Cucumbers are for making pickles, right? Not necessarily. If you purchase a slicing variety of cucumber, you may find that you actually enjoy your homegrown cukes better fresh. Sandwich toppings are just the beginning.
- Full sun.
- Hot (but not dry) weather.
- Very fertile soil.
- Soil pH around 6.0 to 7.0.
- Garlic. Studies suggest garlic increases nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and manganese levels in cucumbers.
- Marigold. Deters beetles.
- Nasturtium. Deters beetles. Also said to improve growth and flavor.
- Oregano. Repels many pests.
- Radish. May confuse cucumber beetles. Will attract beneficial insects if allowed to flower.
- Tansy. Repels beetles.
- Plant cucumbers outdoors about a week after the last spring frost. In Kansas, May is usually the best month.
- Soak the seeds for a few hours before planting if desired. This is not absolutely necessary, but will ensure best results.
- Form a small mound or hill of soil for each plant, 8 inches apart for vertical growing and 36 inches apart if the vines will be allowed to sit on the ground. (If you are not planning on pickling your cukes, one hill is probably quite sufficient.)
- Plant the seeds half an inch to an inch deep on top of the hill.
- Be sure to pat the soil down firmly over the seeds so that they don’t wash away.
- Keep the soil moist until the seeds sprout.
While your cucumbers are still young, you will have to decide if you want to train them up a trellis. There are two reasons why you might consider this: space and weather. If your space is limited, you probably want to keep the plants up off of the ground, since they tend to sprawl out. Wet weather is another good reason to use a trellis. Leaving your cucumbers on chronically damp ground can lead to mold and mildew.
In dry weather, you will have to diligently keep your cucumbers watered. A thick mulch will help.
Pests and Diseases
- Cucumber beetle.
- Bacterial wilt.
- Cucumber mosaic virus.
- Fusarium wilt.
- Phytophthora blight.
- Powdery mildew.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule about when to pick cucumbers except not to let them get too big. Pick cucumbers for picking or slicing when they look about the right size to you, but err on the side of harvesting them while a little small. Check them daily, since they grow fast, and search carefully to make sure there aren’t a few hiding under the leaves of the plant. Even so, don’t feel too bad if you one day discover an oversized cuke lurking in the mulch. That’s just part of gardening!
The cleanest way to pick a cucumber is to cut the stem. However, you can also pull it off of the vine with a little twist.
Fresh cucumbers will keep in the refrigerator for about a week. For long-term storage, consider pickling.
- Separate varieties by half a mile, if possible. Cucumbers are not easy to hand pollinate.
- Leave the cucumber on the vine to ripen until it is large and somewhat soft. It will change color, but the exact color will depend on the variety.
- Cut open the cuke and scoop the seeds into a large bowl.
- Add water just until you have a mixture approximately one part water and one part cucumber innards.
- Allow the mixture to sit and ferment in a safe place for one to three days, stirring twice a day. (This probably won’t smell the best.)
- When most of the seeds have settled and the seedcases are floating on top, add as much water to the bowl as possible.
- Carefully pour off the water and all the debris floating on top.
- Repeat steps six and seven until the seeds are clean.
- Pour the seeds into a strainer and press dry with a towel.
- Spread out on a cookie sheet or other nonstick surface to finish drying.
- Store in a cool, dry place. Cucumber seeds last a long time, up to 10 years.
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