Food Garden: Cucumber

Food Garden: Cucumber - Leafy Souls Vegan Blog Post

Cucumbers can be started indoors from seed, either purchased or saved and harvested from previous plants, in peat pots or small flats and transplanted to the garden a couple of weeks thereafter but only when all danger of frost has passed. Before you move them to the garden, however, harden the plants off in a protected location to lessen any stress that may occur during transplanting. During cool periods, cucumbers can be covered with plant protectors as well.

Cucumbers like it hot, so don't try to rush them into the garden too early in the season. In cool climates, start cukes from seeds indoors about three to four weeks before the last expected frost, but be careful not to disturb the roots when transplanting. In warmer regions, plant seeds directly in the ground. Add compost to the garden bed first, push seeds into the soil about an inch deep, and keep moist until germination. When the plants are two inches tall, thin to about a foot apart for bush types or three to four feet apart for vining types. Mulch to preserve moisture.

Planting seeds

For the best-tasting fruit and optimum yields, grow plants in a sunny spot and warm, fertile, and well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Raised beds are ideal. Cucumbers require a soil pH between 6 and 7. Wait to sow seeds or set out transplants until after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed to at least 60 degrees. An unexpected frost will kill plants, and the vines grow slowly and become stressed in cool conditions. You can start seeds indoors three to four weeks before your anticipated planting date outdoors. Be careful not to disturb roots when transplanting.

Cucumbers thrive in light, friable soil. Several inches of organic matter worked into the soil before planting helps achieve that goal. Plants are heavy feeders, so be sure to feed the soil with rich compost or aged manure. After the vines develop runners and the first flowers appear, follow up with a side dressing of compost, aged manure, or fertilizer.

If the leaves are yellowish, the plants need more nitrogen. Make room. Giving plants the space they require is just one more ticket to a stress-free environment. Grow trellised plants 8 to 12 inches apart. Hills with one or two seedlings should be spaced about 3 feet apart, with rows 4 to 5 feet apart. Space bush varieties 3 feet apart in all directions.

Harvesting cucumber

You can pick cucumbers whenever they’re big enough to use. Check vines daily as the fruit starts to appear because they enlarge quickly. Vines produce more fruit the more you harvest. To remove the fruit, use a knife or clippers, cutting the stem above the fruit. Pulling them may damage the vine. 

Don’t let the cucumbers get oversized or they will be bitter, and will also keep the vine from producing more. Yellowing at the bottom (blossom end) of a cucumber signals overripeness; remove the fruit immediately. Harvest lemon cucumbers just before they begin turning yellow. Although they are called lemon cucumber because the little oblong or round fruits turn yellow and look like a lemon, by the time the fruit turns yellow it may be a little too seedy for most tastes.

You can keep harvested cucumbers in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days but use them as soon as possible after picking for the best flavor. If you don’t eat a slicing cucumber all at once, cover the unused portion in plastic wrap to prevent dehydration in the refrigerator. It’s a good idea to wrap your whole cucumbers in plastic or store them in a zipper bag in the fridge to keep them crisp.


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