Archive for September, 2015

How To Grow Cucumbers

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Growing cucumbers from a trellis nettingCucumbers are a low-maintenance, high-yielding, low-calorie, nutrient-rich and scrumptious vegetable. Widely popular with home gardeners, cucumbers are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, with an assortment of selections adaptable to any gardeners space limitations.

Cucumbers When to Plant

Cucumbers are a warm-weather crop that, once established, should produce well into the fall. When putting out transplants, wait one to two weeks after your last frost date; seeds can be sown directly into the garden on your last spring frost date. You can find your average last frost date here.

Cucumbers Where and What Variety to Grow

To successfully grow cucumbers, you should choose a spot that gets at least 8 hours of sunlight daily and is easily accessible for watering. Once you’ve found the ideal location, space and personal preference will be the next factors to take into consideration. There are lots of cucumber varieties on the market:

  • Dwarf Cucumber Plants such as our Bush Crop Cucumber Plant, are the perfect cucumbers for container gardens or for very small garden areas. This is also a popular choice for schoolyard gardens. Their growth is more upright than vining, and they do not require a lot of space.
  • Semi-Dwarf Cucumber Plants such as our Fanfare Cucumber Plant, are also adaptable to container growing and will only take up a bit more space in your garden than a dwarf variety. They grow a little taller than vigorous varieties, but with vines about half the length.
  • Vigorous Cucumber Plants sometimes referred to as vining cucumber plants, will require the most room in the garden. Some vigorous varieties grow on vines reaching up to 6 feet (or sometimes longer) in length. The fruits are most often 8 to 12 inches long and will grow best upon trellises. Our most popular vigorous variety is the Garden Sweet Burpless Cucumber Plant.

Cucumbers How to Fertilize and Water

Cucumbers will grow best with adequate nutrition. Cucumber plants should be fertilized, preferably with an organic fertilizer, when first transplanted, again about a week after blooming, and then every 3 to 4 weeks afterwards. Use a low nitrogen fertilizer in order to avoid leggy, leafy, beautiful, but potentially fruitless vines.

Cucumbers also require consistent watering; inconsistent or negligent watering can result in bitter fruit. Water thoroughly two to three times a week, depending upon the climatic conditions in your area. Container plantings should be monitored closely and never allowed to completely dry out. Bear in mind that watering around the roots, as opposed to on the leaves, will provide the most efficient hydration to your vegetable plants and will help to prevent foliar diseases, mildew and leaf scorch.

Harvesting cucumbers from the gardenCucumbers When to Harvest

When choosing a variety, be sure to know the estimated number of days to maturity. Remember, this is just a guideline; Mother Nature may have her own agenda. Climatic conditions, soil health, moisture and disease can greatly affect your cucumber harvest in terms of time and yield. And, since cucumbers produce throughout the entire season, it is virtually impossible to gauge the number of days any specific cucumber has been on the vine.

Cucumbers at their peak will more easily separate from the vine when you harvest. If you really have to aggressively tug or cut the vine, you may want to wait a day or two. Its a good idea to wear gloves when picking cukes, as their skins and stems are covered with prickly spines that can usually be removed easily by simply wiping with a glove or cloth. Make sure the skins are smooth before serving!

Delaying harvest until a cucumber starts to turn yellow can result in bitter fruit. Though your cucumber variety may generally produce 8- to 10-inch fruits, there are always exceptions, so don’t go by size, but rather by appearance. Pick cukes just as soon as they ripen to encourage the plants to keep producing fruit. Store them in the fridge for one to two weeks, or prepare vinegar-based cucumber salads that will keep for up to a week when refrigerated. Canned pickles keep for weeks or months. The skin contains valuable dietary fiber and nutrients, plus it adds a lot of crunch, so leave the skin intact when eating raw or using in recipes for the most dietary benefits.

Cucumbers Companion Plants

All plants do not grow well together. For instance, cucumbers should be planted well away from tomatoes, sage and other aromatic herbs, such as lavender, mint or lemon grass.

