Cucumbers are warm weather plants and should only be set out when the weather warms up and stays warm.
Cold, wet ground is no place for Cucumbers.
For best results, they should be planted in hills or raised beds with excellent drainage.
I always dig plenty of manure down deep, about 30 centimetres below the ground, to give those roots some place to go that is damp and rich in humus when the weather gets hot.
Bitter-free Cucumbers can only be grown if the plants have access to moisture, especially during the fruit-bearing cycle. If you seed Cucumbers, they seem to take off very quickly once the weather warms up, but transplants need a little more care.
Greenhouse-grown transplants need at least four to five days of acclimatization before they can be set out in the ground, and even then they need some protection from the elements.
Old shingles or shakes are ideal because they break the wind.
Incidentally, be very careful not to disturb the rootball of young plants because the roots are extremely tender, and the plants will suffer a severe set back if the roots are damaged.
Young plants are also a prime target for striped and spotted cucumber beetles, so transplants should be dusted with Rotenone or covered with hotcaps or cheesecloth.
Another organic method of discouraging these beetles is by planting radishes, nasturtiums or marigolds near each plant. There are many fine cucumber varieties available today that display good disease tolerance. But to be on the safe side, keep that cucumber patch moving to a different location in your garden each year. Wet spells in the summer, or watering too frequently overhead often cause `alternaria leaf spot.'
As with any disease prevention program, healthy, well-fertilized plants are less susceptible to these problems. But keeping that foliage dry is really important. Copper is an effective fungicide for controlling this problem, but you must act quickly if the disease appears.
Now, as to varieties, the list seems to grow each year. Many experienced gardeners like the old-fashioned `National Pick ling' and `Straight 8' varieties. If you have been having suc cess with these older strains, then stay with them, but there is a wealth of newer varieties on the market and each has its own unique characteristics. For example, `Double Yield Pickling' is the best variety for gherkins and dills. It also produces a high percentage of double pickles at each leaf joint and retains a rich green colour.
When it comes to slicing Cucumbers, it is burpless all the way. If you like the long English types, but don't have a green house handy to keep out those pesky bees who want to polli nate the self-pollinating variet ies, then try either the `Japanese Burpless' or the shorter and sweeter American burpless, `Sweet Slice.'
The great feature of burpless Cucumbers is the fact that you can eat the skin without fear of an upset tummy, and every fruit is bitter free.
Instead of growing these varieties on the ground, take some garden trellis and make an A-frame shape so the plants can grow up one side and down the other. It makes a delightful gar den feature, and it is one sure way to keep the slugs away from your Cucumbers.
If you have limited space, you can grow `Salad Bush' in containers, but be sure to use at least a 33-centimetre tub and mix plenty of sterilized compost in with the potting soil before you plant. I have yet to find a bit ter cucumber from this variety.
If you would really like some thing different, try `Lemon Cu cumbers,' which grow the size, shape and colour of lemons, but still taste like crispy, juicy Cucumbers.
Cucumbers are fun, fast and easy to grow as long as we get a little cooperation from the weather.
Remember: use raised beds and black plastic or trellis frames, try some of the new varieties and keep the roots moist during the hottest part of summer.
Once planted, you will be enjoying that first cucumber sandwich in about 40 to 50 days.
photo by Brian Minter