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Growing Cucumbers in Your New England Garden is Easy and Fun For All Ages

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Cucumbers are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, and will do well either in the ground or in containers with at least 8 hours of sun per day. They sprout quickly from seed and can grow inches per day in the heat of the summer!

Pick the Right Variety of Cucumber for Your Garden
The biggest difference between cucumber varieties is whether they grow like vines on a trellis or in a compact, bush variety that stays around 2-3 feet from the base. Depending on your gardening space and/or setup, we usually prefer the climbing varieties with support to ensure that the fruit stays off the ground and is easier to see and pick when ripe.

Cucumbers are an excellent choice to plant if you are an impatient gardener - the seeds can sprout in as little as 3 days as long as the temperatures are above 70 degrees.
The other great thing about cucumbers is that they can be planted as late as July without sacrificing too much in the way of overall yields and plant size. This is because the plants mature in less than 80 days. We've found that planting too soon is worse, because the plants either grow so slowly or not at all. This can invite unwanted pests and disease because the plant is struggling to survive the low temperatures.

Plant your seed directly into the soil or in a good size (5 gallon plus) pot.
Just plant the seeds in mounds of 5 or 6 if using bush varieties and about 8 to 10 inches apart if training up a trellis. Make sure you plant the seed very close to the trellis so that as soon as the cucumber sends out its tendrils (long stringy filament) they can grab onto the trellis quickly and start your cucumbers skyward! If you want a longer season, just plant a second set of seeds about 2-3 weeks after the first, and your harvest will last much longer. The other benefit is that you won't have too many ripe cucumbers at once.

Water Your Cucumbers Deeply and Thoroughly Once a Week
Cucumbers DO NOT like to dry out. It will cause the developing cucumbers to fall off the vine and will cause the ones that are there to be deformed and bitter-tasting. Cucumbers are one of the fastest developing vegetables besides summer squash and zucchini, going from a flower to a fall-sized fruit in less than a week in most cases. Because they are mostly water and they produce so many cucumbers so quickly, they need A LOT of water to keep up that pace.

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Watch Out For Mosaic Virus, Powdery Mildew and Other Disease
Ever see a white tinge on the leaves of cucumbers, or notice that all of sudden most of the leaves die off at once. That's no accident of nature. It happens during the mid to late summer, and happens much more frequently when either a plant is stressed (not enough water for instance), or when people water late afternoon or evening. This is a BAD IDEA. Leaving water on the leaves invites problems; the answer, water thoroughly and deeply early in the morning so that the sun will dry the leaves early in the day. TIP: put a tablespoon of baking soda in a spray bottle filled with water. Spray the leaves of the cucumber plants either early in the morning or late in the day when there is no hot sun on the plants. This solution will help kill powdery mildew and prevent it from spreading throughout the plant.

Watch Out Pests Like the Cucumber Beetle
There's nothing worse than taking the time to grow strong cucumber plants and then having an insect attack them and destroy them. The cucumber beetle is one of those pests. Adult moths lay eggs on the plant, and then these hatch into small caterpillars that bore into the stems and fruit of the plant. Those in the stems bore their way into the roots, where they pupate over the winter. The following spring, they emerge as moths and lay eggs on your next year's plants. It's a vicious cycle that can lay waste to your cucumbers for years. The solution is to remove and destroy any infected cucumbers as well as the vines as soon as you notice the damage. This will prevent them from getting into the soil to destroy next year's crop. Another great idea is to plant your cucumbers in a different area of the garden each year, and at least when the moths emerge they won't have easy access to your plants to lay eggs again.

Pick Early and Pick Often
Cucumbers are prolific producers. With just a few plants, you may find yourself harvesting 5-10 per week in July, August and early September. There is, however, 1 very important thing to note about harvesting cucumbers: it MUST be done very frequently, at least once every couple of days. The problem here is that if you let even 1 cucumber stay too long on the plant and fully develop, the entire plant will then die. The lesson here is that you should harvest often and before they are fully developed with seeds, because it will keep your cucumber producing for at least 90 days. Another great tip is to stagger your plantings 2-3 weeks apart, extending your season well into September and maybe even October. As the first planting is ending its productive phase, the second planting is still going strong for up to a month longer.

Find 100 Recipes For Cucumbers
Share with neighbors or family and friends. Everyone appreciates a fresh cucumber without that scary wax coating on it that you find in the grocery stores. If you run out of people to give your cucumbers to, they will store in the refrigerator for about a week if you wash, dry thoroughly and then wrap each cucumber separately and tightly in plastic wrap. It will prevent the cucumber from going soggy and buy you some time to find more ways to use cucumbers in your dishes!

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