There are many cultivar choices to pick from when deciding which cucumber variety to grow, including slicing varieties which are ideal for fresh consumption and pickling varieties used for processing. Slicing cucumber varieties include: the Burpless hybrid, Bush Crop, Guardian and the Marketmore 76. Pickling cucumber varieties include: Bush Pickle, Carolina and Johnston cucumbers. Slicing cucumber varieties will harvest from seed in approximately 55 to 70 days, whereas pickling cucumber varieties can harvest in less than 50 days. Seeds for these different varieties can be purchased in most local garden centers and shops as well as through mail order or internet based seed company catalogues.
Growing cucumbers in a location providing full sun is ideal. Cucumber plant hills should be planted with directly sown seed or transplants allowing 10 to 15 square feet of space per hill with each hill having no more than three plants. Cucumber seeds and transplants can be planted outdoors as soon as the low temperatures reach a consistency of 50° to 60° F (well past a frost).
Begin to prepare the soil of your garden for growing cucumbers by having a soil test performed, if possible. Having a soil test performed in the fall or early spring before planting is the best way to determine what nutrients your soil needs so you add them early and well before planting. If you are unable to have a soil test sample analyzed, try adding few pounds per square foot of organic matter or topsoil to till into the soil and broadcast on the surface, a balanced granular fertilizer (equal parts nitrogen, phosphate and potash) like 13-13-13 over the planting area every 2 weeks after planting for the first month (of course follow fertilizer application recommendations and don’t put too much around plant bases). Lay off fertilizer applications after a month or so around when pollination is occurring and fruit is setting as too much nitrogen can adversely affect this process. This is a standard approach that should feed the plants well, just watch to see how plants respond and adjust if necessary. Cucumber plants should receive the equivalent of one inch of rainfall (or water from your garden hose) each week.
Cucumber beetles and Squash bugs are two insect pests that attack and feed on cucumber plants. Cucumber beetles are especially bothersome as they not only eat on the plant and cucumber fruit, they can also spread, one of the most devastating diseases to attack cucumber plants, Bacteria wilt. Bacteria wilt is exhibited by a sudden wilting of the plant that is irreversible and will only result in immediate plant death. Controlling these insect pests can be done so with several methods of control, including: applications of Garlic Barrier and Diatomaceous Earth, using insect resisting row covers, hand picking insects off cucumber plants, etc. Cultural methods of control can also be used to reduce insect and disease damage during the fall and winter months. Reducing insect pest populations helps greatly in controlling plant diseases, but also applications of safe copper or sulfur based fungicides helps.
Cucumbers are harvested for consumption while still at the immature stage when fruit reaches 6 to 12 inches in length depending on the cucumber variety and whether it is a slicing or pickling cucumber and 7/8 to 1 ½ inches in diameter. As soon as pollination occurs and fruit begins to develop check daily for young, immature cucumbers for harvest. Fruit left too long on the vine will become large with a less flavorful taste and receive nutrients from the plant that would otherwise go to develop younger fruit. Fruit like this should only be left longer on the vine for the purposes of producing seed for next years crop.
RESOURCES / REFERENCES:
Ron Wolford, Unit Educator, Urban Horticulture and Environment; Drusilla Banks
Extension Specialist, Food Science and Nutrition Programming
Watch Your Garden Grow, Cucumber; University of Illinois Extension
Retrieved from: http://urbanext.illinois.edu/veggies/cucumber.cfm
North Carolina Department of Agriculture, AG’s Cool Cucumbers
Retrieved from: http://www.ncagr.gov/agscool/commodities/cukekid.htm