The cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is a herbaceous and climbing (or prostrate depending on the culture) subtropical annual plant, belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family. Depending on the variety, the plant may bear both male and female flowers, or only female flowers. Among the varieties of cucumbers we remember the “Marketmore”, the “Lungo verde di Chioggia”, the “Triumph hybrid” and for pickled gherkins the “Piccolo di Parigi”.
Cucumber can be grown outdoors in almost all of Italy as it has a fairly short life cycle and is easy to use with protective covers. Sowing is done between April and May by placing 2-3 seeds per postarelle and under a bell in the coldest regions, at a depth of 1 cm, and spacing the postarelle placed in the mounds by at least 40-50 cm . Then we proceed to thinning, leaving only the strongest plant in each postarella. Wanting to ensure germination, the seeds are pre-germinated by placing them on damp paper towels in a plastic container kept at 21°C for 2-3 days. Organic cultivation, on the other hand, generally requires the digging of small furrows in the 30 cm wide piles in which to place the seeds deep in the ground, or one at a time at distances of 10 cm. or 3-4 at a distance of 20 cm, then thinning at distances of 30-40 cm, choosing the strongest plants. Finally, sowing in a hot greenhouse is carried out between November and January, a pre-germination is anticipated followed by breeding in individual pots (diameter 7-8 cm) at 21°C.
Cucumber wants fertile soil that is well drained but also able to hold water well. Preparation for cultivation in the open field consists of digging and adding compost or mature manure (4-5 kg per square meter) and the formation of mounds which serve to retain the heat of the sun. Mounds should be spaced 90-120cm apart for cucumbers and 60-80cm apart for pickles, and compound fertilizer (30-35g per square meter) should be spread around each, unless liquid fertilizer is used . The organic farmer, meanwhile, will prepare the soil or the previous summer by sowing mustard, phacelia, clover or even peas and then proceed to green manure, or in the fall or early spring by incorporating mature manure into the soil and mixing compost with the excavated soil to form mounds. Some create mounds 12 inches wide, using a special compound made from grass, weeds and mature horse manure.
Fertilization involves the frequent use of liquid fertilizer (also in the greenhouse) or, in the case of organic cultivation, the use of diluted nettle macerates (2-3 times during the period of maximum growth).