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Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

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Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 7/1/2011, 10:53 pm

This one isn't so uncommon in the garden. But, it took me years to get up the courage to try it out. I just didn't have the space to let things sprawl. And, three years ago (my first attempt), I wasn't using SFG techniques, mounded the earth every couple feet, and never got a single seed to sprout. Needless to say, I wasn't too psyched about planting them again. Well, until I gained more experience and my wife started asking me to try them again.

SFG makes them as easy as they can be. You don't sacrifice much space because of trellises, unless you want to let them sprawl. The Mel's Mix couldn't be a better medium, not that cucumbers are fussy about their soils. And, well, what the wife wants.....the wife gets. It's really about that simple in my house.

If you are dying to try your hand at cucumbers, but are a little spooked like I was, here are the basics. Most places can still get a crop in if you hurry.

Cucumber is a tender, warm-season vegetable that produces well when given proper care and protection. The vines of standard varieties grow rapidly and require substantial space. Vertical training methods and new dwarf varieties now allow cucumbers to be grown for slicing, salads and pickling, even in small garden plots (like SFGs).

Cucumbers are usually started by planting seeds directly in the garden. Plant after the danger of frost has passed, and the soil has warmed in the spring. Warm soil is necessary for germination of seeds and proper growth of plants. With ample soil moisture, cucumbers thrive in warm summer weather. A second planting for fall harvest may be made in mid- to late summer.

Cucumbers may be transplanted for extra-early yields. Sow two or three seeds in peat pots, peat pellets or other containers 3 to 4 weeks before the frost-free date. Thin to one plant per container. Plant transplants 1 to 2 feet apart in rows 5 to 6 feet apart when they have two to four true leaves. Do not allow transplants to get too large in containers or they will not transplant well. Like other vine crops, cucumbers do not transplant successfully when pulled as bare-root plants. Now, I didn't try this for 2011, but cucumbers would likely be a great candidate for vermiculite seed starting. If I can do carrots this way, cucumbers should be no problem, either. Also, remember, two per square is the recommended spacing. But, I will add that mine do fine at 3 per square. I typically plant 3 per square because sometimes mine are a little tough to germinate for some reason.

Cucumber plants have shallow roots and require ample soil moisture at all stages of growth. When fruit begins setting and maturing, adequate moisture becomes especially critical. Cucumbers respond to mulching with soil-warming plastic in early spring or organic materials in summer. Use of black plastic mulch warms the soil in the early season and can give significantly earlier yields, especially if combined with floating row covers.

In small gardens, the vines may be trained on a trellis or fence. When the long, burpless varieties are supported, the cucumbers hang free and develop straight fruits. Winds whipping the plants can make vertical training impractical. Wire cages also can be used for supporting the plants. Do not handle, harvest or work with the plants when they are wet.

Cucumbers usually are eaten when immature. The best size depends upon the use and variety. They may be picked when they are no more than 2 inches long for pickles, 4 to 6 inches long for dills and 6 to 8 inches long for slicing varieties. A cucumber is of highest quality when it is uniformly green, firm and crisp. The large, burpless cucumbers should be 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter and up to 10 inches long. Some varieties can grow considerably larger. Do not allow cucumbers to turn yellow. Remove from the vine any missed fruits nearing ripeness so that the young fruits continue to develop. The cucumber fruit grows rapidly to harvest size and should be picked at least every other day.

Cucumber beetles, aphids, and bacterial wilt seem to cause the most problems with cucumbers.

There are two types of cucumbers common to the home gardener - pickling cucumbers and slicing cucumbers. The phrase "cool as a cucumber" is an apt one. Growing in a field on a hot summer day, the interior flesh is 20 degrees cooler than the outside air temperature.

Harvest cucumbers early in the morning (before have been heated by the afternoon sun) and refrigerate immediately. Store for up to 3 days in the refrigerator in loose or perforated plastic bags. Supermarket cucumbers are covered with an edible wax to protect them from moisture loss. The wax gives them an unnatural sheen. Fresh cucumbers are dull green in color.

Pickling cucumbers — Pickling cucumbers should be picked every day, since they can quickly grow too large for use. Do not leave over-mature, yellow cucumbers on the vine. If a single cucumber is left on the vine, the vine will stop producing altogether.

Slicing cucumbers — Slicing cucumbers should be harvested as needed. But there is no practical use for baseball bat size cucumbers. They are tough and the seeds are woody. Harvest when they are 8 inches long or smaller. As with pickling cucumbers, remove the over mature ones as soon as you see them or they will halt the growth of new cucumbers.

