Gardening for Health

Cucumbers Crave Hot Summer Weather 

Cucumbers and summer squash are staples of the summer garden. Both are members of the Cucurbitaceae family and love warm weather. Choose from young transplants or start them from seed and they will germinate in three to four days when the temperature is 80-95 degrees. 

Breeders have bred bush varieties of cucumbers and squash to take up less space but they are inherently vining crops. If you grow them on a trellis of netting or wire fencing, they will ultimately take up less space. Trellis-grown cucumbers are straighter, more uniform in shape, less likely to rot, be eaten by slugs and will not be missed hiding under leaves. Growing them on a trellis means better quantity and quality.  Fertilize every couple of weeks with fish emulsion.  Make sure to pick them before they get too big so the vine keeps producing. 

Cucumbers require moderate watering until flowering and then heavy watering from flowering to harvest. They like a fairly rich soil enhanced with compost, aged manure, and greensand.  

Be on the lookout for cucumber beetles in your garden. These pests are yellow with black stripes or yellow with black spots. Not only do they damage the plants but they also spread a serious bacterial wilt disease. Using floating row covers over your plants while they’re growing will help to exclude the beetles. Be sure to remove the covers once the blossoms appear so the wild pollinators can do their job. If you find beetles, remove them into a container of soapy water.  You can also apply beneficial nematodes in the spring to attack the larva in the soil. Adults can be controlled by spraying with neem oil soap as needed. Also introduce green lacewings, praying mantis, and ladybugs into the garden, all of which feed on cucumber beetles. 

When you have harvested your cucumbers, you can make cucumber raita to accompany shish kebabs or a curry dish. Combine 2/3 cup of whole milk yogurt, 1/3 cup sour cream, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, 2 tablespoons minced spearmint, three medium cucumbers coarsely grated and 1 tablespoon finely grated onion.  The raita plus some Basmati rice will round out a lovely meal.