Tip of the Month: Cucumbers
Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus). Varieties of cucumber include the slicing, or fresh salad type; the pickling type (which also can be used fresh); the standard, the dwarf-cucumber plant or bush varieties. On a normal cucumber plant, the first 10 to 20 flowers will be male and for every female flower, (which will produce the fruit), 10 to 20 male flowers are produced. Many of the new varieties will produce a greater proportion of female flowers, and others, called gynoecious types, have only female flowers. These plants are pollinated from nearby male flowers by bees. They tend to bear fruit earlier, with a more concentrated set and better yield overall.
Parthenocarpic cucumbers are all female and are seedless because the fruit is produced without being pollinated (must be kept from other cucumbers to keep the fruit seedless). All other cucumbers must have insects and bees to pollinate them. Hand pollination is tedious and time consuming. “Sweet Success”,” Sweeter Yet” and “Diva” have all female flowers.
“Oriental” and “Burpless” cucumbers are long and slender with a tender skin. Through plant breeding, the bitterness associated with the burp has been removed. Environmental causes of bitterness in cucumbers include temperature variations of more than 20º, shaded conditions and moisture stress.
Cucumbers grow best in soil of 80º or more, in full sun with good air circulation and planted 1 foot apart. Around June first is the best time to plant.
Vine cucumbers do best if trellised or fenced, keeping fruit off the ground, using less space, and making the fruit longer, straighter and cleaner. Trellised vines are less likely to be stepped on or damaged during weeding. If vines are not trellised, avoid destroying the blossoms or kinking the vines by gently rolling the vines away rather than lifting them while searching for fruit.
Wait until mid morning to work with cucumbers to help prevent diseases. Check to see if the variety of cucumber you have planted is disease resistant, including Bacterial Wilt (BW); Powdery (P) or Downy (D) Mildew (M), Cucumber Mosaic Virus (CMV), and Anthracnose (ANTH). Avoid growing cucumbers in cool or shaded areas and provide uniform moisture and ample nutrients to ensure a good crop. Continue to side dress the rows halfway through the growing season with fertilizer. If you grow organically, use cottonseed meal and blood meal to provide extra nitrogen.
Harvest cucumbers when they are about 2 inches long, up to 8 to 10 inches long and before they turn yellow.
CUCURBITS is the family of cucumbers (Cucumis sativus); cantaloupe (Cucumis melo); summer and winter squash (Cucurbita pepo var. melopepo); pumpkin (Cucurbits pepo var. pepo); and watermelon (Citrullus lanatus). Collectively, they are known as cucurbits, they have the same growing conditions and suffer from similar pests and diseases.
Courtesy: Robert and Hoberley Schuler