Larimer County CSU Extension Master Gardener
I like to focus on a couple garden veggies each year. This year I’d like a little information on cucumbers and summer squash. They’re pretty quick to mature, and can be prolific. They also take up a fair amount of space. How can I maximize my production from a few plants?
Answer: You’re absolutely right about these plants maturing fast, most often 50-65 days after seed emergence. That makes them a great choice for gardeners above 5,000 feet. These plants can mature in shorter seasons at higher altitudes. For extended harvests at any altitude, gardeners may want to consider starting seeds inside several weeks before transplanting. These heat-loving plants should be transplanted when the soil temperature at a 2-inch depth is 60 degrees. Also, these plants don’t like their roots disturbed, which makes transplanting difficult. Planting in peat cups, or pressed soil cups is best. Otherwise, be very careful if you choose to transplant. Stressed plants set out in cool weather can reduce yields and stunt growth, making the plant more susceptible to disease and pest infiltration. When seeding, it is just as important to choose warm days to seed, as cool moist soil can rot seed before it will germinate.
Planting in hills insures proper drainage for starts. Moist soil is necessary to start germination, but you can wait to water until you see the seeds germinate. As the plants get larger they will need more water. Remember, it is better to water once every few days with the proper amount of water then to water a little each day. It is common for plants to look wilted in the heat of the day and evening – but they probably don’t need extra water. If plants look wilted in the morning, it’s best to increase irrigation.
Cucumbers and squash are susceptible to aggravating attacks by insects and diseases. Properly identify what is attacking your plants before treating. Once flowers are produced, it may take a few flowers before pollination actually occurs. Usually these plants produce some male flowers before the females. The fruit appears with female flowers. These plants rely mostly on honeybees to complete their pollination.
Proper harvesting is essential to keeping your plant producing fruits. Summer squash are best harvested around 6-inches long and cucumbers between 6 and 8-inches long. If you don’t stay on top of harvesting, the plant may yield less fruit. To reduce the foot print of the cucumber vine, consider planting next to a fence, or installing a trellis for the plants to climb up.