Its Summer people, time to💧hydrate💧 with some cool, crispy and juicy Cucumbers🥒🥒. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you can have them just fresh off the vine 😃.
The cucumber is a member of the botanical family Cucurbitaceae, along with honeydew, cantaloupe, and watermelon. Made up of 95 percent water, cucumbers are naturally low in calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium. It’s a fruit, not a vegetable.
Cucumbers are known as Vellerikai in Tamil, Dosakaya in Telugu and Kheera in Hindi. It has a light to dark green color skin, moisture-rich flesh with edible seeds inside and is best enjoyed sliced in your salads & sandwiches, pickled, refreshing drinks, or to soothe puffy eyes & sunburn. It helps in Calcium absorption for healthy bones – very important for women as we are prone to osteoporosis later in life.
Growing your own is very easy – just regular watering , feeding, loads of sunshine and then just regular picking of cucumbers in no time😃. You don’t really need a backyard or garden to grow cucumbers. Even us tiny city balconies can boast provided you have enough sunlight.😇
Where can you buy seeds : From garden centers of Home Depot, Lowes, OSH and nurseries. Dollar Stores carry seeds during Spring (cannot guarantee germination though). You could also order them online. Or, use saved seeds from a ripe fruit. I personally get the organic/non-gmo ones from Home Depot.
Now, for the exciting part :
Make sure you get these things ready :
- A sunny spot – cucumbers need at least 5-6 hours of sunlight to flourish
- Cucumber seeds ( I bought the Marketmore variety)
- 2-3 gallon pot ( I used a horizontal planter and successfully grew three plants in it )
- Trellis for your vines to grow on – you can either buy one from a store or build one like I did.
- Organic Potting Mix
- Organic Fertilizer – a balanced one
Prepare your soil : Mix in some crushed eggshells and organic fertilizer. This will give your seedlings a good start.
Place your pots in a sunny spot – it should get at least 5-6 hours of sunlight for optimum growth. I have them on an east facing balcony against the wall.
Sow seeds a 1/2 inch deep and 24 inches apart (ideally). I grew them about 8 inches apart. Keep it moist ( not wet) until seedlings emerge. It can take 5-7 days to germinate. You can even see the seed that I sowed in the pic below. Keep the soil moist until true leaves appear.
Trellis it up : The seedlings will start growing tendrils when they have grown about 4-5 leaves. Tendrils are basically the plants’ way of providing itself support so that it can grow upright. Tendrils are slender curling appendages that will curl onto anything nearby to provide the plant some support. Now is the time you provide that “anything” with a trellis. You can also guide them by curling them onto the trellis.
You could buy them at stores and nurseries or build your own. I decided to go the frugal way after researching online. I basically used some kind of tape that I bought from Dollar store, created columns and rows, tied the intersections so that they provide better support to the vines and that’s it.If you have yours against a railing , you will just need to create rows with twine or tape. Make sure they are taut as they have to support the plant as well as the weight of the cucumbers. Btw, that milk jug is my watering can 🤓 .
Water and feed regularly : Cucumbers are heavy feeders – they need loads of sunshine and water. They are very childlike – will let you know the moment they are a little dry by drooping so sad that you will run and water them. And, they will perk back up right away 😀 . That’s mostly it – add a balanced fertilizer every three weeks and just keep watering regularly with some patience 🙂 . You will soon see loads of cute yellow flowers on it. Do not despair if none of them turn into cucumbers because they won’t as they are male flowers.
Mother Nature has her own way of dealing with things 😀 . Cucumbers are not self-pollinating unlike tomatoes and peppers ( they have both the male and female parts in the same flower). Cucumbers first put out clusters of male flowers to attract bees and other pollinators to the plant. Then after a week or two, female flowers come up. You can very easily distinguish the male and female flowers; the females come with a tiny cucumber attached. Duh! 😜
You can see them in the pic above. The small cucumber like thing attached to is the ovary which turns into a mature cucumber once the flower gets pollinated. You must have also noticed spikes on them, these are cucumber’s defense mechanism to help protect against insects eating them ( they carry toxins enough to harm a caterpillar). That explains why there weren’t any caterpillars on mine. But, the dreaded aphids did give my cucumbers a visit 😡 .
You will find the plant growing and producing so quickly that you might even think the unthinkable ( Please Stopp!! ). You will be rewarded with an abundant crop in no time. I guarantee you will have a tough time finding them underneath the leaves 😀
The Harvest : Your seed packet will tell you how long your cucumbers can get and how many days to harvest. For example, mine (Marketmore Cucumbers) can grow 6-8 inches long and can be harvested in 60 days. Different cucumbers have different lengths and time to harvest will vary depending on climatic conditions too. You could let them grow their full length or harvest them when they are younger , they will still taste great. But, the longer they are on the vine ( after fully growing), the bitter they will become. Also, picking cucumbers early and often encourages more produce in the season. I would prefer many smaller cucumbers that I can enjoy through the season than just a few long ones. Marketmore Cucumbers – only more and more cucumbers 🤠 .
Make sure your cucumbers are a nice medium to dark green color, firm to hold and heavy. Hold the cucumber in one hand (be mindful of the spikes) and cut it at the base where it connects to the main plant with a pair of clean scissors or shears.
Look at my first cucumber above. I let this one grow its full length and it tasted amazing. Just remember to pick them as soon as they reach their full length. Its’ defense mechanism is so strong that it sent out spikes even on that small stem (attached to the cucumber after cutting) as soon as I cut it off the vine 😌 .
Just Pick, Eat and Hydrate
- Check your seed packet for instructions on sowing, spacing, harvest and sunlight/water requirements
- Mixing eggshells in the soil around the plants base or while planting will help with blossom end rot. Blossom end rot is usually due to Calcium deficiency
- Water regularly in the mornings to avoid diseases as any water logging and too much moisture is ground for diseases. Cucumbers do not tolerate neglect
- If you find your female flowers drying up and falling, you might need to hand pollinate them and also, check on your watering schedule
- Don’t fret if the number of flowers turning into growing cucumbers is less, sometimes it’s the climate and sometimes it’s just dumb luck
- Keep checking your cucumbers growth and do not let them touch the soil – they will start rotting on contact with the soil
- Do not try to snap the cucumbers off the vine, because that could bring the whole plant down 😱
- Plant a bunch of marigolds along with your cucumbers , their fragrance keeps many pests/insects at bay.
That’s it – Easy Peasy 😎 Well…some work but nevertheless easy😬
Get out, get your hands dirty and let me know how yours turned out !!
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