On the other hand, vegetables such as radishes, beets and dill are good choices for planting in close proximity to your cucumber plants. Not only do they benefit your cucumbers when it comes to utilizing and providing needed nutrients, many of them will also help deter the most common cucumber pests, such as aphids, cucumber beetles, spider mites and pickle worms. Dill, for instance, will attract lacewings, which in turn will decimate an aphid population in short order. Lacewings will also eat the eggs of the cucumber beetle.

Growing cucumbers with marigold flowersMany flowers, such as nasturtiums and marigolds, are an effective form of pest control, naturally reducing the need to utilize chemical pesticides in your vegetable garden while adding an attractive border or colorful accent. Experts recommend planting the most pungent marigold varieties, such as French or Mexican marigolds.

The healthiest and most pest-free gardens will grow in a naturally beneficial environment. To learn more, you can read our article on Natural Pest Control.

Got photos? We’d love to see them!

Why Are My Pepper Plant Leaves Turning Yellow?

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Pepper plant leaves that are diseasedI bought habanero plants at a local greenhouse and planted them around Memorial Day. They are not looking good. Their leaves are yellow with small holes throughout. There are brown spots around the edges of the leaves and many leaves are falling off. Recently I have been watering them more often because they appear to be burnt up. I’m not sure what to do or what is wrong. Any suggestions?  Jessica

Answer: Jessica, I am sorry you are experiencing problems with your peppers.

Yellowing leaves on peppers usually denotes a lack of nutrients, such as iron, calcium, sulphur, etc. It can also mean you have an excess of nitrogen, something that can happen with too much watering. It’s hard to tell since under-watering and over-watering generally present similar symptoms. Over-watering will be displayed by lower leaves being the first to turn yellow while the veins are either green or dark brown. Chlorinated water can also cause yellowing of the leaves.

The holes could be caused by small sucking insects, usually flea beetles or white fly on peppers. You can use an insecticidal soap or Neem Oil on your vegetables at the first sign of infestation. The beetles will only attack the leaves but a large infestation that defoliates the leaves will weaken the plant. If it’s white fly, you will be able to see the little white flies on the underneath side of the leaves. Many insects overwinter in brush surrounding your garden, so it’s best to keep your garden area clear of debris.

Other diseases, like bacterial leaf spot, can cause both the yellowing and brown spots on the leaves. There is no cure for this but it can be treated with a fungicide that is labeled for Leaf Spot, it’s best to apply the treatment at the first sign of the disease. The copper will not kill the fungus but it controls the spores from spreading.

Southern blight could also be a culprit. You will see a sudden wilting of the foliage, yellowing of the leaves, then browning of the stems. There can also be a white fungus mat that will appear around the base of the plant. With any fungal disease, be sure to completely destroy any affected plant matter, and throughly clean any tools that have been in contact with the affected plants with a bleach solution. If you have a fungal infestation, do not plant any other members of the food nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or eggplants) in the same area the following year, as the fungus can remain in the soil and affect these plants the following year.

You can find lots of images on the Internet to help you determine which problem is affecting your plants and the best treatment to proceed with.

The unusual weather has presented many new growing challenges for gardeners. Peppers and most garden plants do best in loose, well-draining soil with thorough watering. Controlling fungus problems means not overwatering, allowing the soil around the plants to dry before watering again, and watering at the soil level without splashing water on the leaves. Allowing water to stand on leaves or in the surrounding area can introduce fungus to your plants. Remove and discard the yellow leaves and do not let them stay on the soil below the plant. Mulch around the plant with straw or other loose material to help keep the soil evenly moist, but do not use something like hardwood mulch, that can dry and become hard, causing the water to run off and not down to the plant.

Apply a good balanced vegetable fertilizer at recommended times to ensure new growth and bloom development.

Good luck with your plants and have a wonderful harvest.

Karen