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No salad plate is complete without some juicy, green cucumbers. Apart from their nutritional value, cucumbers also help people to regulate their blood pressure and maintain a healthy weight while cutting down on unwanted and unhealthy junk food. Many believe that cucumbers have antioxidant properties. They can also be used as skin hydrating tonics to cleanse the skin from oil and dirt, and can also be added to rejuvenating booster drinks. The daily consumption of this vegetable and the application of a cucumber facemask are believed to be associated with lightening the skin tone as well.

Scientifically known as cucumis sativus, cucumbers belong to the cucurbitaceae family, which is more commonly known as the gourd family. The shape of the cucumber seeds resembles that of the seeds of melons. They are light, flat, elongated and white in colour. The edible seeds are also considered to be quite healthy. These seeds are often eaten raw, after the covering is removed. The roasted seeds also contribute to the crunchy texture in salads.

When it comes to growing cucumbers, the first thing to look out for is the seed selection based on the cucumber plant type. Cucumbers can be grown using a bush plant variety, or they may be grown on soft-stemmed creeping vines. For those opting for container gardening due to a lack of space, it is usually recommended to grow the cucumbers using a bush plant. As compared to vines, the bush leads to more cucumber produce but with a relatively smaller sized fruit. The vine variety of cucumbers, which is generally available in the market, is usually grown when there is enough space for the plant to spread itself with the help of tendrils clinging onto anything in its path.

Cucumber seeds should be sown every two weeks to get a continued harvest

After the seed variety is selected, the seeds should ideally be sown between January and March in warmer areas like Karachi. The seeds can also be sown during the monsoon period, ideally in the months of July and August. In much colder areas, the soil temperature at the time of sowing should ideally be at least 17 degrees Celsius or above. Depending upon multiple factors, the seeds take around three to 10 days to germinate. The soil should be well-drained and should be devoid of any pebbles and stones. The seeds should be sown half-an-inch below the surface and covered with soil. Ideally, the plant should be grown in 15 to 20 gallons sized containers. Otherwise, it may be grown directly in the ground with a square foot space between and from the other plants.

Growing cucumbers can be a tricky process but, due to the vegetable’s variety of uses, the effort is more than worth it

A few cucumber varieties also produce good results in seven to 10 gallon sized containers as well. The seeds should be sown in this period after every two to three weeks. This helps in the continuous supply of the cucumber harvest throughout the season and beyond.

A trellis helps the cucumber to hang instead of resting on the ground

The vine should be grown at such locations where there is direct sunlight exposure from morning to noon. Alternatively, in warmer regions, the vine might need to be provided with shade to protect it from the scorching sunlight. The installation of a trellis is mandatory, not only for the plant to cling to and spread on but also to let the air flow throughout the plant. The trellis also helps the fruit to hang instead of touching the ground, which can be detrimental for any produce.

The leaves of cucumber vines are susceptible to different leaf related diseases. It is, therefore, recommended not to shower the leaves of the cucumber vine directly while watering. The trellis comes to the rescue here again as it helps the leaves to be quite far from the watering space of the plant near the lower stem and roots. The cucumber vine should be frequently watered to ensure that the soil is never dry.

Initially, the vine should be provided with nitrogen-based fertilisers on a fortnightly basis and, after the flowering period, a potassium-based fertiliser should be used instead. Due to frequent pests attacks like that of aphids and mealy bugs, the plant should ideally be sprayed fortnightly with any organic pesticide.

Please send your queries and emails to doctree101@hotmail.com. The writer is a physician and a host for the YouTube channel ‘DocTree Gardening’ promoting organic kitchen gardening

Published in Dawn, EOS, May 21st, 2023

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