Friday, May 20, 2011

Cucumber season!

I have some lovely cucumbers coming up right now so I thought I would write about their care and problems.  The ones I chose were Burpee Burpless hybrid and I got them in a four pack when they were very tiny. When I planted them I dug the holes deeper and wider than they needed to be and turned very finished compost into the soil at the rate of about 30% compost to 70% soil and planted them in a five by five foot square at equal distance apart. I also tucked a tiny basil in the middle of them because it needed shelter at the time and it is growing splendidly there feeding off the cucumbers water and fertilizer. When the plants were about half grown and started to put on flowers I side dressed them with a combination of guinea pig used litter (with guinea manure obviously) and half broken down compost. I use a bedding made of soft balls of recycled paper (about pea sized) that takes a while to break down in the garden and helps hold moisture in, everything I have put it on has flourished and my guinea pigs like it to! A similar effect can be achieved with compost mixed with shredded newspaper and compost but I think the bedding works better.  Cucumbers are said to need 6 hours of full sun but mine have done well with four hours of direct and two in indirect sunlight. Cucumbers like to spread out and take over and this can lead to the fruit rotting on the ground so I trellised mine with tomato cages on a lark just to get them off the ground and it has worked really well! When the shoot anchor vines out they can attach to their neighbors cage and their own and they make a support system and it has kept all the fruit off of the ground so far. Also I use no herbicides since I am growing organically so when it gets weedy (which is not often since they are shading the ground around them pretty well) I pull the weeds and mound them up around the bottom of the plants to break down and be turned into mulch. It seems to work really well so far and I have started to do it to the tomatoes as well making sure not to mound it to high or to close to the stems of my plants. At first I was concerned about mulching to close because of root rot and mildew but I have been checking throughout the growing season and I have yet to find any. When you water cucumbers it is important not to drown them and don't let them "go to bed with their feet wet" you also don;t want to let them dry out. If your cucumber is wilted water it immediately no mater the time of day. They need about the equivalent of 1 inch of rain a week. If you get a good long rain you may not need to water the plant for the rest of the week. They don't have a lot of pests, my theory is nothing wants to eat those prickly hairy leaves! They do suffer from powdery mildew and bacterial wilt which usually kills plants when they are about half grown. If you see traces of powdery mildew on a leaf in my experience it is best to pinch the leaf and throw it away. A lot of plants have a hard time coming back from that. They also have a pest that loves them so much it is named after them striped or spotted cucumber beetles. I have written a previous post on organic home made pesticides and you should be able to find a solution for that in there. I haven't (knock on wood) had any problems with mine yet and I hope it stays that way. 

Now for a bit of history ( I will try to make it brief! ;D) the term "burpless" as defined by Burpee themselves is: Burpless' cucumbers, both American and Asian types, contain low or no cucurbitacin, the compound that causes bitterness and increases one's susceptibility to 'burping' after eating the fruits.

I did not know that before this year I must confess! Also the most common garden variety burpless is cucumis stativus in the Latin it is in the gourd family or cucurbitaceae family which includes squash and is in the same genus as muskmelon. Some varietals of cucumber grow up to 2 feet looooong. cumbers are fruits having seeds on the inside and developing from a flower ( the strawberry is the only fruit with seeds on the outside). Cucumbers are usually 90% water but carry a good bit of fiber in the peel. In 2009 a team of research geneticists formally announced they had sequenced the cucumber genome. China produces 60% of the world's cucumbers followed by (in order) Turkey, Russia, Iran and the US. Cucumbers originated in India and have been cultivated in Asia for a documented 3,000 years. Cucumbers are listed as one of the foods of UR and the legend of Gilgamesh describes people eating cucumbers. Charlemagne had cucumbers in his gardens in 9th century Francia. Cucumbers are a good source of manganese and potassium which help regulate blood pressure and promote nutrient functions. So eat up, after all it is better to have a cucumber dipped in ranch dressing than a glass of water!  

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