Cukes are one of my favorite vegetables. Seldom do I not have a few in my crisper drawer. They vary in delightful ways, from “burpless” varieties to ones bred just for pickling to slicing varieties. They come in round, long, short, yellow, green, and white varieties. They are all great in salads and cold soups and sauces. No summer garden (or South Florida winter garden) should be without them. If given direct sun, evenly moist, fertile soil with good drainage, success is all but guaranteed. Before planting, work in lots of good organic compost if you have it to help the soil retain moisture.
There are two types of cucumber plants, like tomato plants, there are vining types and bush types. “Salad Bush,” “Bush Champion,” and “pickle bush” are all types that can be grown in a 5 gallon bucket on a patio. Just one plant can produce many cucumbers if it’s watered daily.
The vining type of cucumber is well suited to the raised bed vegetable garden. You can grow them in the back row of your square foot garden, and let them climb up the trellis. Or, you could build a cucumber support such as this one that allows you to grow lettuce underneath it.
The only problem I see with this support is that it’s not large enough to support full growing cucumber plants. They would still need a trellis upon which to grow or they’ll spill over into the yard.
Utilizing one of your beds for cucumbers would be ideal for them. Plant the seeds in the back 4 square feet of your bed. Most varieties come with instructions to plant 3 or 4 seeds in a little mound, 18″ apart. This translates to a square foot garden in one of two ways. Utilizing the back two rows of square feet, plant 3 or 4 seeds in the middle of each 4 sq. ft. square. Or, you can plant one seed per square foot in the last row only. They need plenty of room for the roots to grow, so don’t crowd them. Cucumbers like peppers, which would be good planted in the squares just South of the cucumbers. In the front row plant herbs or lettuce or radishes or carrots.
South Florida has a particularly nasty little beetle that has destroyed my vining crops in my past attempts to grow organically. I called the Broward County extension and spoke to the master gardener about this problem. My cukes, cantaloupe and squash were doing fine until one day the leaves got spotty, then turned into hairnets, then died. He recommended one spray that is the “closest thing to organic” insecticide that would work. It’s Bayer’s multi purpose spray and I now use it on the growing plants before they send out blossoms or fruit. If you do choose to use an insecticide of any kind, use it only at dusk so you don’t kill your bees. Bees are your friends, and their benefits will be discussed in a later blog. In the mean time, protect your bee population by never spraying in the mornings especially when they’re gathering nectar. If you kill your bees, you will have no cucumbers unless you pollinate them yourself.