Common Name: Cucumber
Indian Names: Kakdi (Hindi), Sautekayi (Kannada)
Botanical Name: Cucumis sativus
Vegetable Type: The cucumber is actually a fruit.
Varieties: Slicing, Pickling, Burpless, Armenian
The cucumber is a plant whose fruits are usually consumed fresh, and used primarily in salads. Its crunchy texture and water content make it an ideal addition to any salad. It is also one of the few vegetables which is said to have parthenocarpic varieties, which means that they can give fruit without pollination. They are actually more than 90% water, but are also high in vitamin K and potassium, along with low calorie and fat content. Let’s take a look at some of its main features.
Height: 30cm (1ft)
Width: 30-40cm (12-15in)
Flowering season: Male flowers start to appear on the plant around 2 months after planting.
Flowers: Mild, yellow flowers
Foliage: Medium green, with slightly rough texture
Sunlight: Full sun, 6-8 hours of direct exposure to sunlight daily
Water: Regular watering intervals, make sure that the soil remains moist
Sowing Season: It is a warm season plant that is very susceptible to frost, so make sure that it is planted two weeks after the cool season has passed.
Sowing Method: Sow the seeds in rows, having them 3cm deep and 15-25 cm apart. Neutral soil pH is optimal. Try to keep them on a support of some kind, as this way, the fruit avoids any contact with the ground.
Care: At the sapling stage of the growing of the plant, keep a net over the seedlings to prevent any pests from ravaging your crop. Once the leaves start to emerge on your seedlings, water them more frequently, and after they get to a height of around 10 cm, thin them out so that they are around 35cm. Mulch to keep the soil moist, and when the flower starts to bloom, make sure to spray sugar water on the flowers to attract many different pollinating agents.
Pests: Cucumber beetles and Whiteflies are the two most common pests which affect the growth of the cucumber plant. These can be avoided if regular inspection is done and the bugs are picked off in their egg stages.
Harvest: For slicing cucumbers, when the fruit is at a length of 15-20cm it is ready to be harvested. When the cucumber starts to mature, it will start to turn yellow, but it should be harvested when it is young, uniformly green and crisp. After harvesting, keep the cucumbers in plastic bags so as to retain moisture.
Propagation: Cucumbers are propagated mainly by seeds.
As we can see, growing cucumbers is not a tough proposition, and it is also known to be a good companion crop for tomatoes, eggplant, and beans. They are perfect for a fresh snack, or in their pickled form, a complement for a meal. So try your hand at the cucumber plant and toss your own salad, with the satisfaction having grown it yourself!