Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

Cultivating Cucumbers

by Susan Littlefield

Grow cucumbers in your garden this summer and you'll become part of a long gardening heritage. These crisp, refreshing vegetables originated in India, where they have been grown for the past 3000 years! Of course, many changes have come to this crop over the centuries. Gardeners today can choose from cucumbers bred for making pickles or for slicing; ones that are as long as two to three feet or as small and round as a lemon; and cukes that are dark green, pale green, or yellow. Most cucumbers are vining plants, but there are even bush-type varieties for space-strapped gardeners. With such a diversity, there's a cuke that's just right for every garden!

Hybrid or Open-Pollinated

Open pollinated cucumber varieties offer tried and true varieties, as well as some with the most unusual shapes and colors. These varieties are typically monoecious, meaning they bear separate male and female flowers on the same plant. After a visiting bee has carried pollen from a male blossom, the fertilized female flower is the one that gives rise to the cucumber fruit.

Hybrid cucumber varieties often offer greater disease resistance and higher yields. If you select from these varieties, you'll come across the term "gynoecious." These hybrids produce only female flowers. Since every flower has the potential to produce a cucumber fruit, gynoecious varieties produce the highest yields. But there is a catch! You need to grow a monoecious variety nearby that bears male flowers to provide the pollen required for pollination and fruiting to occur -- one monoecious plant for every seven or eight gynoecious plants. Usually seeds of a monoecious pollinator variety will be included right in the seed packet of the gynoecious variety. Just be sure when you are thinning direct-sown seedlings that you make sure to leave some of the pollinator plants.

Here are just some the hybrid and open-pollinated cucumber varieties we are offering this season.

'Calypso' (51-53 days)—A high-yielding gynoecious hybrid, this pickling variety shows good disease resistance.

'Dasher II ' (58 days) —Fruits of this early gynoecious slicer are 8 inches long and a uniform dark green.

'Marketmore 76' (68 days) —An excellent slicer, this open-pollinated variety bears 8-9 inch, very dark green fruits and shows good disease tolerance.

'Fanfare HG' (62 days) —A very disease resistant monoecious hybrid with slim, dark green fruits, this All-America Selections winner makes compact, vigorous vines.

'Green Long' Indian Sub-Continent (35-35 days) —The skin of the 9 1/2-inch long fruits of this very early open-pollinated variety is green and spiny.

'Olympian F1' (59 days) —An early gynoecious type with high yields and attractive, dark green fruits.

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