This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
Plate XXXI. The common cucumbers are derived from an Asian species, Cucumis sativus (see Cucumis), which has long been known in cultivation. The so-called West India gherkin, which is commonly classed with the cucumbers, is Cucumis Anguria. The snake, or serpent cucumber is more properly a muskmelon, and should be designated botanically as Cucumis Melo variety flexuosus (cf. A. G. 14:206). The "musk cucumber" is Cucumis moschata, Hort., which is probably identical with concombre musque, referred to Sicana odorifera by Le Potager d'un Curieux, known in this country as cassabanana. The Mandera cucumber is Cucumis Sacleuxii, Paill. et Bois. (Pot. d'un Curieux), but it is not in cultivation in this country. None of these is of any particular importance except the common types of Cucumis sativus. These are extensively cultivated in all civilized countries as field and as garden crops. They come into commerce as pickles packed in bottles and barrels, and are very extensively used in this form. Of late, the forcing of cucumbers under glass has come to be an important industry in the eastern states.
Plate XXXI. The White Spine cucumber.
The common cucumber is an important field and garden crop and may be classed as one of the standard crops of the vegetable-garden. The fruit is used as a table salad, eaten raw, with the usual salad seasonings, and is pickled in large quantities. The cucumber is pickled in both large and small sizes, both by the housewife and commercially on a large scale. The small fruit, of not more than a day or two's growth and measuring from 1 to 2 inches in length, makes the most desirable and delicate of pickles. These are packed in bottles for the commercial trade and bring fancy prices. Larger sizes are pickled and sold by the keg or barrel.
The cucumber is a native of the tropics and tender of frost. It should be planted in a warm location, after danger from frost is past. For the early crop-and earliness is of prime importance to the commercial vegetable-grower-a sandy soil is preferable, supplied with an abundance of well-rotted stable manure. The seed may be sown in hills 3 feet apart with rows 6 feet apart, or may be planted by machine (the common seed-drill) in drills 6 feet apart. In either case, an abundance of seed should be used, for severe injury by insect pests often occurs in the early stages of the cucumber's life. Plants may be started under glass to hasten maturity. The seed is sometimes sown in pots or baskets or in inverted sods and these protected and so managed that the cucumber plant receives those conditions most suitable to its rapid and healthy growth. These conditions are: a temperature between 60° and 65° at night, which may be allowed to rise to 100° in bright sunshine; an ample supply of moisture; sufficient ventilation, without draft, to prevent a soft brittle growth. It is almost impossible to transplant cucumber seedlings and secure satisfactory results if the roots are disturbed.
A glass-covered frame may be used over seed planted in the field, and yields good returns on labor and equipment. Any method whereby marketable cucumbers may be obtained a few days earlier, if not extravagant of time and labor, will pay handsomely.
The cucumber, in the field, should yield marketable fruits in seven to eight weeks from seed and continue in profitable bearing until frost. It is customary among commercial growers to allow two or three plants to the hill, and when grown in drills, one plant is left every 18 to 24 inches.
During the height of the growing season, which is usually in August when the days are hot and nights moist and warm, the cucumbers need to be picked every day. The fruit is ready to harvest when it is well filled out, nearly cylindrical in shape. When immature it is somewhat furrowed. When allowed to remain too long, it becomes swollen in its middle portion and cannot be sold as first quality. Cucumbers are marketed by the dozen, the field crop often bringing as much as 60 cents a dozen at the first and selling as low as 5 cents a dozen at the glut of the market.
The cucumber plant is affected by serious insect pests and fungous diseases. Of the insect pests, the striped cucumber beetle is the most serious and difficult to combat. It feeds on the leaves, usually on the under sides, and appears soon after the cucumber seedlings break ground. This cucumber beetle seems to be little affected by the common remedies for chewing insects. This is probably largely due to its activity, the beetle moving to unpoisoned parts of the plant, and also to the fact that rarely, in commercial practice, is the under side of the leaves thoroughly poisoned. Arsenate of lead applied in more than ordinary strength is the most satisfactory remedy. Hammond's Slug Shot, dusted lightly over the plants, will drive the bugs away, while a teaspoonful of paris green mixed with two pounds of flour makes also an excellent mixture with which to fight the bugs. Or cover the young plants with small wire or hoop frames, over which fine netting is stretched. If the plants are kept quite free from attack till these protectors are outgrown, they will usually suffer little damage. Plants started in hotbeds or greenhouses may usually be kept free at first, and this is the chief advantage of such practices.
The cucumber beetles are kept away somewhat at times by strewing tobacco stems thickly under the plants; and kerosene emulsion will sometimes discommode the young squash bugs without killing the vines, but usually not. What is known as the cucumber blight (Pseudope-ronospora cubensis) has done much to discourage the growth of cucumbers. This fungus may be repulsed by thorough spraying with bordeaux and the plants should be kept covered with bordeaux throughout their growth. This will require at least three or four sprayings. The growth of the vines, which usually completely covers the ground, prevents late sprayings, which are often necessary to maintain healthy growth and insure maximum returns.
Fig. 1121. House of English cucumbers.
The common field varieties most popular in the United States grown for a slicing cucumber are of the White Spine type. Many of the so-called White Spine varieties now on the market are not typical of the original White Spine cucumber, which is a fruit averaging about 6 inches in length, rather blunt on both ends, with white prickles appearing at frequent intervals over the surface. The seed end is light-colored, in mature specimens almost white with whitish stripes extending toward the stem end from one-third to one-half the length of the cucumber. What is often cata-
Fig. 1122. Three prominent varieties of English or Forcing cucumber. S. Sion House; E. Duke of Edinburgh; T. Telegraph. (X 1/6) logued as the Improved White Spine has become more popular among growers within recent years. This type possesses some of the characteristics of the popular English type of cucumber known as the Telegraph. The improved type has been obtained by crossing the White Spine with the Telegraph or some closely related variety. This cross has resulted in an increased length and darker green color, with a fewer number of spines and seeds and a more common tapering of the ends. All of these changes have apparently been beneficial and have been well fixed by careful selection. This is well illustrated by the cucumber of the White Spine type sold as Woodruff Hybrid.
The English type of cucumbers is raised on a small scale in this country but infrequently for market purposes.