You will have to do a search on pickling if that's your thing. I haven't ever done any pickling personally. But, I can tell you they aren't that tough to grow, and with SFG's spacing techniques, you don't risk anything by giving them a square or two on your trellises.

Have fun and Happy Gardening!

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Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  sherryeo on 7/1/2011, 11:05 pm

Just when I suddenly thought "Hey, what happened to the Friday Rookie Topic, there it appeared! Thanks BBG, great information.

Pretty much the only problem I've had with my cukes this year has been powdery mildew. But Neem and also using that milk spray seems to keep it under control, though I have to do it as a preventative measure and spray about every few days with one or the other to keep it away.

I think I will try planting more cukes for a fall garden this year! I've never tried that.

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 7/1/2011, 11:17 pm

Just don't expect them to make it past the slightest frost. I'd love to see how deep you get into your season with production.

Cucumbers are another plant that does fairly well staggering for harvests, especially early when gambling with spring frosts.

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Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  sherryeo on 7/1/2011, 11:37 pm

I'll try to remember to post back here about my results with my fall cucumbers. I only have one square of cukes now, though I did put 3 plants in the square. More than recommended, I know, but I got carried away with purchasing transplants and didn't want to just throw them away. But I did want to save squares for other veggies, too. They seem to have done fine with 3 per square, just kind of tumble over each other.

They quickly overtook my 4 foot trellis, but I just kept threading them back down and up again as needed. I'd like taller trellises, but will have to figure out how to accomplish that since my first 2 boxes came with trellises.

I'd like to eventually try some of the more unusual varieties, like the lemon cucumbers I've seen others post about and the Armenian types.

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  shannon1 on 7/2/2011, 3:50 am

Next time I plant cucs I will plant self pollenating ones so I can keep them under cover. I hope that way I will get a bigger yeld.

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  Mamachibi on 7/2/2011, 10:16 am

I grow a variety called "Little Leaf" that performs gangbusters. The leaves really are smaller than the standard cucumber leaf, so there is less shading of other plants and they don't take quite as much space. They are smaller, "pickling" type cucumbers, but are just as good eaten plain. And prolific? Yowza. I get at least two cucumbers per plant per day! I'm pretty happy with this variety!

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  capatl on 7/2/2011, 11:10 pm

I just planted some Straight Eight cucumbers today. It says 58 days so I think we may make it? I also only have one cucumber plant (slicer burpless or something) and just wanted more! This is the straggly one I have now, which is producing ok...it had a rough beginning, the bottom of the stem looks ragged and I lost some of the bottom leaves, then decided to use and old trellis that I had handy.



The first few yellowed and died and one was super curved. I did some research and read that uneven pollination can cause the curving. Curiosity got the best of me so I harvested the curvy one and sliced it lengthwise, sure enough the inner, curvy sided seeds were smaller. According to the site I found curving is an indication of uneven fertilization. I hand fertilized two recently and am curious to see how they mature.

The largest cuke seems to be growing straighter the larger it gets. I am a novice, will it continue to fill out at the blossom end? How do I know when to pick?

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  westie42 on 7/3/2011, 9:44 pm

Pick when you no longer can resist or need it for a certain use. Waiting until the skin fills out a bit and is not rough and warty will make the skin less bitter. Waiting much longer will result in more and larger seeds. By variety and usage it is something you just have to learn how to gauge the best picking size.

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 7/3/2011, 10:31 pm

When to pick? Reread the paragraphs on pickling and slicing cucumbers. Also, read the paragraph starting with "Cucumbers are usually eaten when immature."

It's in there.

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  Miss M on 7/4/2011, 3:31 pm

I planted a single burpless tendergreen cucumber, and I am so glad I did! I have never seen so many cucumbers! I have already pickled a bunch, and I have two buckets waiting for me. Shocked

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  pattipan on 7/4/2011, 3:49 pm

I planted two different kinds of cucumbers, Dragon's Egg (eating) and one for pickling called Fin de Meaux. The latter grows gherkins-size cukes. They have overtaken the trellis and are growing out in the aisles -- yikes! As much as it pains me, I think I am going to have to remove at least two of the plants. I have never seen a cucumber plant branch out at every bud terminal like this one does, plus the leaves are huge. I saw lots of honeybees flitting around the yellow bloom -- that good news! This morning I picked a dozen or more little 2" cucumbers from it. I only need 2 cups to make a turn of my French cornichons!



I have four plants of the Dragon's Egg and they are tame-looking in comparison. Just barely up two trellis squares. They have just started to bloom, but I'm anxious to taste one!

