What’s a Salad Without Freshly Grown Cucumbers?
Cucumbers hold a special place in the kitchens of the world. The crisp crunch of cucumbers and fresh aroma add a very special nuance to salads and garnishes. Considering how easy cucumbers are to grow, it’s remarkable the cucumber has not gotten more of the spotlight in the garden. Cucumbers, like squash and pumpkin grow on vines and bushes. There are several varieties of cucumbers. The small, thick bodied cucumbers make wonderful pickles.
Prepare a Cucumber Garden
Soil plays a very important role in the growth of cucumbers. Cucumbers do well in soil that is relatively loose. For best results, turn the soil and add lime in the months before the last frost when the soil is thawed. Follow up after two weeks with fertilizer. Composted materials can be substituted for fertilizer. Turn the soil again to insure the lime and fertilizer are completely settled into the soil. Test the soil with a soil tester to check the pH. It should be in the range of 6.0 to 7.0.
Cucumbers can be started from seeds indoors in starter pots or outdoors in cold frames and hot houses. Seeds germinate fairly quickly and form seedlings in less than ten days. Allow seedlings to grow to about four inches in height before transplanting. Transplant seedlings after the last frost and when the soil feels warm to the touch. Cucumbers prefer germination in a warm soil. Create soil mounds. Add seeds or seedlings to a depth of one inch. Space soil mounds about 36 inches apart. Invest in a trellis or wood support for vine cucumbers and plant cages for bush type cucumbers. Cucumbers can also be grown in large planter pots. Fill the pots with soil to about twelve inches from the top. Add seeds or seedlings. Cover seeds with a light layer of soil. Mound soil around the base of the seedlings for support. Place in a sunny location and use a light spray of water. Add plant food after the cucumber blossoms appear.
Care and Maintenance of a Cucumber Garden
Vine and bush cucumbers should be kept off the ground once they begin to blossom. Train vine cucumbers onto a trellis. Use an old clay flower pot to keep bush cucumbers off the ground. Cucumbers need one inch of water each month of growth. Mulching soil helps protect plants from larvae and insects from settling in. Use gentle strokes around the circumference of the plant.
Like many other gourd type vegetables, if cucumbers are left too long on the vine or bush after they mature, they can develop a rather bitter taste. The flesh of older cucumbers becomes somewhat dry and tasteless. Harvest cucumbers when they grow to about six inches in length and one and a half inches in diameter. For pickling cucumbers, harvest when they are four inches in length and an inch or less in diameter. When picked at this stage, cucumbers are succulent and crisp.