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Growing Cucumbers within a High Tunnel Lewis W. Jett1* and James Quinn2 Department of Horticulture, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211-7140Introduction:Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus L.) are high yielding but frost-sensitive vegetables. Theyyield very well as an early-season crop, but also will produce well during the summer andfall. One method to extend the production season of cucumbers is using a high tunnel.High tunnels are unheated, plastic-covered greenhouses which capture and store solarheat during the day and are manually vented to control temperature and humidity. Unlikea greenhouse, they use no fossil fuels and have much lower start-up and operating costs.Table 1. Cucumber cultivars evaluated within a high tunnel. Fall, 2005 Cultivar Days to maturityz Fruit type Seed vendorCamaro 60 European-type DeRuiteryDasher II 58 Slicing Chesmore Seeds; Harris SeedsDiva 58 Slicing Harris SeedsGenuine 48 Slicing Johnny’s SeedsHazera 456 50 Beit Alpha-type Hazera SeedsIndy 59 Slicing Seedway; Chesmore SeedsMilligon 60 European-type DeRuiterySocrates 52 Beit Alpha-type Johnny’s SeedsTasty Green 48 European-type Seigers SeedsTimor 45 Beit Alpha-type Seigers SeedsTyria 56 European-type Johnny’s Seedsz Days from seeding. yRetailed from: Hydro-Gardens, Inc. Colorado Springs, CO1 State Extension Vegetable Crops Specialist. 2Extension Assistant.
Methods:Eleven cucumber cultivars were evaluated (Table 1). There are several types ofcucumbers. Cucumbers grown for the fresh market are termed “slicers”. Slicing typesproduce fruit with seeds and a relatively thicker skin. European types, also called Dutchtypes or hothouse cucumbers, produce parenthocarpic fruit. That is, the fruit sets withoutpollination and does not produce seed. Burpless cucumbers do not have seed. Europeantype cucumbers are typically long but have a smaller diameter than slicing types.European cucumbers have a thin skin and lose fresh weight rapidly after harvest. BeitAlpha cucumbers are also parenthocarpic but tend to be blockier and have a waxy layeron the fruit which prevents significant fresh weight loss.Three (20 ft. wide x 34 ft. long x 9 ft. high) high tunnels (Stuppy Greenhouse Mfg.,Kansas City, MO) were used for this cultivar evaluation. Each high tunnel had a singlelayer of 6 mil plastic with 38” high sidewalls which were rolled (up or down) to managetemperature and humidity within the high tunnel.Cucumbers were direct seeded in 50 cell trays and grown as transplants for 2.5 weeksprior to transplanting within the high tunnels on 20 August 2005. Each transplant wasplaced in the planting hole on black plastic which had previously been incantaloupes.(March-August 10) The cantaloupe vines (including roots) were removedone week prior to transplanting the second crop of cucumbers. The plastic mulch, dripirrigation line and mesh trellis was left in place for the next crop of cucumbers.Each plant was spaced 24” apart with rows on 48” centers. A single drip line was undereach plastic mulched bed to provide water and soluble fertilizer to the growing cucumberplants. A starter solution (15N-30P-15K) mixed with Admire insecticide was applied toeach transplant a day after transplanting. Flint fungicide was applied to control powderymildew.Starting 2 weeks after transplanting, the cucumber vines were trained on the trellises byusing ¾” plant clips. Water and fertilizer was applied every 3 days (8-10 lbsN/acre/week. The fertilizer used was calcium nitrate (15.5N-0P-0K-19Ca) since nitratenitrogen is the best form of nitrogen to use for cucumbers.
Harvest commenced on 23 September and proceeded every 3 days until 8 November2005. Each cucumber was weighed, and a subsample of each cucumber cultivar wasmeasured for length and diameter.Results and Discussion:Table 2. Marketable yield and count of cucumbers produced within a high tunnel.-2005 Cultivar Average fruit Average fruit Fruit wt/plant Fruit no./plant length (in.) wt. (oz.) (lbs.) deDasher II 7.5 8.0 12.2ab 24abcIndy 7.9 8.8cde 11.1ab 20abc ab abTasty Green 12.0 12.4 10.9 14bcdDiva 7.1 8.1de 9.7ab 19abc de abSocrates 6.9 7.8 9.5 20abcGenuine 8.1 10.1b 9.4abc 15bcdTimor 7.4 8.1de 9.2abc 18abc ab abcMilligon 10.0 11.4 8.1 12deCamaro 11.6 11.7ab 6.6cde 9de b cdeTyria 10.8 10.0 5.3 9deHazera 456 5.8 4.9f 1.9f 6eLSD (0.05) 1.8 2.0 4.1 7.1‘Dasher II’ produced the highest yield of all cucumbers evaluated within the high tunnel(Table 2). ‘Dasher II’ is a slicing type with excellent uniformity and good tolerance topowdery mildew. ‘Indy’ also is a slicing type but produced slightly less fruit per plantrelative to ‘Dasher II’. ‘Tasty Green’ was one of the earliest maturing cultivarsevaluated, and this early production resulted in a high yield. The fruit of ‘Tasty Green’ isdark green with slight ridges and average 12” in length. ’Diva’ produced tender, crispfruit with excellent taste. Socrates’ is thin-skinned, dark green cucumber with excellentquality and yield. ‘Socrates’ is somewhat tolerant of cool weather and thus may be wellsuited to high tunnel production in the fall. ‘Genuine’ is an early maturing slicer, butseemed to have poor tolerance to powdery mildew.The European or hothouse types, ‘Camaro’ and ‘Milligon’ did not perform well relativeto most other cultivars evaluated. They seemed to lack good tolerance to powderymildew, and should have a longer, warmer growing season than what is provided in anunheated high tunnel. The open environment of the high tunnel may not be suitable foroptimal production of European type cucumbers.
Trellising of cucumbers significantly improves yield and quality. All long-fruited types(≥ 10”) should be trellised to maintain good fruit shape. Slicers and beit alpha types maynot be trellised, but trellising will improve yield and quality. No. Cucumbers per High Tunnel 8000 7000 6000 5000 No. 4000 3000 2000 1000 0 Dasher II Indy Socrates Diva Timor Genuine Tasty Green Millago Camaro Tyria Hazera 456 Cultivar Boxes (45 ct) per High Tunnel 180 160 140 120 100 No. 80 60 40 20 0 Dasher II Indy Socrates Diva Timor Genuine Tasty Green Millago Camaro Tyria Hazera 456 Cultivar Figure 2. Yield of cucumbers per 2500 ft2 high tunnel.Slicers and beit alpha types are typically packed as 40-45 count boxes. European typesare shrink-film wrapped and sold in 16 count boxes.Conclusions:Growers should consider using high tunnels for extended season cucumber production.Cucumbers are an excellent rotation crop with tomatoes. Choose a cultivar with goodyield, quality and disease tolerance.