Growing and Saving the Seed Of Cucumbers
Latin name Cucumis sativis is believed to have originated in India and to be descended from a wild cucurbit native to the Himalayas. Their diverse forms and flavors make cucumber a truly global crop.
Cucumbers are believed to have been cultivated in Asia since about 1000 BC. Cleopatra is said to have credited her beauty to a steady diet of pickled cucumbers.
- Direct seed cucumbers ½ inch deep when soil has warmed to at least 65 degrees, or two weeks after the last spring frost.
Create one-foot mounds about 2.5 feet apart; plant 5 seeds in each mound. Once plants are 3-4 inches tall, thin to one in each mound, leaving the strongest plant.
For an early crop, start indoors 1 week before last frost date; transplant out when plants are 3 weeks old. Cucumbers that remain in pots longer than 3 weeks become stunted and will grow slowly!
Seeds germinate in 7-14 days.
Ideal temperature is between 70-90 F.
- Cucumbers need abundant soil moisture and rich soil.
Some afternoon shade is beneficial in the hottest weather of summer.
Trellis cukes to save space and make weeding, mulching and harvesting easier. Harvest frequently to maintain production.
Cucumbers will peak quickly and die, so it is best to succession plant cucumbers every two weeks until late summer.
Radishes are a great companion plant for cucumbers.
A layer of mulch will retain moisture and suppress weeds.
- Cucumbers produce both male and female flowers, but only female flowers produce fruit. At the beginning of the flowering stage, mostly male flowers will appear; you will have to be patient until the females start to flower and fruit.
- Rain or cold temperatures can inhibit pollination, which is necessary for fruiting. Pollination will resume when the weather improves.
- Cucumber beetle is a pest common throughout the U.S. Often the beetles will chew small cucumber seedlings to the ground or damage the vines. Covering plants with a floating row cover when young will help, although you need to remove the cover when pollination time arrives. Interplant tansy and nasturtiums to repel the pests.
- Cucumbers are annuals, so they will set fruit and produce seed in the first season.
- Cucumbers rely upon insects to pollinate their flowers; for this reason it is best to isolate each variety by 1⁄2 to 1 mile from other varieties to avoid cross-pollination.
- For those gardeners in more densely populated areas, with neighboring cucumbers threatening to cross-pollinate, caging can help to ensure pure seed, although it will require hand pollination.
- Because the plants have male and female flowers, pollination occurs easily without degrading the vigor of the seed stock. (Many other plants need to pollinate flowers from a separate plant). Just a few plants will produce lots of healthy seeds.
- Properly saved seeds should store for up to 10 years.