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Growing Greenhouse Cucumbers in Soil and in Soilless Media

Growing Greenhouse Cucumbers in Soil and in Soilless Media

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Published by: Wyoming Native Plant Society on Oct 31, 2010
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Growing greenhouse seedless cucumbersin soil and in soilless media
Dr. A. P. Papadopoulos Research Centre Harrow, Ontario
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Publication 1902/E
CONTENTSIntroduction.The cucumber plantOriginBotanical taxonomyPlant growth habitThe shootThe rootThe flowerThe fruit (seeded vs nonseeded)Seed germinationPlant improvementEnvironmental requirementsTemperatureLightRelative humidityCarbon dioxideAir movementNutritional needsSoil plant relationshipsSoil as a growth mediumSoil structure and textureSoil reaction (pH)Cation-exchange capacity of the soilNutrient requirements and effectsMacronutrientsMicronutrientsNonessential elementsGeneral cultural practicesCrop schedulingCultivar selectionPlant propagationPropagation schedulesSeed sowing and seedling establishmentSoil and soilless mixesRock-wool multiblocksEnvironment control for seedlingsSeedling transfer (transplanting)Artificial lightTemperature controlCarbon dioxide enrichmentGraftingPlant spacing
Pruning and trainingGeneral principlesPruning systemsTraining systemsChoosing a training and pruning systemFruit thinningHarvesting and storageConventional cropping in soilType of soilDrainageSoil pasteurizationFlooding and leachingOrganic matterControl of pHPreplant fertilizer applicationCultivatingWatering (soil)Scheduling the applications of fertilizerMulchingCropping in soil with drip irrigationCropping in peat and other organic mediaThe trough systemPeat bagsWatering (peat)FeedingRecyclingThe Harrow peat-bag systemSawdustStraw balesCropping in rock wool and other inert mediaRock woolPerliteVermiculiteOasis and other syntheticsExpanded claySand and gravelNutrient film technique and other hydroponic systemsAcknowledgmentI thank Dr. W.R. Jarvis for his critical review of thispublication.
Almost all cucumbers grown now in greenhouses are the long, seedless type (English or European),referred to in this booklet as seedless cucumbers. The seeded-type cucumbers (regular or American),referred to in this booklet as regular cucumbers, were popular until the mid 1970s. The regular cucumbershave disappeared from the market except for those from field production (mostly as imports). Seedlesscucumbers are the second most- important greenhouse vegetable crop in Canada not far behind tomatoes.Cucumbers are grown mainly in spring and fall, but the plants' fast growth and the short time required fromseeding to harvest provide great flexibility in crop planning. The spring crop has always been the most
3important because of both the high prices in winter and early spring and the long season of production. Thiscrop is normally seeded in December, set in the greenhouse the 1st week of January, and harvested frommid February to July; some plantings extended into the fall. When circumstances allow (e.g., artificiallighting for transplant raising, modern greenhouse, skilled operator), the spring crop is started even earlierto capture the lucrative winter market. However, poor light conditions during the winter months make theearly spring crop more difficult to grow. The spring crop is also a riskier business venture, because of thehigh production inputs (i.e., energy and labor costs). For the grower choosing between cucumbers andtomatoes, the decision to grow spring cucumbers is a tough one, because this crop must compete with theequally important spring crop of tomatoes. The choice in the fall is easier, because the season is muchshorter, the anticipated yield correspondingly low, and the prices are usually depressed until late in theseason. Their quick growth in relation to the time available makes cucumbers a good candidate for a fallcrop. Such a crop is normally seeded in July, set in the greenhouse during the 1stweek of August, and harvested from September to December. The recent rise of sweet peppers as a seriouscontender makes choosing between cucumbers and tomatoes as a greenhouse crop even more difficult.
The cucumber plant
OriginBotanical taxonomyPlant growth habitThe shootThe rootThe flowerThe fruit (seeded vs nonseeded)Seed germinationPlant improvement
The cucumber most likely originated in India (south foot of the Himalayas), or possibly Burma, where theplant is extremely variable both vegetatively and in fruit characters. It has been in cultivation for at least3000 years. From India the plant spread quickly to China, and it was reportedly much appreciated by theancient Greeks and Romans.
Botanical taxonomy
The cucumber (
Cucumis sativus
L.) belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family, one of the more important plantfamilies. The Cucurbitaceae consists of 90 genera and 750 species. The Cucurbitaceae family is dividedinto five subfamilies (i.e., Fevilleae, Melothriae, Cucurbiteae, Sicyoideae, and Cyclanthereae). However,the important cultivated genera are found only in the subfamilies Cucurbiteae (i.e.,
Citrullus, Cucumis, Luffa, Lagenaria,
) and Sicyoideae (i.e.,
). The genus
contains nearly 40species including three important cultivated ones (i.e.,
C. anguria
L. [West Indian gherkin],
C. sativus
 [cucumber], and
C. melo
L. [cantaloupe]). Other important crop plants in the Cucurbitaceae family arewatermelon (
Citrullus vulgaris
Schrad), muskmelon (
Cucumis melo
L.), squash and pumpkin (
Cucurbita pepo
C. mixta
C. moschata
Poir., and
C. maxima
Duch.), and loofah gourd (
Luffa cylindrica
 Roem.). Fig-leaf gourd (
Cucurbita ficifolia
Bouche) is also cultivated to some extent, but it is even moreimportant as a disease-resistant rootstock in the grafting of greenhouse cucumbers.Plant growth habitThe cucumber responds like a semitropical plant. It grows best under conditions of high temperature,humidity, and light intensity and with an uninterrupted supply of water and nutrients. Under favorable andstable environmental and nutritional conditions and when pests are under control, the plants grow rapidlyand produce heavily. The main stem, laterals, and tendrils grow fast. They need frequent pruning to a singlestem and training along vertical wires to maintain an optimal canopy that intercepts maximum light andallows sufficient air movement. Under optimal conditions, more fruit may initially develop from the axil of 

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