Plant Cucumbers, commonly thought to be the cultivation of vegetables, are fruits that are part of the Cucurbitaceae gourd family and widely cultivated all over the world.
It is easy to plant cucumbers, and they are very prolific i.e. produce in large quantities. Cucumbers have high nutritional benefits and are low in calories.
Cucumbers are the summer crop which requires a warm temperature for growth. The most ideal time for cucumber plantation is after all the frosts have passed i.e. between April or June.
Cucumbers need the wide space for plantation because they grow on vine plants which spread on the ground from 6 to 8 feet long. Cucumbers love warmth and sunlight hence it is best to plant them in a sunny area.
They require well-drained, moist soil and grow well in neutral or slightly acidic soil. Make sure the soil is fertile by adding compost or manure and work it into the soil 6 to 8 inches deep. Sow the seeds 1 to 2 inches deep and about 2 to 3 feet apart in a row, depending on the variety.
You can also plant them on mounds on small hills that are 2 to 3 feet apart. Plant almost 2 to 3 seeds in each mound and once they grow up to 4 inches in height thin them out so it is one plant per mound.
Cucumbers Plant Care
Cucumbers require at least 1 inch of water per week. Not watering enough can cause the fruit to taste bitter. Water in the morning or early evening and avoid watering the leaves. You can use a water hose or drip irrigation to avoid watering the foliage. Increase watering to a gallon after the fruit develops.
Use a granular fertilizer or liquid fertilizer with low potassium/ nitrogen and phosphorus formula. Be careful while fertilizing as too much fertilizer can cause stunted growth.
Keep the cucumbers weed-free and be careful not to damage the roots of the cucumber plants while picking weeds.
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Cucumbers must be harvested before they grow too big otherwise they would taste bitter. Pick cucumbers once they are of desired size, green and before the seeds get hard. During peak harvest season pick them every day as they grow very quickly. To pick cucumbers, use a knife or clipper and cut the stem above the fruit. Avoid pulling the vines as they get damaged easily.
Store cucumbers in tightly wrapped plastic to retain the moisture. They can be kept in the refrigerator for a week to 10 days if stored properly.
Cucumbers are susceptible to many diseases, mostly fungal and viral, and pests which can cause harm to the crop.
The most common pests found on cucumbers are:
- Cucumber Beetles
Aphave several species but the most common type is the melon aphid also known as a cotton aphid. They cause leaves to distort like twisting and puckering which eventually causes the leaves to die. Aphids release a honeydew onto the leaves which promotes the growth of sooty fungal.
It can also transmit several viruses to the plant. Always check the underside of the leaves and check for natural enemies like lady beetles. Use spot spray method if the infestation is limited to a particular area. Spraying insecticide can cause harm to beneficial insects so try to avoid it. Using mulch to repel aphids is helpful.
Cucumber Beetles are of three types; striped, spotted and banded. These beetles lay eggs near the plant stem and the larva begins to feed on the roots whereas the adults feed on leaves and flowers.
This causes holes or net-like appearance on the leaves. The plant slows down in the growth or eventually dies. To avoid this problem cover the rows of plants in the early season with fabric, eliminate weeds and deep plough. You can also use seed
Thrips are small and slender insects with sucking and rasping mouthparts. They feed on plants and can cause damage or even lower yield production.
However, thrips also eat spider mites hence it also acts beneficial to plants but if they are causing damage to the flowers or fruits insecticide application would be required.
Diseases Amongst the many diseases that can damage cucumbers here is a list of few most common ones:
- Angular Leaf Spot
- Bacterial Wilt
- Powdery Mildew
Angular Leaf Spot
Angular leaf spot is caused by a bacterium and one of the most widespread diseases of cucumber. The symptoms include small, water-soaked spots on the leaves on the underside which eventually expand to larger angular spots. The spots may be surrounded by a yellow halo. In humid conditions, a milky fluid exudes from them which forms a white crust upon drying.
This disease can also infect stems and fruits. The fruit can become deformed if infected in the early stages. To avoid this problem use pathogen-free seeds or seeds that are resistant to diseases. Practice crop rotation and remove crop debris after harvesting. Avoid irrigating overhead or with contaminated water.
Bacterial wilt is transmitted by cucumber beetles and is the most damaging in early stages when plants are growing fast. It slowly spreads from a few vines to more and causes them to turn necrotic i.e. kills the cells, eventually killing the vines.
For treatment; remove any plants or vines infected with bacterial wilt, use a foliar application of systematic insecticide, scout beetles using the application, and weeds must be eliminated.
Powdery Mildew is a pathogen that appears on the upper and lower side of the leaves as a white, powdery growth. It can also appear on stems or petioles and cause them to die however the fruit can also be affected by it.
To avoid this problem use resistant varieties and control weeds. Use of fungicides at the early stages of the disease can be useful but remember to alternate between different fungicides.
Types of Cucumbers
Cucumbers being of various types can be classified into slicing cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, and speciality cucumbers. They are further classified based on their properties.
A type of slicing cucumber, are long narrow ended ones. They have smooth dark green thin skin.
These cucumbers are seedless. These cucumbers are sold in plastic which tends to extend their shelf life.
Green fingers Persian Cucumbers
These are also a type of slicing cucumbers. This type is great for snacking on. They are small green coloured, hence, named “fingers”. These cucumbers have a vigorous habit of growing as they produce vines that can be up to 5 feet tall.
A type of pickling cucumbers, they are regarded as one of the best in this category for their versatile nature. They have smooth, light green coloured skin. One of the advantages these cucumbers have over the other is that they can produce large healthy fruit yields.
Cucumbers are said to be high in nutrients, contain antioxidants, promote hydration, aid in weight loss, etc. Not only are cucumbers beneficent nutritionally but also their easy and fast growth with high demand makes them an economically profitable crop. The versatility of cucumbers is the reason as to why they are popular and hence very profitable.