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  capatl on 7/4/2011, 10:39 pm

@BackyardBirdGardner wrote:When to pick? Reread the paragraphs on pickling and slicing cucumbers. Also, read the paragraph starting with "Cucumbers are usually eaten when immature."

It's in there.

I should of have asked was is there a way to tell when the optimum time to pick, to slice and eat raw, at its largest, before it is too late... :scratch: I tend to over think things, lol.

Sorry, this is my first cucumber plant, I wanted to see if it would fill out more or something, but didn't want it to get too 'old.'

Thanks for your rookie post, it was very helpful! Seeing all of the various shaped cukes from others also made me feel better. Thanks to you I picked my first cucumber today and shared it with the in-laws...it was great! thanks

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 7/5/2011, 11:33 pm

I overthink things, too. No biggie. Now, don't stop picking cukes....even if you can't use them right away. Let them go too long and they send the signal to the "plant brain" to stop producing for the season. Keep picking and you keep getting.

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  madnicmom on 7/19/2011, 3:08 pm

thank you! I have 4 picklebush plants and I have tons of blooms and bees flying around. I can't wait to make bread n butter and dill pickles! these Friday Rookie threads are the best, Thank you to all of you that write them up!

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 7/19/2011, 7:38 pm

Another tip I just read about picking cukes........if the cucumber still feels "spiny" wait for the spines to smooth off a bit.

I just picked my first one a bit early. I do that every year, though. I pick the first of anything a bit early so I can say I got one before the critters or weather....lol. I have another half dozen or so on the way soon enough.

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  littlejo on 7/19/2011, 9:01 pm

Spiny cukes, at least the ones I planted, never lose their spines. I pick them wearing gloves. I use them for making pickles. I scrub them to remove the spines, just prior to pickling. They 'pickle' better as a whole pickle, for there are all those little holes in the skin.
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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  1airdoc on 1/17/2012, 10:23 am

Really LOVED my cukes last year. The plants were just beginning to bear a steady crop of great fruit when they all suddenly crumped and died. Looks like the wilt gott'em. Subsequently, it was obvious that there were lots of cucumber beetles - the main culprit carrying the wilt bacterium. As a first time gardener, I had not been alert to these creatures.

Word of advice to the other newbies - watch out for the cucumber beetles. Once they bite, they transmit the infection, and it's all over for your cuke harvest.

Any good advice about getting rid of those critters?

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  camprn on 1/17/2012, 10:53 am

Article for Cucumber Beetle Control. <~~~CLICK

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  BetsyC on 5/6/2012, 10:01 pm

I am very new to SFG and planted some bush cucumbers in 3 of my squares ( I really do love cukes!). I hope they do well!

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  momvet on 5/31/2015, 6:52 pm

I haven't grown cucumbers since the days when I could grow just about anything. But I love them, and I love climbing, vining plants so, even though I was skeptical about this whole SFG thing, I decided to give it a try. I planted three varieties from seed, knowing that I only had 3 squares to spare - Ashley, Marketmore and Spacemaster. They did the best of all my seedlings, but really suffered a setback when I put them in the ground. They have all come back with a vengeance - 2 per square, and now I don't know what to do. Questions: 1) Do I need to prune them? 2 per square seems to be a lot, but I have been training them up (well, the Spacemaster seems to be behaving itself) 2) I harvested my first one yesterday - it was a little small and spiny but the top was starting to yellow. It was delicious but I did find a teensy tiny thread-like green worm at the top. Any idea what that might be, and how to keep it from destroying my nice plants?

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  yolos on 5/31/2015, 7:57 pm

I don't know if what you have is a pickle worm or not.  I get them every year but not until around end of July or August.  Very thin lime green worm.  Bores into the cucumber.  ??????????

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  sanderson on 6/1/2015, 1:05 am

Yep. Two cucumber plants per square for SFG.

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  momvet on 6/1/2015, 8:51 pm

@yolos wrote:I don't know if what you have is a pickle worm or not.  I get them every year but not until around end of July or August.  Very thin lime green worm.  Bores into the cucumber.  ??????????
Sounds like it! Very thin, like a thread (I only saw it because it was moving a lot) and bright green. Control suggestions? Does anyone prune them or just train them up the trellis?

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  Marc Iverson on 6/2/2015, 1:23 am

I may not try them this year just because I have much less usable space. I sure love 'em, though.

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

Post  sanderson on 6/2/2015, 3:05 am

http://www.myfoxla.com/story/28708588/2015/04/02/worm

I looks like they can cause real physical (and economic) damage.

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XII: Cucumbers

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