Cucumbers belong to the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae). They are usually said to have originated from India, however, in Ancient times, they have been grown in Rome and Greece. Cucumber is one of a handful of fruits that are used for food when not yet matured. They are widely used not only for food preparation (fresh or in salad, tanned or marinated) but in cosmetics, as well. 95 % of a cucumber consists of water, the rest is vitamins and trace elements that are important for a human’s organism as well as the sweetening hydrocarbons. Cucumber juice helps remove toxins from the body, they are well known as a natural skincare remedy.
Preparing the soil for planting cucumbers
Cucumbers can be planted in various types of soil, however, they grow best in light soil that has sandy loam and either lots of organic fertiliser made for cucumbers or humus. The root system of cucumbers is weak, thus, when grown in heavier soil, they need to be carefully mellowed near the roots once a week so that the ground can drain and aerate well. Planting in the same place is recommended after 2-3 years. Cucumbersd cannot be planted right after other gourd family plants: melons, pumpkins, pattypan squashes. It’s best if potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages, beans or other plants with rhizomes were grown before. You should pick a place for the garden-bed that is warm and sunny. You can start preparing the place in Autumn by digging up the soil and adding manure. To improve the richness of the soil it is worth it to insert 50 grams of superphosphate and a couple of handfuls of either dolomitic lime or ashes for each 1 m2 of the soil. In spring, 7-10 days before planting, a bucket of well rotten manure and 100 g of ashes are inserted into 1 m2 of the ground and it is dug up. The root system of cucumbers isn’t big (it reaches up to 20 cm deep), thus, when planting, it is worth it to separately prepare the planting spots. Well rotten manure is inserted into planting holes or furrows. Another way of planting cucumbers is using a not completely rotten organic fertiliser or manure and pouring it deeper into a 40 cm deep transhee, below the soon-to-be-planted cucumbers, mixing it with the soil. Non-mixed soil is poured on the top and the cucumbers are planted. A rotting organic fertiliser exudes warmth, which additionally stimulates the growth of cucumbers and acts as an additional fertiliser.
Cucumbers are either planted by sprouts or straight into the garden-bed by seeds. The largest and best-looking seeds are picked from the package. In order to increase the number of female blossoms, it is recommended to keep the seeds in a warm place, in a temperature of ~25 °C, near the radiator, for a couple of months. A week before planting, the cucumber seeds are soaked by putting them in a wet cloth. Before soaking or sowing it is worth it to soak the non-stained seeds in a potassium permanganate solution (0.5 g - 10 liters). The cucumbers will be healthier if you strengthen them: right before sowing, keep the soaked seeds in a cloth in a 0-2 °C temperature for 2-3 days. You shouldn’t forget that cucumber seeds remain germinable for a long period of time (5-6 years), thus the non-planted seeds should be wrapped in paper and kept in a warm and dry place until the next year.
Cucumbers don’t like being replanted, thus it is necessary to replant them with an as large lump of soil as possible. It is easiest to plant each of the seeds into plastic or peat flower-pots made for cucumbers immediately after they germinate. Plastic dishes made for drinking work well too, which can be found in any grocery store. It is best to buy a prepared soil substrate but if you were to make one on your own, it should consist of 3 parts of compost and 1 part of garden soil. 50 g of compound mineral fertiliser (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other microelements) and a glass of ashes are added into one bucket of germinating substrate. Or, as recommended, you can pour liquid compound fertiliser made for cucumbers on them every week. It is recommended to use flower-pots with a diameter of at least 5-7 cm. Two non-germinated seeds are planted together 1.5 cm deep, then they are watered, covered with a humidity and warmth keeping film and kept in a 21-28 °C temperature. When the sprouts have germinated, it is recommended to grow them in a colder temperature (up to 15-17 °C during daytime and 12-14 in the nighttime) for 4-7 days. Grow them this way to ensure that the bottom part of the cucumber stem doesn’t elongate. After this, they are grown in a warmer temperature again (up to 20-22 °C during daytime and 12-14 during nighttime). Before planting the cucumber shoots outside it is worth it to strengthen them: keep them in a temperature of 12-17 °C for 7-10 days.
When planting, you should prepare 15-20 % more seeds than the number of sprouts you plan to plant. Non-germinated cucumber seeds usually germinate in 5-8 days. To make sure that the sprouts stretch less, flower-pots they are in need to be turned around every few days. The cucumbers need to be watered only with warm (25-28 °C) water.
It is important to make sure the tomato sprouts don’t overgrow. It is optimal to plant germinated cucumbers after 25-30 days, with 3-5 true leaves. If the time has come to plant, you can do it even with 1-2 true leaves. When overgrown, 40-60 days old cucumbers are replanted, they hardly take root, some of them wither.
