Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

Cucumbers for Salad and More (page 2 of 3)

by Charlie Nardozzi

Cukes in the Ground and in Pots

Cucumbers need warmth and water to thrive. Before planting, amend the soil with a 2- to 3-inch-thick layer of compost. Create raised beds on all but sandy soils. In cold areas cover the beds with black or dark green plastic mulch two weeks before planting to preheat the soil.

If growing gynecious varieties, be sure to include a pollinating variety. The pollinating variety seeds are usually color-coded in the same seed packet. In cold areas start seeds indoors three to four weeks before the last frost date. Plant seeds or transplants in the ground after all danger of frost has passed and when the soil temperature has warmed to at least 60 degrees F. Plant 6 inches apart in rows, or sow 3 to 4 seeds in 1-foot-diameter hills, if not using raised beds. Thin to the healthiest seedling after germination.

If planting in containers, select a compact variety and a 10- to 12-inch-diameter pot. Fill the pot with soilless mix. Plant 3 seeds or one transplant per pot. Thin to the healthiest seedling. In larger pots, plant cukes along the edge so they cascade over the side of the container. They grow well mixed with other vegetables such as dwarf tomatoes, lettuce, and beans, and even flowers.

Growing Cukes in the Air

Whether the cucumbers are in containers or the ground, trellising all but the dwarf varieties is a good idea. Growing cucumbers vertically saves space and keeps the fruit off the ground, making them less likely to rot. Also, for long fruits, the trellis helps the cukes grow straight and makes them easier to pick.

Use a sturdy trellis made of wood or metal. Set it up so the vines grow at an angle instead of straight up and down. This will allow them to hold onto and climb up the trellis more easily. The cucumber tendrils will grab the trellis to keep the plant upright.

Cuke Solutions

Once young plants start vining, side-dress with a handful of organic fertilizer, such as 5-5-5. If you aren't using plastic mulch, add a 3- to 4-inch-thick layer of organic mulch, such as hay, straw, or pine straw once the soil warms. The mulch will keep weeds at bay and keep the soil moist. In containers, keep the soil evenly moist and add a diluted liquid fertilizer every few weeks.

Grow disease-tolerant varieties if you perennially have problems with powdery mildew, cucumber scab, bacterial wilt, mosaic virus, and other diseases. The biggest insect pest on cucumbers is the cucumber beetle. The beetle causes damage by feeding and spreading bacterial wilt disease among the plants. To control this pest, place a floating row cover over the crop before flowers form. On all but parthenocarpic varieties, remove the row cover after flowers open so bees can pollinate the blooms. Spray plants with pyrethrum to kill the beetles.

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