Growing Cucumbers

Cucumbers are now growing well and can be planted for  succession cropping of this cool summer vegetable.

Cucumbers contain most of the vitamins you need. One cucumber contains Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.

IMG_20151114_084830-Cucumbers

Growth habits and planting needs

Sow in the garden from September to February in temperate zones.

To grow cucumbers well they need excellent soil preparation, consistent watering, good drainage, good ventilation and some structure for them to climb as they are a vine.

Select a site that gets full sun. Follow a leafy crop in the crop rotation system because leafy crops deplete nitrogen. Cucumbers need potassium for flowering and not too much nitrogen which encourages leaves and lessens fruit.

Prepare the garden bed well by digging in lots of  well rotted compost to a good depth to make the soil rich and friable.

Water is essential and because the cucumber is susceptible to powdery mildew, drip irrigation to keep the roots consistently moist is the best option for keeping the plant disease free. On hot days, if you must water by hand then watering early in the morning and keeping the flow away from the leaves and onto the root system is the best approach.

Cucumbers do best by being planted directly into the garden bed. Some research suggests that transplanted seedlings stop developing when they are transplanted due to the shock and damage to the developing roots.

Careful sowing directly into their final location will give plants the best chance of developing a strong root system. A strong taproot  will descend to a metre down into the soil and a thick system of lateral roots will spread though the surrounding 20 cm below the surface for a radius of 45-50 cm around the plant. This concentration of the extensive root system in the surface layers of the soil explains why it is so essential that the soil  be rich in nutrients, well draining but still holding moisture. Before planting aerate and loosen the soil well to a depth of 20 cm.

Make a small mound with a depression in the centre. Sow the seeds on their sides to a depth of 2 cm. Sow three seeds to a mound of soil, later thinning to the strongest one or two. Space 40-50 cm between groups of plants.  Water well.

The seeds will germinate in 7-10 days.

Mulch well with a layer about 5 cm deep around the plants to conserve moisture and keep the roots cool.

Water well, keeping the plants moist especially on hot days.

The following diagrams show the root systems of the cucumber as it matures. Source: Soil and Health Library. The grid is set out in ft.

Cucumber roots at 4 weeks
Cucumber roots at 4 Weeks.
Cucumber roots at 6 weeks.
Cucumber Roots at 6 weeks.
Cucumber roots from above at 6 weeks
Cucumber roots from above at 6 weeks.

Harvesting

Harvest in 8-10 weeks when the fruit is 15-20 cm long.

IMG_20151114_084902- cucumber flowersEncourage more flowering by picking the cucumbers regularly when they are mature and the skin feels a little spiky. Carefully remove the cucumbers using scissors to prevent damage to the vine, leaving a small amount of stem on the cucumber.

 

 

Store tightly wrapped in plastic  in the crisper to keep the moisture in the cucumbers.

 

 

 

 

 

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