Cucumbers are usually sown from mid-April to mid-May. Then, they can be harvested from mid-July to the end of summer. Cucumbers do not tolerate frost. This is why we do not sow too early.
However, there is a way to grow early cucumbers and taste juicy cucumbers from your bed in early summer or even in May.
It is only necessary to take into account some of the characteristics of this plant. We will reveal to you in this article the 7 secrets of early cucumbers.
Where to sow cucumbers for an early harvest
For an early harvest of green fasteners, you will have to abandon the traditional practice of sowing in open fields. Cucumbers love heat, so spring frosts and temperature changes can be devastating for them. In addition, seeds in moist soil after snow thaws will rot before they germinate, and hungry mice love to eat them.
Therefore, it is best to germinate the seeds of sprouts indoors at room temperature. The first sprouts will appear within 1-2 weeks.
Attention! The best time to sow cucumber seedlings should be chosen according to your location.
The seedlings will be ready for sowing 4 to 5 weeks after sowing. Longer time in the pot will result in thinner and weaker sprouts, which may reduce the future yield of early cucumbers.
How to sow cucumber seedlings
It is best to plant one seed at a time in a small pot so that you do not have to separate several seeds if they germinate next to each other. In the initial stages, for this kind of planting, an empty egg carton will suffice.
Cucumber seedlings can get quite large before you decide to take them outside. Therefore, once the seeds have germinated, carefully transplant them into a 3.5inch (9cm) pot along with a ball of soil. They will be large enough so that the seedlings can develop additional roots and gain strength before being transplanted into open soil.
Use well-drained coarse sandy soil when sowing to ensure a moisture balance. A neutral acidic cocoa substrate is also suitable for cucumber seedlings.
Plant the seeds to a depth of 0.2inch (0.5cm) and cover them with coarse sand or a 1:1 combination of sand and soil.
Place the pot with the seeds in a warm room on the sunny side. The soil should be moderately moist. Under favorable conditions, seeds will germinate within 7-10 days.
If you have a propagator, it will greatly facilitate the development of seedlings of early cucumbers. Modern propagators maintain the set optimal parameters of temperature, light, and humidity during the whole process of seed development. Seedling emergence is much faster and seedling germination is more feasible in such equipment. Set the temperature for seed germination at 70-73°F (21°-23°C).
There is a “secret” way to germinate cucumber seeds for early harvest: Pour very hot water over them, cover the container with the seeds tightly and wrap it around them to keep the heat in for as long as possible before planting.
Alternatively, you can heat the germinating ground with boiling water, quickly plant the seeds in it, cover it and also try to keep it as warm as possible. This method will sterilize the seeds and help them germinate faster.
Planting cucumber seedlings
About a month after sowing, when the second already present leaf appears above the first two, the seedlings are ready to be transplanted into the ground.
This happens somewhere in early May. Before transplanting the seedlings into the ground, you can perform what is called seedling hardening, by placing them outside or in a greenhouse for a few hours on a sunny day.
Since the weather is not stable enough during this period, cucumber seedlings are planted in greenhouses or greenhouses. There, the air and soil remain warmer and the young plants will be protected from the adverse effects of the external environment. In this case, and planting sprouts can be done much earlier and the first fruits can be obtained within 2-3 weeks after planting.
The time of planting in the greenhouse depends on its possibility of heating, material coating, the possibility of increasing insulation in case of unexpectedly cold weather.
If your climatic conditions allow, you can plant seedlings in the open ground immediately. However, before that, it is necessary to heat the soil sufficiently. The temperature at night should not fall below 41°F (5°C). At night, you can cover the plants with an overturned bucket (preferably plastic) or a plastic bottle cut from below to avoid freezing.
When growing outdoors, the selection of seed varieties is somewhat limited and the probability of plant disease is higher.
If a heated greenhouse is not available and it is not warm enough outside, a greenhouse will help take care of the young shoots of early cucumbers. One of its options is shown in the figure below.
When there is no snow on the ground, dig out a bed about 40inch (1 meter) wide. Make a 16x16inch (40x40cm) deep bottom in the center of the bed with a thickness of 8inch (20cm), fill it with manure and straw, fill it with hot water and cover it with an 8inch (20cm) layer of soil.
Cucumber bushes are planted at a distance of 16inch (40 cm) on both sides of the nutrient tank and we make an arc with thick wire or branches to keep the film. The greenhouse should be covered with transparent film, carefully fixed at the edges.
When arranging the greenhouse, you should keep in mind:
- the greenhouse should be well lit, but not overheated.
- On sunny days, the film should be removed for ventilation, to condition the seedlings, and to keep the leaves from being burned by the film and the overheated air.
- Not only heat but also additional moisture is released from the humus.
Ventilating the greenhouse will help prevent moisture from depositing and rotting on the plants.
