Growing Organic Cucumbers allows us to bring to the table one of the most consumed fresh vegetables throughout the summer period. This is because it is a vegetable that is generally eaten raw.
This Cucurbitaceae is a protagonist both in the cultivation in our home gardens and in kitchen preparations. Given this passion, we thought it was essential to suggest some advice for its cultivation.
Here are the good practices for growing cucumbers using only organic techniques. But of course, first of all, let’s try to discover the plant better, analyzing it more closely.
Varieties and Nutritional Aspects of Cucumber
The cucumber, in Latin Cucumis sativus, is a vegetable of Indian origin, belonging, like zucchini, to the Cucurbitaceae family.
It is consumed fresh, without the need for cooking, typically in salads. If grown organically and controlled, it is also possible to consume the skin.
There are several varieties of cucumbers to grow. These differ for various reasons: the size of the mature fruit, the color (from light green to dark green), the shape. Not to mention the characteristics of cultivation (i.e., climbing, creeping, dwarf, etc). Below we will see some varieties of which it is possible to easily find organic seeds.
It is important to underline that the this varieties, of which the seed can easily be found, are not hybrids. This means that if the cultivation of cucumbers made in a period has been satisfactory, you can keep that seed to use it in future cultivation. In this way, over time, you will have a quality with characteristics suitable for your cultivation area.
Nutritionally, the cucumber is a perfect vegetable for all types of diets. It is in fact composed of 96% water and contains only 13 kcal per 100 gr. It is also rich in minerals such as potassium (140 mg per 100 gr), calcium (16 mg per 100 gr), sodium (4 mg per 100 gr), and phosphorus (17 mg per 100 gr). Finally, it is rich in vitamin C (11 mg per 100 gr and amino acids).
Growing Marketmore Climbing Cucumber
A very productive climbing variety, which adapts well to cultivation both in the greenhouse and in the open field. Its fruits are dark green in color and can reach up to 20 cm in length. It has few seeds inside and its taste is sweet.
Growing Small Green Cucumber of Paris
The small variety of Paris is a very rustic plant and can grow this cucumbers with less care and attention than others. It is also a very productive species and, during its growth, does not need supports to cling to, as happens with other types.
It produces small and cylindrical fruits of light green color.
These are ideal fruits for pickling. They are very much in demand all over the world for the preparation of particular dishes.
As the name itself suggests, they are originally from France.
Growing Long Green Cucumber of the Ortolani
Climbing variety that produces very long fruits, 25-30 cm, light green in color and with few seeds inside, late variety
Long Green Cucumber of the Ortolani variety.
How to Grow Cucumbers organically
The cultivation of cucumbers prefers a warm temperate climate. To avoid stressing the plant, in the initial stages of growth, it is absolutely necessary to avoid cold temperatures and the risk of frost. It is therefore better to delay the transplant and not risk burning the small seedling with the cold. Therefore, for sowing in a seedbed, it is advisable to start in March in a protected environment. It takes about thirty days of development to go from seed to seedling. The transplant in the ground can take place from the month of April, preferably in the second half, when the risk of frost is averted.
The last date for transplanting is recommended not to go beyond the beginning of the month of July. Considering the period of growth before reaching fruit, 45-60 days, there is a risk of going too far with the cultivation period, excessively exposing the cucumber cultivar to rain and the first autumn cold.
The cucumber belongs to the family of cucurbits and, like the solanaceae, needs a lot of organic matter. If you intend to cultivate it, therefore, alternate annually with lighter crops, in order to preserve the structure of the soil. By paying this attention you can always have healthy and lush crops. For example, after cucumbers, you can grow, on the same plot, a sowing of turnip greens, a crop that resists winter frost and moreover does not tire the soil. Or you can opt for a legume, such as peas, which will enrich the soil with nitrogen. Or again, you can opt for a leafy vegetable, such as lettuce, spinach, or chard.
The soil for growing cucumbers must be well worked and rich in organic matter. Therefore, it is advisable to prepare the soil in the autumn period, incorporating mature manure or compost. The soil must be well drained and have a pH between 6 and 7.5. It is also advisable to add a good amount of potassium and phosphorus to the soil, which are essential for the development of the plant and the fruits.
Cucumbers can be sown directly in the ground or in a seedbed and then transplanted. If you choose the first method, you can sow from April to June, burying the seeds about 2 cm deep and leaving about 40 cm of space between one plant and another. If, on the other hand, you prefer to sow in a seedbed, you can start in March and then transplant the seedlings in April-May, when they have developed 3-4 true leaves.
Cucumbers need regular watering, especially in the summer months when the weather is hot and dry. However, it is important not to overdo it to avoid water stagnation and the onset of diseases. It is advisable to water in the morning or late afternoon, avoiding wetting the leaves.
Cucumbers benefit from regular fertilization. You can use a good organic fertilizer, rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It is advisable to fertilize at the time of planting and then repeat every 3-4 weeks during the growing season.
Pests and Diseases
Cucumbers can be attacked by various pests and diseases, such as aphids, powdery mildew, and downy mildew. To prevent these problems, it is advisable to rotate crops, avoid water stagnation, and use resistant varieties. If necessary, you can use organic pesticides or biological control methods.
Cucumbers can be harvested when they reach the desired size, usually when they are about 15-20 cm long. It is important to harvest regularly to encourage the plant to produce new fruits. The cucumbers should be cut from the plant using a sharp knife or scissors, taking care not to damage the plant.
Freshly harvested cucumbers can be kept in the refrigerator for about a week. If you want to preserve them for a longer period, you can pickle them. To do this, simply wash the cucumbers, cut them into slices or leave them whole, and put them in jars with vinegar, salt, and spices.
Use in the Kitchen
Cucumbers are very versatile in the kitchen. They can be eaten raw in salads, used to prepare cold soups, or pickled. They are also excellent in sandwiches and wraps, and can be used to garnish cocktails and drinks.
Benefits and Properties of Cucumbers
Cucumbers are not only tasty but also very healthy. They are rich in water and low in calories, making them perfect for those on a diet. They also contain various vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium. Furthermore, they have diuretic properties and help to purify the body.
In conclusion, growing cucumbers is not difficult and can give great satisfaction. With a little care and attention, you can enjoy fresh and tasty cucumbers all summer long.
These well-researched references shed light on the diverse aspects of cucumbers, offering insights into their rich history, cultivation practices, and the plethora of health benefits they offer.
Cucumber Nutritional Information from Illinois University: This resource discusses the nutritional value of cucumbers, highlighting the presence of phytonutrients such as flavonoids, lignanes, and triterpenes, which offer antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits.
Cucumber: A Brief History – Integrated Pest Management from Missouri University: This article provides a brief history of cucumbers and mentions that fresh extracts from cucumbers have been shown to have antioxidant properties.
Planting and Harvesting Cucumbers – Aggie Horticulture from Texas A&M University: This resource provides information on the cultivation of cucumbers and their nutritional content. It mentions that cucumbers are rich in potassium and dietary fiber, and moderately rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, folate (folic acid), phosphorus, and magnesium.