A cucumber plant (Cucumis sativus) makes an excellent introduction to vegetable gardening for children, and the whole family will enjoy the mild-flavored crunch cucumbers add to meals. Several fruit types are available: short, stout pickling; spiny slicing; long, thin Asian types; seedless; and a number of novelty kinds including egg-shaped, yellow, and white. Gardeners with limited space should also look for dwarf or compact varieties.
Habit: Long, sprawling vines with big foliage, may be trellised; compact varieties are bushier.
Days to Harvest: 46 to 65.
When to Plant: The seeds are best directly sown when danger of frost has passed and soil is warm. Can be started indoors, but fleshy roots must not be disturbed when transplanting.
Light: Full sun.
Soil: Rich topsoil, amended with plenty of compost before planting.
Watering: Succulent fruits and large leaves require a great deal of water for best performance. Mulching reduces drought stress in hot summers.
Fertilizing: Fertilize frequently with a nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer.
Pest Problems: Cucumber beetles cause many problems. Look on underside of leaves for adults and larvae; handpick and destroy.
When to Harvest: Cucumbers can be harvested very shortly after fruit set. All are best harvested young and tender and before seeds develop. Harvest daily once production begins.
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