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Plant of the Month -- Cucumbers

While cucumbers are a “green” vegetable, they are not nutrient rich.  They are approximately 95% water only containing some vitamin, C, K, magnesium, and manganese.  However, the true genius of the unassuming cucumber lies in its alter ego, the pickle.  American’s consume more than 9lbs of pickles annually making them one of the most popular foods in the US.

Slicing cucumbers are the most common cucumbers found in supermarkets. The pickling variety are often shorter and skinnier than slicing cucumbers.  Commercially they are  to be as uniform as possible, so the processing of the pickle yields consistent results.  Burpless are typically longer and have a thinner flesh.  They contain fewer seeds and some varieties are seedless.  They are   wrapped in plastic, in the grocery store.

Here are a few tips for growing cucumbers in either your greenhouse or vegetable patch.

1. Keep them properly hydrated.  Drip irrigation is preferable, but if it is not possible a weekly soaking with at least 1” of water is better than frequent less saturated watering.

2. Use dark mulch.  This will help control soil moisture and temperature levels.  Cucumbers love warm moist soil so the darker the mulch the better.

3. Wait to sow seeds or set out transplants until at least 2 weeks after the last frost.

5.  Make room. Giving plants the space they require is always important.  Giving cucumbers their space is important as they need a fair amount of real estate.  Grow trellised plants 8 to 12 inches apart. Hills with one or two seedlings should be spaced about 3 feet apart, with rows 4 to 5 feet apart.

6. Think vertical!  Growing cucumbers on a trellis, fence, or other support makes the best use of garden space.  By containing the vines and keeping them from sprawling throughout the garden, this keeps the fruits clean and straight as they develop above the ground.

6. Banish weeds. Keep your cucumber patch and the area around it free of weeds.  This is a good practice for most plants but especially for cucumbers. Some types are hosts for bacterial wilt disease, which is  by cucumber beetles.

Happy Planting!  Stay tuned, next month we will be featuring beets!