By Mario Villarino
Cucurbits are a very interesting group of plant. They not only do well in Hopkins County but can handle the heat much better than other vegetables. Also, because even big plants can be kept in small space, gardeners have the tendency to always have at least one of them in their gardens. Some of the cucurbits can grow to a really big size.
I remember several seasons ago my cucumbers growing through the intense summer, when hardly any other plant was doing much. Their flowers are also beautiful.
One of the most important challenges is having enough pollination by the time the fruit is set. Because of the plant size, pollination problems can lead to small fruits or no fruits at all.
Cucumbers are part of the cucurbits family of plants. Keep the cucumbers as weed free as possible. Do not plow or hoe the soil deeper than about 1 inch because you may cut the feeder roots and slow the plant’s growth.
Cucumbers produce two kinds of flowers, male and female. Male flowers open first and always drop off. Female flowers form the cucumber and should not drop off. If the female flowers do begin to drop off, touch the inside of each male and female flower with a soft brush or cotton swab. This will pollinate the flowers and help them develop into fruit.
Insects: Many insecticides are available at garden centers for homeowner use. Sevin is a synthetic insecticide; organic options include Bt-based insecticides and sulfur. Sulfur also has fungicidal properties and helps control many diseases. Before using a pesticide, read the label and always follow cautions, warnings, and directions.
Diseases: Several diseases attack cucumbers. Most of these diseases show up as spots on the upper or lower sides of leaves or on fruit. Check the plants daily, and spray them with an approved fungicide if diseases appear. Neem oil, sulfur, and other fungicides are available for use. Always follow label directions.
Harvesting: Harvest cucumbers when they reach the desired size and are green in color. Do not wait until they turn yellow. Yellow cucumbers are over mature and will have a strong flavor.
For more information on this or any other agricultural topic please contact the Hopkins County Extension Office at 903-885-3443 or email me at [email protected].