only safe prevention against diseases.
As for the nutrition of mature plants, they require a lot of nitrogen and potassium. Initially, cucumbers consume nitrogen, and when the first fruits appear, the focus shifts towards potassium. The main sign that your cucumber plant needs potassium is when tips of the leaves turn yellow, especially the lower ones.
To prevent this, you can take care of it in advance by adding manure in the fall. However, not everyone has this option, so you can add a complex mineral fertilizer (such as NPK 10:10:10) to the planting hole before transplanting your cucumber into the ground. The amount of fertilizer is approximately 1 tablespoon per planting hole.
The next feeding should occur before flowering. At this time, you should use a complex fertilizer in the following proportions: 0.35 ounces (10 grams) of ammonium nitrate, 0.28 ounces (8 grams) of superphosphate (which should be poured with boiling water the night before), and 0.18 ounces (5 grams) of potassium sulfate. Dissolve these amounts in 2,5 gallons (10 liters) of water. Each plant requires 0,5 gallons (2 liters) of this solution.
Plant shapingFor cucumbers, trellising is also important since they are vines. It is best to trellis them when the plant has 4 leaves and the fifth leaf appears. At this point, the cucumber will start growing tendrils actively, which will latch onto your trellis, allowing the plant to grow upwards instead of sprawling on the ground, occupying space and entangling with other crops.
Parthenocarpic cucumbers do not require any special care or training. Unlike pollinated varieties, they don't have separate male and female flowers. In pollinated varieties, the fruits will only develop on the lateral shoots. Therefore, it is recommended to pinch off the growing tip after the seventh true leaf to encourage the formation of these lateral shoots.
WateringAnd of course, we must not forget about watering. Cucumbers are highly water-dependent plants, so watering is extremely important. Insufficient watering can lead to your plant developing a bitter taste. Therefore, it is better to overwater cucumbers in open soil than to underwater them.
To remember when to water your plants, set a reminder in your Care Tasks as it's very important!
In conclusion, cucumbers are an easy-to-grow vegetable that can provide a bountiful harvest with just a little bit of care and attention. Providing them with the right soil, water, and nutrients, as well as proper pruning and support, can ensure that your cucumber plants thrive. Whether you prefer the traditional varieties or the newer hybrids, cucumbers are a versatile addition to any garden and any plate. So why not give them a try and enjoy the fresh, crisp taste of homegrown cucumbers all summer long?