Fruit and Vegetables

Cucumber - Cucumis sativus

Grow cucumbers

Cucumber, cucumis sativus, is an annual plant, belonging to the genus of the cucurbits, climbing, native to Asia; produces twining stems, which tend to develop rapidly, until they reach 120-150 cm in length; the leaves are wide, thin, bright green; the elongated fruits are dark green, fleshy, covered with small white growths, which come off quickly at harvest time. Cucumbers have been cultivated for thousands of years by man, for this reason there are hundreds of varieties of cucumbers, diversified according to the size of the fruits and the color of the skin: there are giant cucumbers, salad, which can reach 30-40 cm in length , and also very minute cucumbers, which do not exceed 6 cm in length, to be used to produce pickles; The practice of sowing the Cucumis sativus is frequent, and later picking up the larger fruits to prepare salads or other dishes, and the unripe small fruits to prepare pickles, so as to use the fruits in different ways; this method is useful above all for those varieties that produce large quantities of cucumbers, which could hardly be eaten raw in a short period of time, given that, in addition to pickled preservation, it is not possible to preserve cucumbers for long with another method, such as the freezing.

Grow cucumbers

Cucumis sativus is a predominantly summer vegetable. It is consumed primarily raw to give freshness to salads, sandwiches, sandwiches and as an accompaniment to other crudités.
It is very simple to grow and will certainly give great satisfaction both to the novice farmer and to the vegetable garden for many years.
Many varieties are available and we will certainly find the one that best suits our taste and space needs. You can also try growing it in pots, especially if we choose small ones.
Cucumbers are among the vegetables of easier cultivation and of greater satisfaction, in the span of about three months we pass from the seed to the ripe cucumber, ready to be eaten; the seedlings are planted, which already present at least two true leaves.


Type of plant

Form Creeper-crawling
Height From 60 cm to 1 m
Culture easy
Need water Medium-high
Growth rate normal
Multiplication seed
Germination times / minimum temperature 8-10 / 16 ° C
Resistance to cold Sensitive to temperatures below 10 ° C
Exposure Sun
Land Tolerant, but rich in humus and well-drained

The cucumber seedlings they are obtained from seed, to be placed in a seedbed protected at the end of winter, so as to have the young plants already ready to be placed more or less in April; in the nursery it is possible to find small, ready-made cucumber plants, which allows us to have plants of different varieties without needing to buy the seeds, which is very useful in a small family vegetable garden, where cucumber plants usually provide sufficient fruit even for the most delicious cucumber consumer, even enough to make a gift of it to neighbors.
Before placing the small plants, a very sunny plot is chosen, and it is worked, enriching the soil with manure and bone meal, a precious source of phosphorus, of which cucumbers are large consumers.
It is advisable to use, for cucumbers, a very well drained soil, as these plants are often subject to basal or collar rot, strongly favored by the presence of water stagnations; if the soil of our garden should be too compact or heavy, add a little sand to the plot, which will lighten the substrate, allowing a greater water drainage.
Alongside each plant, we also place a guardian, to allow it to climb on it, without finding obstacles; It is also possible to cultivate cucumbers leaving them creeping, but this practice takes much more space in the garden, and in addition to this, the fruits that rest on the ground, tend to turn yellow in the part in contact with the substrate, as they do not receive light.
Immediately after placing the small plants, at a distance of about 40-50 cm between them and between the rows, let's water abundantly; watering will be provided whenever the soil is dry, avoiding excesses; in summer we may have to water every day, but in spring a watering is enough every 2-3 days, thinning out the interventions in case of rains.
Cucumber plants develop rapidly, but produce flowers and fruits on the side branches; to increase the harvest, as soon as the stem reaches 5-7 internodes, the apex of the main stem is removed (technically, the plant is placed on top), so as to favor a greater production of lateral branches, and a consequent greater fructification .
After bearing fruit for weeks, the cucumber plants naturally tend to decay, until they are completely dry, so we can uproot them and prepare the soil for further crops.
Generally the cucumber plot, in the family garden, is then used to cultivate the typical winter vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli, fennel; It is good to avoid, even the following year, to cultivate cucumbers, or other cucurbits, such as pumpkins, courgettes, melons, watermelons in the same plot.

