Especially for beginning gardeners, it’s important to pick a vegetable that’s easy to care for and is versatile enough to be included in your everyday meals. And while many start with tomatoes, they’re a little bit harder to sustain than other plants. Cucumbers however, are a very hands-off crop iscover everything you need to know about growing cucumbers.
Growing Cucumbers Table of Contents
- How to grow cucumbers
- Seed Recommendations
- Tips and tricks
- Harvesting Cucumbers
- How to can or preserve
- Health Benefits of eating cucumbers
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Growing Cucumbers the Right Way
Whether you’re growing cucumbers right from the seed or having the transplants put in, remember to not start earlier than 2 weeks after the last frost date, because cucumbers are very susceptible to damage due to frost. Choose a site that has full sun exposure and soil that is neutral or a bit alkaline, but fertile. If needed, simply add compost to the area to make the soil rich enough to produce a good crop of cucumbers. It is a good idea to grow the cucumber seeds indoors for around 3 weeks before you transplant them into the ground- this will help you get an early crop. Plant them approximately 1 foot apart from one another and 2 inches deep into the ground.
The cucumber plant loves to climb, so you can also install a trellis or a tomato cage to scramble up. Many gardeners also build string trellises. Just find something that works for both the space and materials you have.
Tips & Tricks to take proper care of your garden cucumber plants
Now that you’re done with the planting, it’s time to move on to discovering how to care for your cucumber plant. Follow these actionable tips and tricks and you’ll be sorted!
- The cucumber plant has large sized leaves, so make sure you keep watering the plant frequently and ensure that the soil isn’t dry and that the whole plant is getting proper hydration. But, make sure you consistently water the plant. Inconsistent watering can make the cucumbers taste bitter.
- Feeding the plant some rich compost can also help, since cucumbers are heavy feeders- use a good water soluble fertilizer to add nutrients to the soil.
- It is a good idea to water the plant in the early hours of the day. This can also help prevent leaf diseases that ruin the plant.
- Ensure that the vines are exposed to sunlight, but they still don’t receive a lot of heat.
- Keep the cucumber patch free of weeds and use row covers to help the plants grow faster and better.
Harvesting & Storing Cucumbers
Depending upon the type of cucumbers you’re growing, you can begin harvesting within 70 days after planting. Remember to pick the fruits before they get too large- if you let them get too large, they will be more likely to taste bitter.
First, you’ll have to determine when the right time to pick a cucumber is. Touch the flesh- if it has a uniform color and feels firm and crisp, it is the right time to harvest it.
Harvesting cucumbers is not tricky at all- all you need to do is grab the fruit and cut the stem from around a quarter inch above it with a pair of pruning shears or even just gently pull the cucumber from the vine connection point.
How to can and preserve cucumbers
Pickles can either be fermented in brine (salt) or packed in vinegar. Many ill pickles are fresh-packed pickles, also called quick- process pickles.
The best cucumbers are 3 to 6 inches long, firm and not wrinkled, best to be a pickling variety. They are best freshly harvested but sometimes you have to pick several times over a few days to get the amount you need. So after washing them, let them sit covered with ice for an hour to firm them up.
Homemade dill pickles is pretty simple.
Use 8 pounds of cucumbers cut into halves lengthwise.
- If you want whole pickles cut off 1/16th off the blossom end.
- Combine ¾ cup sugar,
- ½ cup canning salt,
- 1 quart white vinegar,
- and 1 quart water in a large sauce pot.
Do not use an aluminum pot!
- Tie spices—3 tablespoons mixed pickling spices in a cheesecloth bag, and add to vinegar mixture. Simmer 15 minutes.
Clean jars and place them in a 200 degree oven to dry and heat. Pack cucumers into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch head space. Put a head of fresh head of dill (green or dry) in each jar. Or you can use dill seed purchased at the store.
Bring vinegar mixture to a boil. Pour hot liquid over cucumbers, leaving the ¼ inch headspace.
Remove air bubbles by pushing a knive down along the inside of the jars along all sides. Wipe jar rims. Have flats boiling in a small pan on the stove to warm up the rubber seal on them, picking these up with a magnetic wand and place on jar rims and tighten down the screw rings. Process pints and quarts 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. No need to pressure can which I like!
When done processing place on clean towel on the counter and allow to cool and seal overnite.
This recipe yields about 7 pints.
My canning book says to make these kosher dill, just add these items to each jar when packing the cucumbers…1 bay leaf, 1 clove garlic, 1 piece hot red pepper, ½ teaspoon mustard seed. Then follow the above recipe. I usually just put the garlic in and forego the other items so it is your personal preference on adding all or only a few of these.
And another alternative is Mrs. Wages dill pickle packets with simplify things down to using vinegar and her pouch of seasonings in a non-reactive saucepan. Bring mixture to a medium boil, stirring constantly until mixture dissolves. Remove from heat. Pack cucumbers in sterilized hot jars and divide the pickling mixture among the jars and follow procedures above. An extraof mrs. Wage’s mixture can be saved in a jar in the refrigerator for a week.
To ferment pickles, it just takes time to allow the brine to ferment.
7 Best of the Best Benefits of Eating Cucumbers
Lightly crisp and with a refreshing flavor, cucumbers are an incredibly versatile veggie that can be added to your diet super easily.
Support Heart Health
Cucumbers are a rich source of potassium, which has been known to help regulate blood pressure levels. It is also believed that this potassium can help improve the transmission of nerve impulses and improve muscle contraction, both of which boost heart health.
Give the Body an Antioxidant Boost
Cucumbers are also an excellent source of antioxidants- particularly vitamin C and beta carotene. They also contain modest amounts of flavonoids including luteolin, kaempferol, quercetin and more, all of which boost overall health and significantly reduce your risk of chronic disease.
Related: How to reduce your food waste
The fact that cucumbers can actually reduce stress may sound too good to be true, but it is proven. Cucumbers are rich in B vitamins particularly vitamin B1, B5 and B7, which have been found to reduce anxiety and help individuals deal with their stress better. Another good reason to start your meals with a salad packed with cucumbers- right?
Several studies have found that cucumbers can actually cool down the inflammatory response of the body quite effectively. The extracts of this vegetable have been found to inhibit the activity of enzymes associated with inflammation. Adding it to your smoothies or salads is a great way to get more of them and reap the benefits of their anti-inflammatory powers.
Promote Bone Health
You may be surprised at this one, but yes, cucumbers are great for your bones as well. They are a rich source of vitamin K which help maintain bone health and having just a cup of cucumber can give your body upto 20% of its daily requirement of the vitamin. Adding more cucumbers to your diet is a good way to reduce your risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
Related: Simple food preservation for beginners.
Help with Weight Management
Cucumbers are actually very low in calories, and are still pretty filling. Plus, they are also full of fiber and fluid, which is why, they help keep you feeling full for a longer period of time, thereby helping you manage your weight better.
Improve Digestive Health
Cucumbers are literally packed with two of the most important elements needed for a healthy digestive system- water and fiber. Cucumbers are full of water and insoluble fiber (among other minerals and nutrients), which help add bulk to your stool and make its passage easier. Infact, cucumbers are the best veggies for those suffering from constipation and other digestive irregularities.
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