Cucumber - Care
Cucumber plants have shallow roots and require ample soil moisture at all stages of growth. When fruit begins setting and maturing, adequate moisture becomes especially critical. For best yields, incorporate compost or well-rotted manure before planting. Cucumbers respond to mulching with soil-warming plastic in early spring or organic materials in summer. Use of black plastic mulch warms the soil in the early season and can give significantly earlier yields, especially if combined with floating row covers.
Side-dress with nitrogen fertilizer when the plants begin to vine. Cucumber beetles should be controlled from the time that the young seedlings emerge from the soil.
In small gardens, the vines may be trained on a trellis or fence. When the long, burpless varieties are supported, the cucumbers hang free and develop straight fruits. Winds whipping the plants can make vertical training impractical. Wire cages also can be used for supporting the plants. Do not handle, harvest or work with the plants when they are wet.
Pick cucumbers at any stage of development before the seeds become hard. Cucumbers usually are eaten when immature. The best size depends upon the use and variety. They may be picked when they are no more than 2 inches long for pickles, 4 to 6 inches long for dills and 6 to 8 inches long for slicing varieties. A cucumber is of highest quality when it is uniformly green, firm and crisp. The large, burpless cucumbers should be 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter and up to 10 inches long. Some varieties can grow considerably larger. Do not allow cucumbers to turn yellow. Remove from the vine any missed fruits nearing ripeness so that the young fruits continue to develop. The cucumber fruit grows rapidly to harvest size and should be picked at least every other day.
Cucumber beetles — 1/4 inch long. Black and yellow spotted or striped beetles. Feed on foliage, flowers, stems or fruit. Fly from one plant to another.
Crops attacked - Cucumber, muskmelon, pumpkin, squash (summer and winter), watermelon.
Symptoms of damage - Holes in foliage; chewed flowers; scarred stems and fruit surfaces. Spotted and striped cucumber beetles attack seedlings as they emerge from the soil. The beetle may appear in large numbers and can quickly stunt or kill the small plants. Beetles may carry bacterial wilt disease that causes plants to wilt and die.
Aphids — Watch for buildup of colonies of aphids on the undersides of the leaves.
Bacterial Wilt - Plants are infected with the bacterial wilt disease by the attack of cucumber beetles. The disease organism overwinters inside the beetles' bodies. The beetles hibernate among the trash and weeds around the garden, emerging in time to feed on tender cucumber seedlings. Plants usually are infected with the disease-causing bacteria long before they show any symptoms. When the vines wilt and collapse (usually about the same time that the first cucumbers are half grown), it is too late to prevent the disease.