Growing Cucumbers: One of the joys of growing a summer garden is to cut a cucumber into slices directly from the vine and enjoy the first crispy, cool bite. The goal: to grow an abundance of cucumbers with a sweet, refreshing taste. But sometimes, no matter how hard you try, they taste bitter.
Stressed plants tend to develop this unfortunate taste, but the level of bitterness depends on the severity of the stress. In general, stress is often caused by inadequate and uneven moisture, but extreme temperatures and poor nutrition can also play a role. Minimize stress and maximize taste by following these steps when growing cucumbers:
1. Keep your cucumbers hydrated
Provide cucumber plants with plenty of moisture, especially during the flowering and fruiting process. Any water stress during this phase of rapid growth leads to an increase in the content of bitter tasting compounds. Cucumbers grow vigorously and therefore require between 1 and 2 inches of water a week, depending on the weather and soil type. The key is to keep the floor slightly damp at all times. Water deeply about once or twice a week – and more often if you work in sandy soil.
2. Add mulch to your cucumber bed
To further reduce water stress, surround cucumber plants with mulch to maintain and mitigate moisture while also hiding weeds. Just wait until summer or after the soil has warmed to over 30 ° C before applying organic mulches like straw.
3. Adjust the temperature
Cucumbers like warm conditions, but growing cool and tasty cukes in the heat can sometimes be a challenge. In fact, high temperatures not only affect fruit quality, but can also cause plants to produce more male flowers. For your information: Female flowers produce fruit. male flowers usually appear first and then fall off.
“Cucumbers are very sensitive to high heat,” says gardener Emily Gatch, coordinator for greenhouses and pathology at Seeds of Change in New Mexico. “It can be very difficult for plants if the temperatures are constant in the mid-1990s.” If you grow cucumbers in a hot climate, Gatch recommends providing plants with filtered shade in the afternoon to help cool them off by strategically planting taller plants at the southern end or adding a shade fabric to block 40 to 50% of the sunlight .
4. Give cucumber plants sunlight and good soil
To get the most tasty fruits and optimal yields, grow the plants in a sunny location and in warm, fertile and well-drained soils that are rich in organic matter and have a pH between 6 and 7. If possible, plant cucumbers in a raised bed or container garden to ensure that the soil is draining properly. Wait until the seeds are sown or discontinue the transplants until the risk of frost has passed and the soil has warmed to at least 60 degrees – usually two weeks after the last frost. You can start sowing outdoors three to four weeks before your expected planting date.
5. Fertilize cucumber plants
Plants are heavy feed. Therefore, feed the soil with rich compost or aged manure. After the vines have developed and the first flowers appear, you should use a side dressing of compost, aged manure or fertilizer once a month.
When the leaves of your plant turn yellow, it’s a sign that they need more nitrogen. Give extra space for cucumber plants – literally. For your information: lattice plants should be planted 8 to 12 inches apart, shrub varieties should be planted 3 feet apart in all directions, and hills with one or two seedlings should be spaced about 3 feet apart with rows in one Distance of 4 to 5 feet can be planted.
6. Get rid of weeds
The best way to protect your cucumbers from pests like cucumber beetles is to weed the area frequently. Weeds can be hosts for wilting bacterial diseases that are spread by cucumber beetles. Over time, these beetles can kill a cucumber plant, especially if it is already stressed due to poor water, sun, or soil conditions.
7. Use line covers
Row covers, hot caps (or plastic milk cartons with caps removed) and plastic tunnels are great for getting your cucumber garden up and running. Row covers not only help plants grow and bloom faster, they also protect plants from pests. Only remove the cover once the plants start to bloom.
8. Grow flowers nearby
Plants get along like humans with a little help from their friends. Cucumbers need to be pollinated to produce, so plant pollinator-friendly flowers nearby. If you don’t attract pollinators, you will likely get cucumber flowers, but no fruits or odd-shaped fruits.
To plant different types of cucumber
Some common cucumber varieties contain compounds known as cucurbitacins that make fruits taste bitter. Under stress, the cucurbitacin level rises and causes an unpleasant bitter taste. Here is some good news: You can prevent bitterness altogether by choosing different types of cucumber that contain a specific gene that prevents the formation of cucurbitacins. These long, very slender, seedless specimens, which can be labeled “burpless”, are usually sold in shrink wrap with plastic to protect their thin skin.
Remember that different types of cucumber grow best under certain conditions. For example, Pick-a-bushel, Parisian pickle, and Salad bush are all compact bush varieties, so they should be planted in raised beds or mulch gardens. diva, Martini, and Just eight are cucumbers that crawl over the floor or climb onto a grid.
Not sure which variety to plant this year? Try some of our favorite picks in your garden:
- Holland greenhouse (64 days from planting to maturity): A Dutch greenhouse type that can be grown outdoors; These bitter-free and burpless cukes have a cool and sweet taste. For straight fruit, prune the vines.
- Marketmore 97 (55 days): Developed at Cornell University, it is a bitter-free slicer and disease-resistant.
- Tyria (56 days): Another Dutch greenhouse type that produces lightly ripped, dark green fruits up to 14 inches long. Harvest between 10 and 12 cm long for best taste.
- Amira (55 days): Middle Eastern type; sweeter taste than most with a crispy texture; thin-skinned fruits are best harvested at 4 to 5 inches.
- Cool breeze (45 days): A French gherkin type (small pickles for pickling); smooth skin; sweet and crispy meat with great taste; harvested when 4 to 5 cm long; puts fruit without pollination.
- diva (55 days): smooth, thin, non-peelable skin; clearly tender, crispy and delicately sweet; best picked at 4 to 5 inches.
- Orient express (64 days): Tasty eastern type with thin-skinned, dark green fruits; Vines very disease tolerant.
- Sweet Marketmore (62 days): Disease-resistant vines produce constantly in hot or cold weather; great taste without burping.
- Delicious green (65 days): Very tasty with sweet and juicy dark green, slim fruits; can be grown inside or outside.
- Armenian (60 days): Also known as snake melon; looks good in hot weather. Long, slender light green fruits are without a backbone and almost always curved, unless they grow on a trellis and are harvested at a length of 30 cm. The fruit is somewhat sweet with a mild, slightly citrus taste.
- Socrates (52 days): Works well in cooler conditions; can be grown indoors in places that remain between 50 and 82 ° F; dark green, thin-skinned fruits are sweet, tender and seedless.
How to harvest cucumbers
Depending on the variety Cucumbers are ready for harvest 50 to 70 days after planting. You can count on longer harvests of high-quality cukes if you pick the fruit frequently and before it gets too big.
The size at which you harvest depends on the cultivated variety. For optimal taste and texture, American slicers are generally best when harvested 6 to 8 inches in length. Middle Eastern types like Amira should be picked at 4 to 6 inches; most pickers at 3 to 5 inches; and Asian varieties at 8 to 12 inches.
To harvest, simply grasp the fruit and cut the stem a centimetre above with a cut or kitchen scissors. You can keep harvested cucumbers in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days. But there is no agreement: the more you harvest, the more fruit your cucumber plant will produce. So keep picking them!