Native to south Asia. Each vine needs at least 25 sq. ft., but you can run vines up a fence or trellis to conserve space. Seeds require warm soil to sprout, and flowers need heat for pollination.
There are long, smooth, green, slicing cucumbers; numerous small pickling cucumbers; and roundish, yellow, mild-flavored lemon cucumbers. Novelties include Asian varieties (long, slim, very mild), Armenian cucumber (actually a long, curving, pale green, ribbed melon with cucumber look and mild cucumber flavor), and English greenhouse cucumber. The last type must be grown in a greenhouse to avoid pollination by bees, with subsequent loss of form and flavor; when well grown, it’s the mildest of all cucumbers. ‘Sweet Success’ is a mild, seedless cucumber with the flavor and character of a greenhouse cucumber; the plant is female, but flowers do not require pollination.
Bush cucumbers—varieties with compact vines—take up little garden space. Burpless varieties resemble hothouse cucumbers in shape and mild flavor but can be grown out-of-doors. Pickling cucumbers should be harvested as soon as they have reached the proper size—tiny for sweet pickles (gherkins), larger for dills or pickle slices. They grow too large very quickly.
Plant seeds in a sunny spot 1 to 2 weeks after the average date of last frost. To grow cucumbers on a trellis (the best way to keep them straight), plant seeds 1 in. deep and 1–3 ft. apart and permit main stem to reach top of support. Pick while young to ensure continued production.
Row covers will protect seedlings from slugs, snails, and various insect pests, including cucumber beetles and flea beetles; remove covers when flowering begins so that pollination can occur. Whiteflies are a potential pest late in the season; hose off plants regularly or hang yellow sticky traps. Misshapen fruit is usually due to uneven watering or poor pollination; bitter fruit is usually a result of uneven irrigation.
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