Cucumbers are known for their mild and refreshing taste owing to the fact that up to 90% of the vegetable is water. Despite of this, they manage to provide many health benefits such as being an excellent source of vitamin C which protects the body from a number of infections. They can be consumed in a number of ways such as adding them in fruit salads, vegetable juice, adding them to yogurt or eating them raw.
Growing cucumbers requires a lot of care and attention to detail. This will ensure plentiful harvest and good quality cucumbers. The growth process starts right from site selection, planting, pollination, pest management and harvesting.
Cucumbers generally do well in warm environments. They grow best and produce the most fruit in warm weather. Hence it is best to contain the temperatures because cucumbers are also quite sensitive to cold and can be harmed by frost. The best average temperature for cucumber growth during the growth season is about 65 and 95F.
In cooler regions though cucumbers can be grown in a greenhouse awaiting transplantation for a period of about 20 days to planting in the field.
Another important factor to consider at this stage is soil. Cucumbers do well in soil that has good water infiltration and moisture holding capacities. During the growth season, adequate moisture should be supplied to aid in the maximum growth of the vines. Any form of moisture fluctuations is likely to hinder adequate growth. For example, depletion in soil water will cause growth deformations which could reduce both yield and quality of the crops.
The optimum soil PH range for cucumbers is about 6 to 6.5 which is more acidic than alkaline. So, it is important to do a soil test to determine its PH.
Basically, there are three main varieties of cucumbers that is slicing, pickling and seedless cucumbers. Direct seeding is the best method recommended for planting cucumbers. Slicing cucumbers are planted in single rows on plastic beds with about 10 inches between plants and 5 feet between rows while pickling cucumbers are should be planted on three row beds where rows are about 27 inches apart and plants are about 3 inches apart in a row.
Cucumbers grown in greenhouses should be carefully handled during the transplantation process so as not to damage the tap root. The process should occur before the plant begins to outgrow its container and during the end of a frost period.
Cucumber flowers require insect pollination for maturity. For best results, bees are majorly used in this process. For a large farm such as one acre, a large bee honey population is essential for pollination. One hive per acre is recommended for maximum pollination.
Cucumbers without seeds are parthenocarpic, meaning that the plants will produce fruit that develops normally and do not require any form of pollination or pollinators to produce.
Signs of inadequate pollination include fruit abortion and misshapen fruit. It is essential to ensure that your crop is well pollinated. This could even require you to do hand pollination for maximum results.
The growth of cucumbers is not devoid of attacks from weeds, insects and diseases. However, they are ways to control this pest which include;
1. Crop rotation
This will ensure that pests die in the process and are less likely to attack crops
2. Investing in herbicides
Herbicides are chemicals that control weeds. Proper herbicides are available for cucumbers depending on the type of weed problem and the stage of the cucumber.
3. Planting disease resistant crops
These crops are likely to survive disease attacks and hence better yields and good crop quality.
4. Pulling large weeds by hands
This could be the best method. It protects the vines from injury and gives protection from harsh chemicals such as herbicides.
Harvest and Storage
For the best results, slicing cucumbers are harvested by hand. Because they are pollinated in different times it is best to harvest them daily once they have reached maturity. This will ensure maximum crop output as vines produce more fruit the more they are harvested.
Besides, when cucumbers are left for too long in the field they develop a bitter taste. Pickling cucumbers are generally harvested by machines.
To extend the shelf life of cucumbers it is recommended that they are refrigerated immediately after harvesting. This is important as it removes field heat and help maintains their flavor and appearance.
Cucumbers generally grow fast and do not demand a lot of care. Maintaining proper soil temperature, moisture, protection from weeds and pesticides among other factors will guarantee good yield and good crop quality.