Planting cucumbers in a greenhouse
The soil in the greenhouse needs to be prepared from Autumn or 1-2 weeks before planting. After constructing the greenhouse, the soil needs to be well fertilised during the first year: 30 buckets of manure are inserted into 10 m2 of soil. The next year, 10-20 buckets into 10 m2. Fresh manure serves the cucumbers not only as a fertiliser but also as a means for aeration as manure exudes carbon dioxide gas (CO2) when rotting, which increases the porosity and thus improves the aeration of the soil.
Cucumbers need to be watered often, the soil around them gets mixed up as a result. In order to avoid this, when ploughing the soil, you should insert the following mellowing materials: sawdust that’s been laying down for a while, ecological dried straws, leaf-bearing tree bark, black peat. It is recommended to additionally insert half a liter of ashes per square meter and plough the soil 25 cm deep.
One day before planting the cucumber sprouts, water the garden-beds with 5-10 liters per square meter. If the cucumbers haven’t sprouted yet, cover the planted seeds with growing fleece so that the soil can keep humidity and heat.
It is best to plant cucumbers in a sunny day - both in a greenhouse and outside. If the greenhouse isn’t heated, the cucumbers are planted when there are no more big frosts. If frosts are still expected, wire arcs or pegs are stuck near the cucumbers and covered with growing fleece.
Sprouts are planted in the same depth as they grew before being replanted. It is very important that the stem is not covered with dirt at the bottom, as it might start to rot otherwise. After planting, the sprouts must be watered.
The distance between the cucumbers depends on the breed. 3 sprouts of long cucumbers are planted in 1 m2. For short cucumbers, the space between rows should be 40-50 cm and the space between sprouts - 35-40 cm. Cucumbers grow better if planted in chess order - this way, they get more sunlight.
It is not recommended to plant cucumbers too tightly as the main stem, on which grow mostly masculine blossoms, will mature faster and the side sprouts with feminine blossoms will grow slower.
Planting cucumbers outside
The soil for planting sprouts and seeds needs to be prepared like in a greenhouse. The cucumber seeds need to be planted when the soil heats up to 15°C 10-15 cm deep. You need to plant the sprouts or seeds not into an equal surface but into higher garden-beds as they get warmed by the sun better and when it rains, the water will hold better, meaning the cucumber roots won’t get soaked. The garden-beds should be 60 cm wide with spaces of 40-50 cm. A day before planting the cucumber sprouts, you should water the garden-beds (5-10 liters for each m2). After watering, cover them with growing fleece so the soil can keep humidity and heat.
As with planting in a greenhouse, you should plant when no more severe frosts are expected. A 5 cm deep hole is dug into the garden-bed above the equal surface, into which seeds are poured every 10 cm. A 2.5 cm layer of dirt is poured on them.
The optimal shooting temperature is 21-23 °C, the sprouts appear in 4-5 days and when it is a little colder (16-18 °C) - in 6-7 days. At first, the cucumbers should be covered with growing fleece. After they have sprouted, you can make a simple construction from bent wire that will raise the growing fleece above the cucumbers.
After the first true leaf has appeared, the cucumbers are thinned out, leaving 5-6 plants in 1 m2. When thinning out, instead of pulling the cucumbers out, you need to cut them off near the root. Then, it is recommended to pour a 3-4 cm layer of mellow soil or peat. Cucumbers sprout very poorly in mixed, hard soil.
The garden-beds need to be clean, without weeds. The soil near the plants needs to be mellowed after watering or raining. You need to mellow carefully, roughly 2-4 cm deep, trying not to harm the root system, leaving a 5-6 cm safety zone around the sprout, later spreading it up to 10-12 cm from the stem.
The cucumbers are fertilized with liquid cow manure kept for 3 days (1:10) mixed with two glasses of ashes per bucket. They are fertilized as close to the stem as possible, as the root system is not very wide. Besides, before and after fertilizing, it is recommended to water plentifully and mellow the soil, mixing the fertilizer with the ground. You should first fertilize after the cucumbers have grown 4-5 true leaves, the second time 15-20 days later, and after that, during the yield period, every 10-12 days. One plant is fertilized with roughly 1 liter of liquid manure mix.
The cucumbers need to be watered plentifully with warm water. Cucumbers don’t like water with chlorine, thus you can’t use water from the water-supply. It is best to collect rainwater.
When the yield has begun, the cucumbers need to be picked, at least 1-2 times a week. Large cucumbers use lots of nutrients, thus slowing down the growth of new cucumbers, besides, picking encourages the cucumber to grow new fruits.
