Cucumber (cucumis sativus) is a widely cultivated plant of the gourd family, originally from Southern Asia, but nowadays grown on most continents throughout the world. Its creeping vines bear cylindrical fruits that have a refreshing flavour and a crisp texture. Since cucumbers develop from flowers and have enclosed seeds they are botanically classified as accessory fruits, though, much like tomatoes they are often perceived, prepared and eaten as vegetables.
|USDA Hardiness Zones||4 to 11|
|Sun Exposure||Full Sun|
|Temperature||60°F – 90°F|
Cucumbers grow rather rapidly and are characterized by hairy stems and large leaves. The vines produce tendrils that can be trained to climb. Since cucumbers are large and heavy the plant self regulates its fruit production. This enables the plant to carry fruits efficiently without exerting much pressure on the stems. Thus, a good way to maximize your yields would be to harvest cucumber as soon as they reach picking size, thereby, prompting the plant for subsequent production.
Most cucumber plants are monoecius and produce both male and female flowers. While the gynoecius type bears only female flowers and require pollination from separate male flowering plants.
English cucumber is long and green and is prized for its thin skin and minimal seeds.
Persian cucumbers come in a range of sizes and are mostly dark green in colour. Grown throughout the world they are more commonly found in the Middle Eastern markets.
Greenhouse cucumber variety produces self fertile flowers thereby eliminating the need for pollination by insects.
Slicing cucumbers like the Straight 8 variety are grown to be eaten fresh. They tend to be longer and have a much tougher skin.
Pickling Varieties include SMR 18, West India Gherkin, Pioneer and Mariner.
Popular Burpless Varieties are Burpless 26 and Sweet Slice.
Novelties: Lemon Cucumber (fruit size and colour of a lemon), China or Kyoto (an extra long cucumber).
A trellis is basically an architectural structure with an open framework used as a support base for vines and other climbing plants. An “A” shaped trellis works well and is also relatively simple to construct. They are generally available in farm supply stores and usually come in 16 foot long panels that are 2-3 feet wide. Using bolt cutters they can be easily customised as per individual needs.
Trellis farming involves just 2 simple steps:
Firstly, place the trellis firmly on the ground shaped in the form of a tent covering your cucumber plant.
The second part is to train your plants to climb, by gently winding their tendrils up the fence, during the growing season. After a few days the vines will be able to climb naturally upwards the trellis without any additional assistance.
Cucumber trellis farming has multiple benefits. Besides the fact that it maximises your grow space; the fruits are cleaner, straighter and of a more uniform colour. The plants are easier to water at the main stem and the fruit is much easier to harvest.
The application of pesticides and home remedy treatments aid in pest control. Regularly spraying your plants with a combination of garlic, pepper and vinegar mixed in equal parts of water reduces the risk of diseases without adversely damaging your plant.
If you want to make pickles then harvest your cucumbers when they are two to four inches long. For most types the harvest can begin midsummer onwards.
For normal consumption purposes cucumbers are ready for harvest in around 12 weeks from sowing. Look for fruits that are uniformly green and firm as those are the ones ready to be picked. Vines produce more fruit the more you harvest, so check the vines daily for newly emerging fruits. Avoid pulling the fruits as it may damage the vines. To remove the fruit simply cut above the stem using a clean pair of clippers or a sharp knife. Harvest Lemon cucumbers just before they begin turning yellow because if left on the vine for too long they’ll end up turning bitter.
Cucumbers are more than 90 percent water which makes it a great summer fruit. Moreover the fact that it can be made into pickles or used in salads makes it easier for us to infuse it into our everyday diet.