Cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is a widely cultivated plant in the gourd family, Cucurbitaceae. It is a creeping vine that bears cylindrical fruits that are used as culinary vegetables. There are three main varieties of cucumber: slicing, pickling, and burpless. Within these varieties, several different cultivars have emerged. The cucumber is originally from Southern Asia, but now grows on most continents. Many different varieties are traded on the global market.
HOW TO GROW
- Choose hybrid cucumber seeds that don’t require pollination.Be sure to buy a dwarf variety in order to conserve space.
- Select a very large pot.Cucumbers even dwarf varieties, need lots of room to grow. You can also grow cucumbers in hanging pots.
- Place some small stones, clay shards or gravel in the bottom of the pot to aid drainage and to keep the roots of the plant from getting soggy.You can also place a small pot (with drainage holes) upside down in the middle of the large pot if you don’t have rocks or gravel.
- Fill your planting pot with a mixture of potting soil and compost—50% soil and 50% compost.You can use dirt from your garden, but then you will run the risk of bringing unwanted pests indoors.
- Plant 4 to 5 seeds about 1/2” (12 mm) deep.Space the seeds 1/2″ apart or more, if possible. Planting them too close together will hinder growth.
- Water the soil thoroughly so that it is saturated, but not soupy.Water several times until the water drains from the bottom of the pot.
- Position your cucumber planter in a sunny window.For optimal growth, the plant should receive at least 6 hours of sunlight a day.
- Allow the seedlings to grow to a height of 2 to 3” (50 to 75 mm).Don’t thin them before they reach this minimum height.
- Identify 2 plants that look the strongest and gently pull the other plants out of the soil.Be careful not to disturb the soil around the 2 plants you want to keep.
- Let the remaining 2 plants grow to a height of about 10” (254 mm).Rotate the planter every few days if it looks like the plants are not receiving the same amount of sunlight.
- Choose the strongest, healthiest of the two plants to keep and eliminate the other one by snipping it off at the base.This will leave you with 1 strong and healthy cucumber plant that will produce well and won’t be crowded.
- Insert a stick or small trellis near the plant so that you can train the vine to climb.Don’t wait too long to do this; the plant will start climbing as much as 1″ every day, depending on the amount of sunlight it is receiving.
- Water your plant frequently so that the soil stays moist.Make sure the water thoroughly drains out from the bottom of the planter, so you will know that the roots are getting wet.
- Start picking your cucumbers when they are no larger than the palm of your hand. Your plant will keep producing cucumbers for several months.
- When planting seeds in the ground, cover with netting or a berry basket to keep pests from digging out the seeds.
- When seedlings emerge, begin to water frequently, and increase to a 3.5 litres ( One gallon) per week after fruit forms.
- When seedlings reach 4 inches tall, thin plants so that they are 1½ feet apart.
- If you’ve worked in organic matter into the soil before planting, you may only need to side-dress your plants with compost or well-rotted manure. Or, if you wish, use a fertilizer from your garden store which is low nitrogen/high poatassium and phosphorus formula and apply at planting, 1 week after bloom, and every 3 weeks with liquid food, applying directly to the soil around the plants. Or, you can work a granular fertilizer into the soil. Do not overfertilize or the fruits will get stunted.
- Water consistently; put your finger in the soil and when it is dry past the first joint of your finger, it is time to water. Inconsistent watering leads to bitter-tasting fruit. Water slowly in the morning or early afternoon, avoding the leaves.
- Mulch to hold in soil moisture.
- If you have limited space or would prefer vertical vines, set up trellises early to avoid damage to seedlings and vines.
- Spray vines with sugar water to attract bees and set more fruit.
- Cucumbers may not set fruit because the first flowers were all male. Both female and male flowers must be blooming at the same time. This may not happen early in the plant’s life so be patient.
- Lack of fruit may also be due to poor pollination by bees, especially if prevented by rain, cold temperatures, or insecticides. Remember, gynoecious hybrids require pollinator plants.
- Cucumber Beetles
- Bacterial Wilt
- Mosaic Viruses
Protect Your Brain
Cucumbers contain an anti-inflammatory flavonol called fisetin that appears to play an important role in brain health. In addition to improving your memory and protecting your nerve cells from age-related decline,1 fisetin has been found to prevent progressive memory and learning impairments in mice with Alzheimer’s disease.2
2. Reduce Your Risk of Cancer
Cucumbers contain polyphenols called lignans (pinoresinol, lariciresinol, and secoisolariciresinol), which may help to lower your risk of breast, uterine, ovarian, and prostate cancers.3 They also contain phytonutrients called cucurbitacins, which also have anti-cancer properties. According to the George Mateljan Foundation:4
3. Fight Inflammation
Cucumbers may help to “cool” the inflammatory response in your body, and animal studies suggest that cucumber extract helps reduce unwanted inflammation, in part by inhibiting the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes (including cyclo-oxygenase 2, or COX-2).5
4. Antioxidant Properties
Cucumbers contain numerous antioxidants, including the well-known vitamin C and beta-carotene. They also contain antioxidant flavonoids, such as quercetin, apigenin, luteolin, and kaempferol,6 which provide additional benefits.
For instance, quercetin is an antioxidant that many believe prevents histamine release making quercetin-rich foods “natural antihistamines.” Kaempferol, meanwhile, may help fight cancer and lower your risk of chronic diseases including heart disease.
5. Freshen Your Breath
Placing a cucumber slice on the roof of your mouth may help to rid your mouth of odor-causing bacteria. According to the principles of Ayurveda, eating cucumbers may also help to release excess heat in your stomach, which is said to be a primary cause of bad breath.7
6. Manage Stress
Cucumbers contain multiple B vitamins, including vitamin B1, vitamin B5, and vitamin B7 (biotin). B vitamins are known to help ease feelings of anxiety and buffer some of the damaging effects of stress.
7. Support Your Digestive Health
Cucumbers are rich in two of the most basic elements needed for healthy digestion: water and fiber. If you struggle with acid reflux, you should know that drinking water can help suppress acute symptoms of acid reflux by temporarily raising stomach pH; it’s possible that water-rich cucumbers may have a similar effect.
Cucumber skins contain insoluble fiber, which helps add bulk to your stool. This helps food to move through your digestive tract more quickly for healthy elimination.
8. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Cucumbers are very low in calories, yet they make a filling snack (one cup of sliced cucumber contains just 16 calories).8 The soluble fiber in cucumbers dissolves into a gel-like texture in your gut, helping to slow down your digestion. This helps you to feel full longer and is one reason why fiber-rich foods may help with weight control.
9. Support Heart Health
Cucumbers contain potassium, which is associated with lower blood pressure levels. A proper balance of potassium both inside and outside your cells is crucial for your body to function properly.
As an electrolyte, potassium is a positive charged ion that must maintain a certain concentration (about 30 times higher inside than outside your cells) in order to carry out its functions, which includes interacting with sodium to help control nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and heart function.