by Brian Minter
Can you imagine a salad without cucumbers? Don’t you love a cool crisp cucumber sandwich on a hot day, or fresh cucumbers in vinegar?
And what would a grilled cheese sandwich or hamburger be without pickles? Well, cucumbers are just about the most popular vegetable in the home garden (remember: tomatoes are fruits).
Cucumbers have been around for a while too. They have been cultivated both in India and China for about 3,000 years. Columbus is generally given credit for introducing them to North America. Now, of course, there is some dispute as to whether he actually made it here, but we are, nonetheless, fortunate to have these wonderful vegetables, and now, finally, is the time they should be planted.
I know this because all the folks who planted cucumbers earlier are now going back to garden shops to replace their first and second crops that have already died due to the cold and disease.
Cucumbers are warm-weather plants and should only be set out when night temperatures are constantly around 10°C.
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 12 inches 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 quickly once the weather warms up, but transplants need 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 are ideal because they break the wind. Be very careful not to disturb the rootball of young plants because the roots are extremely tender.