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Cucumbers are one of those summer fruits that we all love in our salads. Growing your cucumbers is so much better than anything you can buy from the store. Are they easy to grow? Why should you grow your cucumbers? When do you know if a cucumber is ripe enough for picking? I will answer all these questions and more below!
Cucumbers are easy to grow at home, especially if grown under glass or plastic. They require rich fertile soil require high temperatures but must be at least 15˚C or 59˚F. The soil must be kept damp and not allowed to dry out. Feed nitrogen weekly until fruiting starts, then change to high potassium feed.
Cucumbers are relatively easy to grow at home as long you can provide the right environment for them. Are they better than store-bought cucumbers?
Definitely! Store-bought cucumbers are always picked before ripeness, resulting in a bland, watery taste and dry, thick peel. They have also been sprayed with pesticides or waxes, which may cause allergic reactions in some people.
How to start growing cucumbers?
You can start cucumbers from seed. Do this by placing some potting mix into a modular cell tray and place the seed in the center. It is essential to plant the seed on edge to prevent it from rotting.
Add a small amount of potting mix on top and water. Keep moist but not wet until seedlings appear, which is usually about two weeks. When they have grown enough to handle, transplant them into larger containers.
Preparing the ground to plant out cucumbers
It is vital to get the growing conditions right for cucumbers. As I mentioned earlier, they prefer rich fertile soil. But care should be taken when choosing the planting area. Some things you need to consider are:
- Access to full sun
- is there humidity
- protection from wind and rain
Cucumbers need a minimum of 8 hours of sunlight a day; This is required to support this large climbing plant and produce good-sized fruits. They also need warmth. A soil temperature of at least 15˚C or 59 ˚F is necessary to encourage good growth and fruiting.
Humidity is required. Cucumbers are susceptible to drought; They have large leaves to support the photosynthesis needed to produce large fruits. Humidity stops the leaves from drying out and transpiring.
Finally, cucumbers require protection from the wind and rain. Winds can quickly dry out plants that are sensitive to moisture loss. Rainfall can be an issue, too, namely due to powdery mildew.
Planting out cucumbers
Now you have your location and prepared your soil ready to plant your cucumber starts, we need to consider how we will support the plant as it grows. There are many methods to keep cucumbers, such as:
- Bamboo Canes
- Hanging strings
There are so many different ways to support cucumbers that I couldn’t possibly cover them all here; however, write a more in-depth article on all the different types of supports you can use for cucumbers. I will link it here when I have completed that article.
Ensure that all support systems are in place before you plant your cucumber starts. It will ensure you do not damage the root system later.
What to consider as cucumber plants grow?
- You must keep the soil moist; never allow them to dry out
- Cucumbers will sprawl everywhere, so ensure to tie them into their supports
- Remove all lateral shoots (side vines) that
- Only allow one fruit to form per node.
Cucumbers grow fast as the temperatures start to increase. It is essential to ensure you stay on top of training the vines for the best effect.
If you’re growing cucumbers under glass or plastic, the temperature and humidity should be constant. If they are not, then there is a chance that fluctuations can cause the plants to go to seed.
Watering cucumbers effectively
Keeping the soil moist is of paramount importance. Allowing the soil to dry out will cause the fine feeder roots to wither and die. Keeping the ground damp will prevent this. However, You should take care to prevent water logging or the soil from becoming too wet.
Cucumbers are susceptible to drought as they have large leaves for photosynthesis and transpiration (loss of water from the plant through evaporation). Keeping the moisture in the ground is paramount to prevent stress to the plant.
The best time to water cucumbers is during the morning before the sun has fully risen. It allows the leaves to dry off if you happen to get them wet and moisture from the soil rise, which helps retain the humidity throughout the day.
The Importance of airflow when growing cucumbers
Airflow is critical when growing cucumbers. It does seem to contradict the fact we want humidity. But by keeping the soil damp will help create that humidity. However. we don’t want that humidity just sitting around.
If your environment is humid and has no airflow, this is the perfect condition for molds like powdery mildew to form. It can devastate your cucumber plants.
I have an article on how to combat powdery mildew, which is fully in-depth and shows you how to prevent powdery mildew and treatments.
By having adequate airflow, the humidity is constantly being removed, so prevent this. Another way of stopping this is to water at ground level only. Do not get the leaves wet. Keep them dry at all times.
Feeding Cucumbers throughout the season
Cucumbers are fast-growing and require vast amounts of food to support their growth. They get some energy from the sun, but they need lots of food too.
During the initial growth, cucumbers need a high nitrogen feed. Use a nettle tea or even Chemack Two would be ideal. However, You should change this to a high Potassium and phosphate feed as soon as flowering starts.
Seaweed, comfrey both make great potassium feeds. This will provide the cucumbers all the nutrition they require until the end of the season.
Feed fortnightly in the early phase of growth, changing to weekly after flowering commences.
How to tell if cucumbers are ready to harvest
As a cucumber forms, it grows behind the flower that was initially pollinated. This flower eventually falls off the cucumber fruit. The fruits will swell and elongate until they reach their potential.
Cucumbers are ready to harvest when the flower end of the fruit rounds off, and the color slightly changes to a paler shade. It is when the fruit is ripe and ready for picking.
If you do not pick the fruit at this time, the cucumber will continue to grow until it goes to seed and becomes bitter, eventually falling off the vine.
One other factor to consider is that if you allow any fruits to go to seed, the plant will think its job is complete and start shutting down any further growth.
Saving cucumber seed
As mentioned above, you can allow some fruits to continue and go to seed at the end of the season. Wait for the cucumber to turn from green to yellow. It will indicate it is overripe and that the seed will be fully formed.
Harvest this cucumber and place it into a windowsill to continue to ripen until it goes very soft. At this point, cut the cucumber down the length of the fruit and scoop out the middle section into a bowl using a spoon.
Add water to this bowl and allow it to sit for a couple of days. The pulp will break down. You can rinse the pulp away and place the seed onto a tea towel to dry.
Once thoroughly dried, place the cucumber seed into a paper envelope and mark it with the variety and the date it was collected.
It is essential to know You can keep heritage varieties, but You should not save F1 varieties as these will not come true to seed.
Cucumber pests and diseases to watch for
There are a lot of things that can attack your cucumber plants. It is important to note that you can prevent most of these by following the advice in this article, as a vigorous plant is a healthy plant.
Pests that attack cucumbers
- Cucumber beetle Spotted and Striped
- Squash bugs
- Vine borers
- spider mites
Diseases that attack cucumbers
- Powdery mildew
- Bacterial Wilt
- Angular Leaf Spot
- Root Rot
- Downy Mildew
- Phytophthora Blight
- Cucumber Mosaic Virus
- Verticillium Wilt
- Alternaria Leaf
As you can see above, Some of the pests and diseases are highlighted. It means I have a more in-depth article on each of these. So if you are having an issue with them, you can find out more information to help you.
Conclusion on growing cucumbers at home
There is a lot of information in this article that may frighten you off. But remember the golden rule of growing, do the basics well, and avoid dealing with problems in the first place.
Growing cucumbers doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be straightforward, and cucumbers can be prolific. Follow the advice in this article, and you will be rewarded with a bountiful crop.
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