How to prepare the soil for growing cucumber seedlings
- Do not bring snow into a greenhouse intended for cucumber growing in winter. This will increase the water content of the soil and greatly delay its warming in the spring.
- To speed up the warming of soil that has frozen over the winter, dig it out in early spring and do not loosen it. The soil in the clods will warm up more quickly.
- Feed the area on the bed with any vegetable fertilizer used for growing vegetables outdoors two weeks before you intend to plant.
5.4. About a week before planting the cucumber shoots, it is necessary to grind the soil and water it with hot water every day, covering it with a dark film after each watering.
When planting seedlings, especially if it is an open area, the aluminum foil should not be removed from the bed. The plants are planted in cross-shaped incisions made at a certain distance from the aluminum foil.
Before planting, make sure that there will be no more frost and that the soil has warmed up to about 59°F (15°C). Soil temperature is measured with a conventional thermometer at a depth of 3inch (8cm).
The ideal acidity for cucumbers is a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8.
Note! The place where cucumbers are planted should be sunny, fertile, and have well permeable soil. Frost, rainfall, and high humidity are the enemies of cucumbers.
Warm beds for early harvest
A warm bed is a great way to harvest early cucumbers in May, especially in the cooler spring months. In addition, this bed is an additional fertilizer.
Two types of warm beds are used: sunken and raised. Such beds resemble a multi-layered sandwich in which the ingredients are organic fertilizers. It is good to make a good raised bed. On such beds, excess water will be able to run off in case of rain.
The advantages of layered beds are as follows: in the decomposition of organic matter, you will get a double effect – heat, and nutrients.
It is better to make such a bed in autumn so that in winter its components will rot, and then the bed will be ready for planting seedlings in spring.
Here are some rules for making a warm bed:
- You need to choose a spacious and sunny place.
- Before filling in the next layer, water the bottom layer so that the layers are always moist.
- Take only parts of healthy plants to fill the bed, free from fungal infections and pest damage; the width of the bed is arbitrarily chosen, but not more than 1 meter, and the depth – the size of two spade bayonets with a small reserve, about 20inch (50 cm).
- The bottom layer of the bed filler consists of coarse rough waste, which requires more time to decompose; it can be fine branches of deciduous trees, coarse stems, small wood waste
- The next layer consists of coarse herbs, vegetable peels (boil potato peels to avoid their sprouting), and soft stems.
- lay leaves and freshly cut grass without seeds thickly on top; the grass layer should be compacted to avoid the formation of irregularities; add a compound fertilizer: nitroglycerin – 1 tablespoon per square meter – and a cup of wood ash that you can pour into a solution of manure with or without straw.
- Fill these fillers with fertile soil to a thickness of 6-8inch (15-20 cm).
- Cover the prepared bed with dark film.
You can make a warm bed and in the spring, but in this case, the bed is filled only with a soft green mass, which is quickly disposed of on the ground, and vegetable food waste.
It is especially good to use rootless nettles, alfalfa, dandelions, onion husks. Mix with compost or biomethane. Pour in boiling water and cover with dark film. Plant the seedlings after a few days.
Selection of seeds
When choosing cucumber seeds, give preference to those varieties that are suitable for your climate zone. There are now many early-maturing cucumber hybrids with enhanced frost and disease resistance.
It is important to decide ahead of time where to plant early-maturing cucumbers in the spring. For open fields, any variety will do, depending on whether requirements. Select parthenogenic and self-pollinated varieties and hybrids for the greenhouse.
Parthenogenic hybrids differ from other hybrids in that they do not require pollination to form cucumbers. There are no seeds in this fruit.
How to care for cucumber seedlings
To ensure that cucumbers are not bitter and have a nice shape, make sure that the soil in which they grow is always evenly moist. In dry weather, cucumbers should be watered daily. A little watering every day is better than a lot of watering, but once a week.
When transplanting the seedlings into the soil, add 2 tablespoons of granular fertilizer “Water Soluble Compound” per plant. One month after planting, you should feed them again.
You can use a liquid fertilizer for tomatoes and add it every 2 weeks with regular watering at the bottom of the plants. Or add organic fertilizer granules every 2 months. You can also feed complex fertilizers such as Ideal, Lux, Crystal, etc.
Check the plants for pests and take action when appropriate.
When fruits appear, do not let cucumbers grow too big and pick them in time. Overgrown cucumbers can become unpalatable and yellow in color.
Cucumbers are very picky about feeding. If the ovaries are immature, use a “mixture of boric acid and potassium permanganate” preparation, sprinkled with wood ash. During the fruiting period, cucumbers need potassium and phosphorus.
All the above techniques will help to grow early cucumbers and enjoy fresh cucumber salad in May. The main thing is to have the desire, patience and not to overdo it. Have a good crop!