An experienced gardener can quickly figure out what the cucumbers lack.
If the cucumber leaves become light green with a yellow shade, the growth of new leaves slows down and the bottom leaves bend lower and get yellowish, it means that the cucumbers lack nitrogen fertilizer. Such plant doesn’t yield many fruits, they grow slowly and are small, the stems are thin and hard.
If the leaves are green and getting smaller, the blossoms and embryos fall down, it means that there is a lack of phosphorus fertilizer for cucumbers.
If the leaves are dark green and the edge of the leaf gets yellowish and then brownish, it means that the plant lacks potassium fertilizer for cucumbers.
If the leaves brighten, become pale green with a yellow shade, the green color remains only near the fibres, the leaves crumble, look burnt, then there is a lack of magnesium.
If the leaves become cupola-like, the edges look dead, there might be a surplus of boron.
The leaves become rough and fragile when there is a calcium surplus.
Cucumbers are mostly harmed by mildew, white and root rot, canker, mosaic virus.
Mildew appears on the top leaves as solitary white spots. The spots are mycelium and fungal spores. The disease spreads fast when the weather is cool and cloudy. At a temperature of 18-20 °C, the progression of mildew stops. In order to stop the disease, you need to keep a temperature and humidity that is proper for the cucumbers in your greenhouse. You cannot allow a large temperature fluctuation. When outside, the cucumbers that get mildew are usually the ones that lack water. The disease is exterminated with fungicides. After harvesting the yield, the leftovers of cucumbers are burned.
White rot harms all parts of the plant. The damaged spots become soft, slippery, they get covered with white coating - mycelium, which later turns blackish. It spreads when you ignore the care rules - if the old yellow leaves are not removed, if the cucumbers are planted too tightly. Low temperature and high air humidity encourage the spread of this disease. It is stopped by ensuring better ventilation in the greenhouse, by avoiding large temperature fluctuations and the forming of condensate on the leaves. The harmed parts are removed, fungicides are sprayed. In Autumn, the leftovers of cucumbers are burned, the soil should be disinfected using a thermal (in a temperature of 35 °C the fungal spores die out) and chemical method (e.g. bleach).
Root rot - a fungal disease. The bottom leaves get yellowish and wither, the bottom part of the stem gets brownish. This type of rot usually develops because the cucumbers are watered with cold water, too much fertilizer is used, the air temperature is low (up to 17-18 °C). Main measures to combat this disease - not using too much fertilizer, pouring warm water, mellowing the soil.
Canker - also a fungal disease: round cornered yellow spots appear on the leaves. Pink spots appear on the fruits.
The mosaic virus is very common. Leaves damaged by mosaic get wrinkly, motley. As the capabilities of the leaves get deranged, the yield is reduced. You need to make sure that the temperature in the greenhouse is no lower than 16-17 °C and no higher than 35-40°C. It is worth it to remove the very sick plants and rejuvenate the others. The disease is spread by red spider mites and infected tools.
Red spider mite - a small, barely seen by the naked eye arachnid living in the bottom part of a cucumber leaf. Mature insects and their larvae feed on plant juice. A bright spot starts to form around where the leaf is pierced, it becomes marmoraceous and dries out. Dry air and weeds help mites spread faster. The best natural countermeasure - keeping a higher humidity. The mites are killed with the use of acaricides and insecticides. The pests’ resistance to these preparations increases, so using the same one more than twice or in two different seasons is not recommended.
Tobacco thrips - another dangerous cucumber pest. It is a small brown insect that sucks on the plant’s juice. The spots around the bite place have an angular shape. Thrips are killed with the use of insecticides and a relatively new biological measure - predaceous mites that can destroy both the thrips and the red spider mites.
Cucumbers are used fresh, salad is made from them. Cucumbers are canned either as marinated, pickled or even as salad. They are especially tasty when freshly pickled. The only type of cucumbers that aren’t suited for a fresh pickling are salad type long cucumbers. For a winter pickling, cucumber breeds with big, sparse bumps and black spikes are recommended.
We wash 1 kg of cucumbers under cold water and cut off the tips. We cut up a hot pepper, 2 pieces of garlic, 150 g of large dill stems. We put more than a half of the dills into the bottom of the dish. On top of them, we put the cucumbers one after the other and we sprinkle them with peppers and garlic slices. We put on dills again, then another layer of cucumbers. We sprinkle a large spoon of salt on top. We pour on hot water and keep it for 2 minutes. We carefully pour the liquid back into the dish and heat it to boil once again. We pour the liquid back, cover it with a plate and put on some weight that will push down the cucumbers. Two days later, the cucumbers are ready.