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Cucumbers

Verena Schmidt Verena Schmidt

All cucumbers are not the same: The popular vegetables are available as field cucumbers, salad cucumbers or gherkins. With the right care, the heat-loving plants provide plenty of yield.

General

Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) are one of the most commonly grown vegetables. They belong to the cucurbitaceae family and, from a botanical point of view, their fruits are berries, as their seeds are embedded in the fruit pulp. Cucumbers have been cultivated for over 3000 years and come from India. Since the 19th century, they have been cultivated in greenhouses in Germany.

A general distinction is made between field cucumbers and salad cucumbers. While salad cucumbers, also called snake cucumbers, are usually cultivated in the, pickled and peeled cucumbers are suitable for planting outside, although there are also types of cucumbers for both types of use. Cucumbers are annual plants that initially lie flat on the ground, then grow by climbing and, depending on the variety, can form shoots 3.28 to 13.12 feet long. While cucumbers and gherkins are cultivated flat on the ground in the plant bed, cucumbers need a trellis.

Usually cucumbers are monoecious, female and male flowers grow on one plant. Modern, reliable varieties of cucumber, on the other hand, only develop female flowers that bear fruit even without pollination. With these parthenocarpic ("virgin") varieties, a fruit develops from each flower. By the way: Several varieties of salad cucumber are also sold commercially as grafted young plants. Seedlings of the fig leaf pumpkin (Cucurbita ficifolia) are used as a rootstock. Grafted snake cucumbers are more resistant to soil-borne fungal diseases and deliver higher yields because they grow vigorously.

Location and Soil

Field cucumbers need a warm, humid and wind-sheltered location in full sun in the plant bed. The soil should be humus-rich and loose, must warm up quickly in spring and must not silt up.

Cucumbers or salad cucumbers also need a warm and bright location. Due to their longer vegetation period and their high heat requirement, they are grown almost exclusively in greenhouses in this country. With cucumbers in the greenhouse, make sure that they are not shaded too much by other plants. In southern regions, greenhouses made of bare glass should be shaded against the blazing midday sun, as the soft leaves burn very quickly, especially when there is poor water supply.

Sowing and Planting

Cucumbers can be sown directly or pre-cultivated. Direct sowing in the cucumber bed is recommended for robust gherkins as well as small-fruited field varieties and is possible from the end of April / beginning of May to the beginning of July. If you sow directly in the plant bed, you should always place three seeds in a planting hole. The distance to the next planting hole should be at least 11.81 inches.

You can pre-cultivate snake cucumbers in pots in the heated greenhouse from mid-March. The young plant cultivation of field cucumbers in pots can be done both in the greenhouse and on the windowsill. However, this should only be done two to three weeks before planting out, otherwise the young plants will be too big before they come into the vegetable patch. For cultivation, place two to three seeds in a pot at least 3.14 inches in diameter, half of which should be filled with potting soil. A high germination temperature of at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit leads to rapid germination success. Place the plants a slightly cooler place after germination. Do not put the young plants in the open field until mid-May.

You can plant cucumber seedlings in the in-ground bed of your heated greenhouse from the beginning of April. In greenhouses without heating, it is better to wait until the end of April. The seedlings are planted deep and lightly pressed to create additional side roots. In the case of grafted cucumbers, however, the grafting site must be above the ground. Ideally, cucumber seedlings should only have two, gherkins two to three well-developed leaves. Large preserving jars or glass covers, which are placed over the young plants in the open air, provide the necessary warmth during the growth phase. When planting out, be careful not to damage the roots. The planting distance in the greenhouse is 51.18 to 66.92 inches between the rows and about 15.74 inches in the row. A distance of 39.37 x 15.74 inches is ideal for free-range cucumbers.

Crop Rotation and Mixed Cultivation

Cucumbers should only be grown on the same area again after four years. Good preceding crops are cereals, legumes, and celery. Moreover quick growing crops such as lettuce, rocket leaves and radishes, to make optimal use of the cultivation area. After harvesting these vegetables, the warmth-loving cucumbers usually take up the space for themselves.

Care

Cucumbers are strong uptakers and their water requirements are also quite high. It is especially important to water the plant regularly during fruit formation and when it is dry. It is best to water them with lukewarm water in the morning. In this way you also avoid the formation of bitter fruits. A mulch layer made of straw keeps the soil loose and keeps the fruit clean in case of field cucumbers. Rotten cow dung (about five liters per square meter) and mature compost work well as the base fertilization for bed preparation. In addition, during the main harvest season you can occasionally fertilize with horn meal or organic liquid fertilizer such as comfrey slurry. When growing cucumbers in the greenhouse, a thin layer of mulch made from grass clippings promotes growth.

Cucumbers grow tall on strings

In the greenhouse, cucumbers are directed upwards on strings

In general, all cucumbers can be directed upwards. More importantly, however, snake cucumbers in the greenhouse are usually drawn on cords that hang from a tightly stretched wire. For this purpose, the new shoot is wrapped around the cord twice a week as its length increases. To avoid early fruit growth in young seedlings so as not to weaken them, it is common to cut all side shoots up to a height of about 31.49 inches after the first leaf attachment. In the course of cultivation, the main shoot of the plant should also be cut so that it does not become too long. In the case of field cucumbers, the main shoot is usually cut off after the fifth or sixth leaf in order to stimulate the formation of side shoots. You can do without the pruning of the field cucumbers as well as the occasionally recommended pulling out of flower buds.

