Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) belong to the same family as melons, watermelons, squashes, and gourds. They are a warm-weather vining plant that is grown for its refreshing and mild-tasting fruits.
They are sensitive to the cold, so the seeds should not be planted until the soil has become warm enough for them to germinate -- usually in late May to early June. Form a soil mound and plant a few seeds in the top then water them well. The seedlings will sprout in a few days. Once they develop their true leaves, you can then thin the seedlings to the strongest couple of plants.
While the seedlings are young, protect them from birds and insect pests with a floating row cover until the plants start to flower. An organic vegetable fertilizer can be applied after the plants start to bloom.
The cucumber plants do best in full sun, with very good air circulation in soil that has excellent drainage. You can let the plants sprawl on the ground or train them on a trellis. Trellising improves air circulation, keeps the fruits from ground-dwelling pests, and makes it much easier to safely harvest the cucumbers.
The cucumber patch should be kept mulched, weed-free, and well-watered. Cucumber plants produce the best-tasting fruits when they are not subjected to water fluctuations or drought.
The most familiar cultivars require pollination in order to set fruit. They are usually monoecious, meaning that each cucumber plant has both male and female flowers. If you find that the pollinators are not doing the job fast enough for you, you can hand-pollinate the vines by plucking off a male flower and “marrying” it to a female one. You’ll recognize the female flowers as they have a tiny fruit at their base.
There is no need to prune cucumbers if you are growing them outdoors and studies show that removing the leaves actually results in a smaller harvest.
Cucumbers should be harvested as soon as they are ready. Otherwise, they will quickly lose flavor, grow too large, and can become tough.
For more tips about growing cucumbers, see our cover story in the July 2017 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine.
Cucumbers - You Can Grow That!
The video was produced by Washington Gardener Magazine.
Visuals by Taylor Calavetinos
Audio by Kathy Jentz
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