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VEGETABLE GARDEN: SELECTED VEGETABLE CROPS [continued]

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  MG Manual Reference
Ch. 10, pp. 94 - 97

[Selected Crops: intro | asparagus | beans | broccoli | brussels sprouts | cabbage | cauliflower | sweet corn | cucumbers | eggplant | lettuce | melons | onions | peppers | potatoes | squash | tomatoes | herbs | herb use ]

Cucumbers
CUCUMBERS Top

ENVIRONMENTAL PREFERENCES
Light: Sunny.
Soil: Well-drained, moderate-high organic matter.
Fertility: Rich.
pH: 5.5 to 7.0
Temp: Hot (65 to 80° F).
Moisture: Keep moist, not waterlogged; mulch helps maintain moisture
CULTURE Top
Planting: Seed after danger of frost has passed and soil has warmed, or use plants sown indoors in peat pots 3 to 4 weeks prior to planting time.
Spacing: 12 to 18 inches by 48 to 72 inches in rows, 24 to 36 inches by 48 to 72 inches in hills (2 to 3 plants per hill); closer if trellised.
Hardiness: Very tender annual.
Fertilizer Needs: Heavy feeder; sidedress one week after blossoming begins and again 3 weeks later using l 1/2 ounce 33-0-0 per 10-foot row.
CULTURAL PRACTICES Top

Varieties include both the slicer or fresh salad type and the pickle type (which can also be used fresh), and dwarf-vined or bush varieties.
New varieties of cucumber are being released which are advertised as all-female, or gynoecious types. On a normal cucumber plant the first 10 to 20 flowers are male, and for every female flower, which will produce the fruit, 10 to 20 male flowers are produced. This indicated to plant breeders that production could be increased greatly if many more female flowers were produced. Some of the new varieties produce plants which have only female flowers, while others have a greater proportion of female to male flowers. These plants tend to bear fruit earlier, with a more concentrated set and better yields overall.
Parthenocarpic cucumbers are all female and are seedless because the fruit is produced without being pollinated. If this type of cuke is planted near others, pollination will occur and seeds will form. This type is usually grown in greenhouses.
Burpless cucumbers are long and slender with a tender skin. Through plant breeding the bitterness associated with The burp has been removed. Other causes of bitterness in cucumbers include temperature variation of more than twenty degrees and storage of cucumbers near other ripening vegetables.
Most varieties of cucumber vines spread from row to row. Training on a trellis or fence along the edge of the garden will correct this and also lift the fruit off the soil. If trellised, plant 4 to 5 seeds per foot in rows spaced 30 inches apart. Untrellised rows may need to be spaced four to six feet apart. When plants are four to five inches high, thin so they are nine to twelve inches apart.
There are many excellent bush varieties of cucumber now available. Most of these produce well for the limited amount of space and may be a desirable alternative in a small garden if trellising is not possible.
In order for the flower to develop into a fruit, pollen must be carried by bees from male flowers, on the same plant or on different plants, to the female flower, the one with the tiny swollen pickle. Gynoecious cucumber flowers are pollinated by male flowers from other plants, the seeds of which are usually included in the seed packet. Poor cucumber set is common during rainy weather when bees are inactive. If pesticides are necessary, use them after sundown to avoid harming the bee population.
Plants respond to mulching with soil warming black plastic in the spring for earlier harvest. Organic materials are useful in the summer to retain moisture and keep the fruit clean in non-trellised plantings.
Working in the vines when leaves are wet may help spread diseases. Wait until after morning dew or rain evaporates. Trellising gets leaves up off the ground so that they dry off faster. Also, if the vines are trellised, the gardener is less likely to step on the vines and there is no need to move the vines for weeding or other purposes, reducing the risk of damage. If vines are not trellised, avoid destroying blossoms or kinking vines by gently rolling the vines away rather than lifting them when searching for harvestable fruit.
There has been a significant increase in disease resistance in cucumber varieties in recent years. Try to select resistant varieties when possible.
Cucumbers are susceptible to late season diseases. At elevations below 4500, gardeners can avoid disease problems by planting a second crop in mid to late summer.
COMMON PROBLEMSTop
Diseases: Curly top virus, mosaic, leaf spot, anthracnose, scab, powdery and downy mildews.
Insects: Cucumber beetles, aphids, flea beetles, whitefly, leafminer.
Cultural: Misshapen cucumbers (low fertility or poor pollination), failure to set fruit (too few bees for adequate pollination, no pollinating plants for gynoecious hybrids, changes in temperature).
HARVESTING AND STORAGE Top
Days to Maturity: 50 to 70 days.
Harvest: From when cucumbers are about two inches long up to any size before they begin to turn yellow, about 15 days. Remove by turning cucumbers parallel to the vine and giving a quick snap. This prevents vine damage and results in a clean break.
Approximate yields: 8 to 10 pounds per 10-foot row.
Amount to Raise: 10 to 15 pounds per person.
Storage: Medium cool (45 to 50° F) and moist (95% relative humidity) conditions.
Preservation: Pickled.

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