You can’t help it you just have to ask yourself this question: Can dogs really eat cucumbers? The answer is yes. And if you’ve ever had one of those moments where you say to yourself “I wish I’d never planted that,” then maybe you should think again.
You see, there are times when plants (and their associated fruits) need to be protected from hungry mouths. This is especially true with vegetables like cucumbers, which are very low in calories and taste delicious. If you don’t protect these veggies, all good things must come to an end for your cucumbers.
What exactly happens when cucumbers go bad?
Well, let’s start at the beginning. A vegetable plant has leaves and stems, while a fruit plant only has its blossoms and fruits. When the cucumber flowers die off, the plant produces new fruit buds. These buds will eventually grow into cucumbers.
After the cucumbers develop, they continue growing until the first frosty night arrives and everything starts to wither away. Once the plant dies, the cucumbers dry up and become shriveled. So basically, cucumbers aren’t meant to survive the winter.
But thankfully, there’s no reason why you can’t harvest some fresh cucumbers during the springtime and keep them through fall. It’ll take work, but once you get used to gardening, you may even find that you enjoy putting together a nice meal using nothing more than produce from your own backyard. Now that’s something worth getting excited about!
Pick Your Cukes
There are many different varieties of cucumbers available today, each with its own unique flavor and appearance. Some are large and green, others are small and white. Some have thick skin or thin skin. There are long ones and short ones, crunchy ones and soft ones. One thing is certain, however not every variety makes a great pickle. That said, here are some tips on choosing cucumbers that make sense for your family.
Smaller cucumbers tend to taste better because they contain fewer seeds and less wax. Long cucumbers often have a bitter taste, and older vines produce larger cukes, but these bigger gourds have tougher skins and require longer time to ripen.
Round cukes look like melons, but they actually belong to the same species as other types of cucumbers. Green cukes can be eaten raw, but most people prefer to cook them before consuming. White cukes have thinner skin and flesh than yellow or orange cukes, and they’re best left unripe.
With so much choice at the market, picking out the right type of cucumber can sometimes feel overwhelming. To simplify the selection process, try grouping similar cucumbers together by size and/or color. For example, group all the smaller vine-type cukes together, and place the larger ones near the center of the display. Then simply move along the rows until you reach the front door. By the time you’re done, you’ll know exactly which cucumbers your family prefers.
Plant ‘Em Right
Once you’ve picked out your seedlings, it’s important to put them in the ground properly. Before planting anything in your yard, always remember to read the fine print on any labels you might find inside packets of seeds. In addition to telling you whether or not a particular variety is suited to your local weather conditions, labels may also reveal information about disease resistance and specific needs such as water requirements.
When planting, be sure to dig holes deep enough to support the roots, yet shallow enough to allow the cukes’ stalks to emerge aboveground. Also consider adding organic matter to the soil.
Compost, manure, leaf mold and seaweed are all excellent ways to improve the quality of dirt. Finally, be careful not to disturb the delicate root systems of young seedlings. Always use a trowel or shovel to remove weeds around newly transplanted plants.
Before sowing your seeds, be sure to give them a bit of attention. Take note of the sunlight each plant receives. Ideally, cucumbers should receive six hours of direct sun per day. If possible, position them in areas where they won’t be shaded for long periods of time.
Next, decide how far apart you want to space individual plants. Most people recommend spacing the seeds roughly 3 inches (7 centimeters) apart within rows. However, you can experiment with different distances to determine which works best for your home garden.
After transplanting, be sure to pay close attention to watering practices. Plants should soak up moisture gradually to prevent excess drainage or rotting, but too much rain at once can lead to fungal infections. Be aware of changes in temperature when outdoors and adjust accordingly. Also, be mindful of pests such as bugs and birds. Try and provide cover for vulnerable crops, and watch for signs of infestation.
Now that your cucumbers are growing strong, it’s time to learn how to nurture them. First of all, ensure your soil drains well. Deep furrows should be filled with gravel or stones. Additionally, set aside a section of the garden dedicated exclusively to watering. Only apply water directly to the tops of seedling stems. Never drench the foliage, as this could encourage fungus growth.
On average, a healthy cucumber requires approximately 1 inch (2.54 centimeters) of water per week. However, some varieties thrive under wetter conditions, whereas others need drier conditions. Keep tabs on the weather forecast, and adjust accordingly. During hot summers, cucumbers need extra water to cool down their internal temperatures. Conversely, colder months call for reduced irrigation schedules.
As mentioned earlier, watch for signs of overzealous water consumption. Cucumbers that are subjected to prolonged periods without sufficient rainfall may exhibit dark blotchy spots. If this occurs, reduce the amount of water being applied. Too much water can hinder the production of sugars needed to form vitamins and antioxidants, thus reducing the overall nutritional value of the crop.
Protect From Pests
We talked earlier about protecting cucumbers from insects, but what about animals? Unfortunately, dogs happen to be among the worst culprits when it comes to eating garden produce. Not only does your pooch ruin perfectly good food, but he or she may also spread diseases. Luckily, taking proper precautions helps keep both pets and gardens safe and healthy.
The first step is identifying potential threats early. While it’s tempting to ignore a few half-rotted pieces of lettuce lying around, it doesn’t mean that other parts of the garden are free of danger. Watch out for signs of bug activity such as brown splotchiness or droppings. Insecticides are typically unnecessary, unless the problem persists after several days. On the other hand, if your pet shows signs of illness or injury, immediately seek medical assistance.
It’s also wise to build fences or install gates that restrict access to sensitive areas. Other deterrents include netting, sprinklers and motion sensors. Remember that cats and dogs have natural predators, including squirrels, raccoons and skunks. To discourage these creatures, fill birdbaths with nasty smelling substances such as ammonia or bleach. Additionally, leave out piles of wood chips or crushed eggshells.
Finally, keeping your garden clean and tidy will save your cucumbers from further damage. Don’t forget to regularly inspect your plot for pest problems. Look for damaged plants, missing patches, blackened or discolored foliage and eggs. Use pesticides if necessary, but be sure to follow label instructions carefully.
Let Them Eat All They Want
While it may seem counterintuitive, allowing your cucumbers to fully mature protects them from ravenous pests. As previously mentioned, cucumbers shouldn’t remain outside during cold seasons. But beyond preventing mildew, frost and rot, removing the protective outer layer of leaves exposes the tender inner flesh. This allows bugs and critters easy access to the juicy stuff.
To avoid this issue, wait until late summer or autumn to harvest. After the plants finish producing new fruit, cut back the existing foliage to 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters). At this point, the cukes are ready to harvest. Simply pull them out gently, avoiding bruising or breaking the skin.
Alternatively, you can snip the ends of the vines to detach the entire cucumber from the main stalk. Either way, be sure to store them in a plastic bag or container and refrigerate them immediately.
Although cucumbers are extremely nutritious, they lack fiber and protein. Thus, they’re usually served alongside other sources of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Popular side dishes include coleslaw, potato salad, salsa, yogurt sauce, deviled eggs, fried rice, pasta primavera, potato soup, bean sprouts, hummus, chili con carne, taco salads, pastas, stir fries, sandwiches, tacos, burgers, pizza, nachos, baked beans,