Cucumbers say summer to me. Fresh and chilled, they make a nice cold soup, a side dish, even a cocktail.
But I’m ahead of myself. Did you know that we see very few of the available cucumber varieties in the grocery store? Cucumbers are easy to grow and will produce all summer long.
To grow from seed, soak overnight between two wet paper towels and plant in rich soil according to the directions on the seed packet. Some varieties are compact and won’t take up too much room in your garden. These are called “bush” cucumbers and are labeled that way on the packet. Any cucumbers purchased at a nursery will most likely be labeled according to their growth patterns as well.
Cucumbers will need staking or support from a trellis. You CAN let them sprawl on the ground, but they take up a lot of room that way and are more susceptible to pests and disease. I’ve had the best success when I can get them up off the ground with as much sun as possible.
Cucumber beetles can be attracted to your plants to munch on the leaves, but by far the biggest concern when growing cukes (or any plant in the cucumber family like melons) is powdery mildew – it gradually infects leaves and stalks and is very difficult to control once it’s begun. Leaves look like they’ve been dusted with baby powder. Avoid watering leaves (drip irrigation is a good choice here) and choose disease resistant varieties – it will be indicated on the seed packet.
More on preventing and treating powdery mildew in another post. In the meantime, happy summer!