Growing Cucumbers

   

Cucumbers are an ancient vegetable, a staple of Mesopotamian gardens before 2000 B.C. They were introduced to the New World at the time of Columbus.

Cucumbers are eaten as a refreshing raw vegetable in salads or preserved by pickling such as dill, sweet, or chopped for relish.

History - Growing - Storage - Uses - Diseases & Pests

Historical Information

Cucumbers are an ancient vegetable, they were a staple of Mesopotamian gardens before 2000 B.C. Cucumbers were introduced to the New World at the time of Columbus.

Until the nineteenth century, they were harvested yellow ripe and were eaten cooked.

English society began growing cucumbers in their glass hothouses, and the fresh cucumber sandwich became a mainstay of afternoon tea.

Today there are three basic types of cucumbers:

Greenhouse or English: These are long, slender fruit, which you don't have to peel before eating.

Slicing Varieties : These are sometimes call hill or ridge types. They are thicker usually dark green fruit, usually peeled before eating.

Pickling Types: These are high yielding with small fruits.

There are many dual varieties that can be used for pickles when small or allowed to mature further to be used for slicing. There are also dwarf or patio varieties suitable for container growing.

A Brief History of Cucumbers

Growing

Choose a sunny, well drained location. Wait until the garden has warmed, as cucumbers do not geminate until the soil temperature is above 18 degrees C, and the seeds may rot laying in cold damp earth.

Cucumbers can be started indoors, but are sensitive to root disturbance, use peat pots with 2-3 seeds per pot.

Cucumbers can be grown in flat rows, space seeds about 4-6 inches apart (thin later to 12" spacing. about 1/2" deep. Keep rows about 48" apart. I usually grow a number of short rows 6 to 8 feet long to form a patch.

The Mound or Hilling Method of Planting: Form a series of mounds 4 " to 6" high, space hills about 3 feet apart, sow 2 to 3 seeds per hill approximately 1/2" deep.

If you want to get a headstart when the conditions are still cool, you can cover the rows with a plastic solar cover or use individual "hot hats". Be sure to remove covers, once the weather improves and before the plants flower as cucumbers are generally insect pollinated.

If you are transplanting seedlings in their pots, tear the pot open in several places to allow the roots to emerge into the surrounding soil.

Cucumbers are heavy feeders and benefit from frequent fertilizing with a balance product such as 20-20-20.

Do not allow the vines to wilt, this will produce bitter fruit and reduce yield.

Cucumber fruit contains over 95% water, so the plants will benefit from a regular deep watering throughout the season.

Do not allow the fruit to get overly large, as the plant will produce less fruit, and those fruit will be of poorer quality.

Storage

Store cucumbers covered in plastic wrap in a cool place, do not wash them until just before use.

Refrigerator temperatures are often too cold, and will result in spoiled fruit.

Uses

Cucumbers can be eaten fresh, in salads, soups and of course made into pickles and relishes. Cucumbers also can be used for external use.

Cucumbers are "cool", the interior can be up to 20 degrees cooler than the exterior. Fresh slices applied to the eyes soothe soreness and puffiness.

Fresh slices are excellent emergency first aid for kitchen or barbecue burns.

Puree in a blender to use externally for skin rashes, acne, sunburn or insect bites.

Indian Cucumber and Tomato Raita

2 cups plain yogurt

1 medium cucumber finely chopped

1 chopped tomato

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp paprika

salt to taste

Combine ingredients and serve chilled.

Cucumber Onion Salad

1 Large slicing cucumber, peeled and chopped, or 1 large English cucumber chopped

1 medium onion chopped

1/2 cup vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

Adjust sugar, vinegar and mayo to taste. Combine in a large bowl, best if the salad is allowed to marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Diseases and Pests

Melon aphids can be repelled by planting onions, garlic or chives nearby. You can spray the underside of the leaves with a extract of green onion or garlic leaves prepared in a blender.

For slugs use a protective border of lime, or ashes, or set out saucers of stale beer as a trap.

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