Learn the basics of growing cucumbers including production requirements, spacing, transplants, pollination, fertigation recommendations and integrated pest management.
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Cucumbers are warm season vegetables. They do not tolerate frost. Temperatures below 10° C (50° F) may impact crop growth and negatively affect fruit quality. They require well drained, compaction-free locations with ample fertility. Freshmarket cucumbers respond well to plasticulture and fertigation. High levels of nitrogen may result in excess leaf growth and poor fruit development. Most vine crops benefit from supplemental beehives to promote pollination.
|Average Time from Flower Set to Harvest:||Average Yields:|
|Cucumber (pickling) 4-5 days||Pickling - machine harvest: 4 tons per acre|
|Pickling - hand harvest: 8-12 tons per acre|
|Cucumber (slicing) 15-18 days||Slicing: 200-400 bu per acre|
Seeding and Spacing
Plant seeds into moisture, no more than 2-2.5 cm (1 in.) deep. Deeply planted seed is often slow to emerge, resulting in lower plant populations. Quick, uniform emergence is essential to avoid uneven stands weakened by insects and disease. Delay direct seeding until the soil temperature is 15°C (59° F) or higher. The optimum soil temperature range at planting is 25°-30° C (77°-86° F.) Do not set transplants in the field until all risk of frost has passed.
Row spacing ranges from 3-4 feet for handpicked cucumbers. Use 20-30" rows for machine harvest fields. In-row spacing for both hand and machine harvest should be set at 4-6".
Successful cucumber establishment from transplants requires special care and attention. Germination and establishment in the greenhouse can be finicky. The young root system is easily injured and they are often slow to resume growth in the field. Overgrown transplants are readily damaged during planting, resulting in poor stand establishment.
Plant cucumbers 2-4 weeks before the anticipated field setting date. Use a maximum tray size of 128's. Larger tray cells will help promote faster crop establishment and earlier harvest. However, there is no great benefit to using cells larger than 50's.
Cucumbers require warm temperatures for germination; they will not germinate below 15° C (60° F). The optimum temperature for germination is 35° C (95° F). This should be maintained for 72 hours, or until the radicle emerges from the seed coat. After germination has occurred, maintain daytime temperatures of 21°-24° C (70°-75° F) and a nightly range of 61°-64° C (61°-64° F).
Cucumber transplants are not heavy feeders. A weekly application of 100-150 ppm Nitrogen should be sufficient. Ensure that the electrical conductivity of the fertilizer water does not exceed 1-2 mmho/cm.
All the vine crops depend on insects to transfer pollen from the male to the female blossoms. Each female blossom must be visited 15-20 times in order for adequate pollination to occur. Poorly pollinated fruit develop as crooks and nubs.
Introduce one colony of honeybees for every hectare (2.5 acres). Aim to have the hives in the field at first bloom.
Insecticides will poison bees. Aviod spraying during pollination. If insect pressure requires control, spray late in the evening or at night, after the bees have finished foraging for the day.
Processing cucumber hybrids have a predominately female flowering habit. However, not all gynoecious hybrids produce 100% female flowers. Ontario day-lengths and temperatures may be responsible for the presence of male flowers on these hybrids. All gynoecious hybrid seed contains 10%-15% standard (male and female flowers) cultivar added as a pollinator. For satisfactory fruit set, 10%-20% of the plants should contain a large number of male flowers.
Soil Applied Fertilizer Recommendations
|Nitrogen (lbs/ac)||Phosphate1 (lbs/ac)||Actual Potash2 (lbs/ac)|
|Side-dress (Before the vines run)|
1 Based on a soil test phosphorus reading of 41-50 ppm
2 Based on a soil test potassium reading of 101-120 ppm
Up to 90 lbs of N + K20) per acre can be applied in a 2x2" band at planting. The remainder of the fertilizer requirements should be broadcast before planting.
For the full range of phosphorous and potassium soil test recommendations please refer to the OMAFRA vegetable crop publications.
For fertigated vine crops, broadcast the entire phosphate requirement and approximately 30-50% of the nitrogen and potash requirements, prior to planting (see above). The remainder should be injected through the drip irrigation system at the following rates:
Nitrogen and Potash Injection Schedules (per week)
Transplanting to Fruitset: 5 kg/ha (4.5 lbs/acre)
Fruit Sizing To Harvest: 10 kg/ha (9 lbs/acre)
During Harvest: 5 kg/ha (4.5 lbs/acre)
Cucumbers are susceptible to a wide range of insect and disease pressures. For a full description of each pest and its available control measures, please refer to the OMAFRA vegetable crop publications.