Uses of cucumber

In Italy cucumbers are consumed mainly raw, in summer salads, very refreshing; in central and northern Europe they are generally used in pickles, so that they can be used throughout the year, for this preparation they are generally chosen very small cucumbers, or even not yet ripe, but almost seedless in the center , with the addition of white wine vinegar and a few mustard seeds inside.
These vegetables are very refreshing, and are highly appreciated for their high purifying power, as they are made up of about 95% water, with added fibers, mineral salts and vitamins, which are very important for human nutrition. In Asian cuisine cucumbers are also used cooked, in vegetable curry or other dishes; generally cooking is fast, so as to keep the pulp of the cucumbers crunchy; cooked cucumbers tend to have a slightly bitter taste, not always appreciated by everyone.
Typically cucumbers are used in the preparation of a famous sauce, tzaziki, of Greek origin, prepared with grated and squeezed cucumbers, with addition of white and thick yogurt, garlic, salt and oil; There are variations of tzaziki prepared with the addition of aromatic herbs, including coriander, basil, or parsley.
Cucumbers are also used in the cosmetic industry, thanks to their purifying virtues, which can also be useful for applications on the face, in case of acne or other skin problems and irritations; in addition to creams, tonics and lotions, cucumbers are widely used as a quick home remedy, to be applied directly to skin irritations, once cut into thin slices.

Cucumber characteristics

Cucumber (cucumis sativus) belongs to the Cuburbitaceae family. It is an annual plant native to the Middle East and in particular to India and Pakistan. In Europe it is known only since 1500.
It is characterized by long velvety stems with tendrils. The leaves, dark green in color, are green and rough to the touch. Since the beginning of summer, it has produced yellow flowers. On each plant there are both male and female flowers. The latter then evolve into elongated fruits (although there are also round ones), with a smooth or slightly thorny skin, which can range from green to yellow.

Kitchen uses and nutritional information

In Italy its use is rather limited: it is added in slices to salads or eaten in pinzimonio with other vegetables. In central Europe it is used instead for the preparation of fresh and preserved sauces (generally pickled, flavored with dill seeds) and then combined with cold cuts and eggs, even for breakfast. It is also an indispensable ingredient for the preparation of two purely summer dishes: the Andalusian gazpacho and the Tzatziki sauce.
Cucumber is absolutely low in calories. One ounce, in fact, brings a maximum of 13. It is almost entirely composed of water and mineral salts (potassium, calcium, phosphorus) and a good dose of vitamin C.
It has purifying, diuretic and refreshing virtues.

Cucumber climate

Cucumber is a plant of subtropical origin: in order to grow, therefore, it needs stable temperatures and in any case always higher than 10 ° C. In order to obtain maximum yield, daytime temperatures must be around 25-28 ° C. However, a lot of water must always be available, otherwise the production will stop and the fruits can have a particularly bitter taste.
Sowing or planting in open field can generally start from April, especially in the Center-South. In the North it is always good to wait at least the end of this month if not the beginning of May.

Cucumber soil

Cucumber is not particularly demanding in terms of substrate. It adapts to virtually all conditions. Only extremely clayey and asphyxial soils, in which water stagnation will probably occur, should only be avoided.
The best results are obtained on medium-textured, deep, well-structured and rich soils, with good drainage. The optimal pH must be from sub-alkaline to neutral (5.8-7). The processing must always be accurate and deep (at least 40 cm) to favor the growth of the important root system.
The ideal is to start digging the area already from autumn in order to get good ventilation and take advantage of the freeze / thaw alternation to get a good destructuring.

Sowing cucumber

In the first place it will be necessary to decide whether to buy the seedlings or sow them ourselves. Often, well-established individuals are available in nurseries, most often hybrids resistant to various pathogens. If we manage a family vegetable garden this can be a good choice, since even two or three plants, if well treated, are sufficient for normal needs.
We can, however, also decide to sow them independently.


