by Gary Pilarchik (The Rusted Gardener)
Cucumbers love the warmth of summer As the season goes on, your cucumbers can begin to look "beat up" and tired. It may be from the high summer temperatures, insects, diseases or all three. A lot of times, here in Maryland Zone 7, I get great production from my cucumbers from late June until the end of July. But as August approaches, the plants just get beat down. That leads me to my first and most under utilized cucumber tip.
One key point that I want to stress is that cucumbers needed to be watered consistently from planting. A well amended planting hole with compost and manures will set your cucumbers up for success. Consistent watering will be needed. At some point in the season, you will have to water daily. Any plant dealing with drought, won't be healthy.
Start some new cucumber transplants mid July. Select a fast maturing variety and start the seeds outdoors in 16 ounce cups. Replace your old beat up plants with 2 week old transplants, come the end of July. They should be up producing by the end of August. It is easier to replace an insect plagued or diseased plant then to try and save the larger plant. Remove it and replace it.
The smaller plant can be treated much more easily with sprays to manage pests and diseases. Less foliage, means it is easier for you to spray the entire plant, top and bottom. The plant is also disease and insect free which means they sprays will provide maximum protection as the disease or insects try and take hold. You are also removing the older plant that often carries various stages of insect and disease growth.
Your cucumbers might be a bit weathered and worn come mid season. You can use Epsom Salts as a way to green them up and give them a boost. One time, mid season for your heavy feeding plants, is all you need in the way of Epsom Salts. Despite what you might hear, Epsom Salts work. The key is to use it this way. It is not needed as a weekly ongoing feed.
This is also a great time to good give them a liquid feeding with a balanced liquid fertilizer that covers N-P-K and micro-nutrients. This is true for both container and ground planted cucumbers. If you are growing cucumbers in containers, you should be feeding them at least 2x's a month when they are producing. However, come mid season, your plants would appreciate a bit more.
Sometimes you get a lot of flowers and little cucumbers that seem to turn brown (starting at the tip) and die after growing briefly. That is because the female flower with the tiny cucumber wasn't fertilized by a male flower. You can actually hand pollinate cucumbers to increase production.
Learn the difference between male and female cucumber flowers and try your hand at hand pollination. This will help you get more mature cucumbers. A female flower actually bears a tiny cucumber but the cucumber won't grow to maturity if the female flower isn't pollinated. Once you see the difference between the flowers, it easy to... well, see the difference.
Grow your cucumbers vertically. It makes care so much easier! Cucumbers can take up a lot of space in the garden. Trellising cucumbers is a great way to save space and better manage pests and disease. It is a lot easy to spray cucumbers that are growing vertically. You are able to get both sides of the leaves much more easily as well as find mature cucumbers. You will be able to plant many other vegetables in the space the ground sprawling cucumbers once covered.
Start spraying 2 weeks before problems arise in your garden. I use Neem Oil for insects and baking soda at times as an anti-fungal. Make notes when diseases and insects show up in your garden. Make a plan for the following year, to spray early.
Cucumbers are often attacked by cucumber beetles and other insects. I use Neem Oil and soap to make my spray. They also can get powdery mildew. For that, I use a baking soda spray. Spraying before problems arise is key. Know when problems show up in your garden. Write down the dates and start spraying 2 weeks before they arrive. I stressed this twice, because it is that important and makes a huge difference in managing pests and diseases.
AND.... ALWAYS test spray anytime you make a new spray, it is important to test a few leaves with the spray and wait 48 hours to see if any damage occurs. Don't spray in full sun or when temperatures cause leaves to droop or wilt. The leaf will be damaged.