In contrast to the snake cucumbers, you can grow field cucumbers on the ground or on a trellis. A 6.56 feet high wire mesh, a comparable trellis or sturdy wooden posts are suitable for this.

As a free natural fertilizer, using diluted nettle manure with water in a ratio of 1:10 has proven to be effective. Alternatively, the plants can also be supplied with a commercially available organic vegetable fertilizer from the beginning of June.

Harvest

Cucumbers bring their first fruits just eight to nine weeks after sowing. The more often you pick, the richer the cucumber plants will set new fruits. Up to three harvests per week are necessary for snake cucumbers, gherkins ripen almost daily. The freshly harvested fruits will keep for a good week in the refrigerator's vegetable compartment. They should be eaten while they are still solid. The water-rich fruits are not suitable for freezing. Instead, you can pickle cucumbers perfectly. You can also preserve field cucumbers well by pickling them.

Varieties

Cucumbers come in different sizes: “Eiffel” and “Dominica” are snake cucumbers with a length of up to 13.77 inches. “Paska” and “Printo” form medium-length fruits of up to 7.87 inches. Crunchy snack cucumbers only ten centimeters long are “Iznik” or “Picolino”. These varieties, which are suitable for the greenhouse, are parthenocarpic, mostly free of bitter substance F1 hybrids with high resistance to common diseases. With these varieties, a fruit can form from every flower.

“Gergana” is an almost smooth-skinned, slim field cucumber. If you prefer the plants, the cucumbers “Johanna”, “Hoffmans Giganta” or “Chinese snakes” are also suitable for field cultivation in mild regions and in warm, sunny locations. “Qualitas” is a high-yielding and vigorously growing cucumber plant that is also suitable for both the field and the greenhouse. “La Diva” also feels just as good outdoors as it does in a greenhouse. Its fruits are low in seeds and completely free of bitter substances.

A new breed for the greenhouse is “Helena” with long smooth fruits and a dark green color. It only forms a few male flowers. ‘Conqueror’ is an old variety with large fruits. Field cucumberscan be prepared and bottled as mustard pickles. “Marketmore” is suitable for this with its dark green, smooth fruits.

The "Yellow cucumber" can weigh up to two kilograms when fully grown. True-to-seed gherkins include “Garden cucumber” and “Vert Petit de Paris”. “Picklebush” can be harvested as a classic gherkin or, at around 5.90 inches in length, as a small land cucumber. There are also round-fruited cucumbers such as “Limona” with yellow fruits or “White apple cucumber” with white, apple-shaped fruits.

Diseases and Pests

(Pseudoperonospora cubensis) occurs most frequently, especially on cool nights with high dew formation. An infestation can be identified by yellow, demarcated spots on the upper side of the leaf that gradually turn brown before the leaf dies. As a preventive measure, you should only water the lower area of the plants and give horsetail manure every two weeks. It can also help to let the plants grow on a trellis so that they can dry off better. Weak leaves are signs of a cucumber wilt.

Powdery mildew infestation are primarily seen in greenhouses after drought: A patch-like, white fungal growth is seen on the surface of the leaves, which eventually causes the leaves to die. Larger planting distances during planting reduce the risk of infestation. Resistant varieties can also be selected from the outset. For example, the cucumber “Bella” or the gherkin “Excelsior” are ideal. Spidermites often occur in the greenhouse. They can be fought very well with beneficial insects such as predatory mites, predatory bugs or reticulated winged birds. Damage to the root neck of young plants is characteristic of Millipedes.

Frequently Asked Questions

From where do cucumbers come?

Cucumbers are originally from India and have been cultivated since the 19th century. in Germany.

Where do cucumbers grow?

Cucumbers need a warm and possibly a bright location. They lie on the ground first before climbing upwards. Depending on the variety, they form shoots up to 13.12 feet long. Depending on the variety, a trellis is required.

When can you sow cucumbers?

Some varieties can be sown in a heated greenhouse as early as March. Direct sowing is possible between the end of April and the beginning of July.

When can cucumbers be planted?

From mid-May you can plant young plants in the outdoors.

When can cucumbers go into the greenhouse?

Depending on the variety, the cucumber seedlings can be planted in a heated greenhouse as early as April. In the case of unheated greenhouses, you should wait until the end of April.

How much water do cucumbers need?

Cucumbers need a lot of water to grow. A single cucumber plant needs almost twelve liters of water during the entire cultivation phase.

When can you harvest cucumbers?

Cucumbers can be harvested eight to nine weeks after sowing.

What is the best way to store cucumbers?

Cucumbers can be stored for about one to two weeks at high humidity and a temperature between ten and twelve degrees Celsius.

Why do some cucumbers taste bitter?

Some cucumbers contain bitter substances. But even those that do not contain bitter substances can sometimes taste bitter. Possible causes include too much nutrients, too cold water or a prolonged dry period.

How many calories does a cucumber have?

100 grams of cucumber contain around 12 kilocalories.

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