Sow indoors

Plant sowing April May
Flowering June September
collection June to October

Sow in warm lettuce

It is sown in postarelle, always adding at least a handful of manure for each one. We insert 3-4 seeds in each post, distancing them by a few centimeters. We cover with fine soil, pressing it well. The ideal distance in the row is 40-80 cm, among the rows instead it is at least 1 meter (all depending on the variety).
When the plants have two leaves, thinning should be done leaving 1-2 plants per post.
3 to 5 g are generally sufficient. of seeds per square meter of crop.

Cucumber fertilization and irrigation

To obtain optimal results, the cucumber requires a very rich soil in organic substance: it is generally sufficient to supply 30-40 kg of manure or compost, even if not very mature, for every 10 square meters of soil. It is extremely important, however, that it is perfectly incorporated into the processes and then added to the holes during sowing or planting.
The determining element to obtain a good yield is phosphorus. We can increase its presence by spreading bone meal, Thomas slag or synthetic fertilizers with a high titer of this nutrient.
Irrigations must always be abundant throughout the cultivation cycle. The soil must always be moist: generally each cucumber plant needs about 2.5 liters of water per day.
To avoid evaporation and therefore to keep the substrate more humid, it is always recommended to use mulching, possibly using special plastic films. In addition to reducing the frequency of irrigation, it will help to keep the fruits clean (especially the low ones that would instead be in contact with the ground, risking the development of rot) and will prevent the spread of weeds. These can steal light and nourishment from our crops and it is therefore extremely important to keep them under control at all times.
We can eventually mulch the foot of the cucumbers even with natural material such as straw or leaves, but more often than not they are less effective.

Topping and cucumber supports

Another very important cure is the topping. This has the purpose of stimulating the emission of lateral jets on which there are more feminine flowers (which will then bear fruit).
It is good to start when the plant has emitted the fifth node, cimando over the fourth leaf. In this way new shoots with leaf axils will be born, thus making the most of our plants' potential.
Another extremely important point is the positioning of the supports. Cucumbers can become impressive plants, with a considerable weight given both by the branches and by the very abundant fruits. For this purpose it is possible to use both rigid plastic (or metal) nets supported on the sides by well-driven poles deep into the ground. Alternatively, natural or plastic rods can be used, creating in this case also crossings. To increase its stability we can join the top creating "huts". The central space can be used for the cultivation of small vegetables that, during the summer, need the partial shade.

Approaches and partnerships

To avoid the emergence of plant diseases it is good to avoid repeating the cucumber culture on the same plot before 2-4 years.
Excellent consociations are those with celery, lettuce, cabbage, beans, peas. On the other hand, the proximity of solanaceae, such as potatoes and tomatoes, should be avoided.

Cucumber harvest and storage

Harvesting generally begins three months after sowing, when the seeds are not yet present in the fruit and last for about 2 months. The culmination of the production is from the end of June to the beginning of August. The yield varies between 3 and 12 quintals per 100 square meters of cultivation, also depending on the variety.
It is always good to pick the small fruits, cutting the stalk with a knife or a shear. In this way the plant will not run out too soon.
They are kept in the fridge for about a week in the vegetable compartment.

Cucumber diseases

Cucumber is extremely sensitive to root cryptogate and collar cryptogams. Angular mottling and mosaic are also quite frequent.
To avoid these problems it is useful to sterilize the seed leaving it in water for 30 minutes at 45 ° C. It is also important to avoid growing cucumbers in the same area, but respect rotations instead.
Interesting hybrids are now available on the market which have proven to be very resistant to this type of pathology. It may be worth a try.

Cucumber: Variety

The varieties of cucumber can be subdivided mainly on the basis of their size, shape, color and above all use (generally raw or pickled).
Another important feature introduced in recent years is the absolute predominance of feminine (productive) flowers compared to male ones.
Interesting are the varieties Marketmore, the Little Wonder (with thin white peel), the long of China. As hybrids we also report hoki and burpless, resistant to various plant diseases.
Perfectly suited to the vase and conservation is the famous Piccolo di Parigi.