Cucumbers are another typical southern garden crop. Many gardeners, myself included, grow cucumbers and each year, the crop is cut short by stems drying up.
Cucumbers are a member of the Cucurbit family, which include Cantaloupe, Pumpkin, Squash, and Watermelon. In general, each of these crops have similar growing requirements, diseases and pest enemies.
Cucumber varieties for pickling recommended for my Zone 9 area are: Calypso, Carolina, County Fair 87, Homemade, Little Leaf or National. Slicing recommendations are Ashley, Burpless, Dasher II, Poinsett 76, Straight Eight, Sweet Slice or Sweet Success. You can find the varieties for your area by contacting your county extension agent, or a Master Gardener.
Plant Cucumbers with Radishes, Corn, Beans, Peas, Carrots or Beets to enhance the growth of all these plants together. Don’t plant near Cabbage, Cauliflower, Lettuce, Pole Beans or Tomatoes, as these will inhibit growth.
Tips for Planting Cucumber
Plant Cucumber in April, after the soil has warmed. Soil must be at least 65 degrees for germination, and 70 degrees is better. Cucumbers like full sun. Plant seeds about 1″ deep, and 6-12″ apart. Plant with Black-Eyed Susan and Lupine to attract pollinator insects.
I grow Cucumbers on a vertical trellis, 8 feet wide and 6 feet tall. Some suggest a trellis tilted at a 45 degree angle, in order to let cucumbers hang down and be more visible, and to shade plants below. That sounds like a good idea; I have noticed that Cucumbers can hide extremely well in the leaves, and grow larger than best recommendations. This year, I will try the angled trellis idea.
Another trellis idea, if you are short on space, is to make a cylinder of strong wire instead of a straight trellis, and plant the Cucumber around the circumference of the trellis.
If you don’t use compost, fertilize with a low Nitrogen, High Potassium and Phosphorus fertilizer once at planting, and once when the plants begin blooming. Water consistently, at the base of the plant. And here’s a tip: spray with sugar water to attract more bees for pollination. Each Cucumber plant has both male and female flowers. Male flowers appear first, then the female flowers. You can recognize the female flowers because they have what looks like a small cucumber at the base of the flower.
In Texas, the growing season is long enough that you can plant a second crop after the first has begun producing.
There are two types of cucumbers: vining and bush. Bush is better suited for container or small-space gardens. Bush varieties include Bush Champion, Parks Bush Whopper, Pickle Bush, Pot Luck, Salad Bush and Spacemaster. Vining cucumbers such as Burpee Hybrid, County Fair 83, Dasher 11, Liberty Hybrid, Saladin, Slice Master Hybrid, Slice Nice, Sweet Slice or Sweet Success produce more cucumbers.
Pests that attack Cucumbers are the Cucumber Beetle, Squash Bugs, Slugs or Aphids. My worst problem is with Cucumber Beetles, which carry a disease that makes the whole plant wilt and die.
You can deter these insects by planting Cucumber with Dill, Radish, Tansey, Nasturtium, Mint, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme, Hyssop, Chamomile, Oregano, Zinnia or Marigolds. Plant Catnip, Buckwheat or Borage to attract beneficial insects. Soldier Beetles, Braconid Wasps and the Tachinid Fly attack the beetles; Nematodes underground attack the larvae. Row covers for bush varieties can be used to stop the moths responsible for Cucumber Beetles; kaolin clay can be used for the climbing varieties. If you use row covers, you must remove them for a time to allow the bees to pollinate the flowers
Harvest depends on the type of cucumber. Pickling cucumbers are harvested when they are 2 inches long. Dills are picked when they are 4-6 inches long, and Slicing cucumbers are picked when they are 6-8″ long. Lemon Cucumbers are round, and have a longer harvest season. Be sure to pick Cucumbers when they are green; if they turn yellow, they are overripe. Check daily; don’t let the cucumbers get yellow; pick when they are immature, and an even green color all around. Continue picking so that the plant will continue producing cucumbers.
After the harvest, what do you do with your Cucumbers? Tell the community what recipes or tips you have for serving the harvest below in the comments.