Slicing (Fresh Market) Cucumbers
Last revised February 4, 2010
Note: This file contains information specific to slicing cucumbers. For more detail on cucumber cultural methods, including fertilizers, pollination, and pest control, see Pickling Cucumbers.
Many excellent cucumbers are available. Flowers may be monoecious (separate male and female flowers on the same plant) and gynoecious (plants with only female flowers) and predominantly female (PF) types.
There are also parthenocarpic types (also referred to as burpless or seedless), they need no pollination. They are also gynoecious or PF. Parthenocarpic or PF types may actually become culls when pollinated since pollination causes seed to develop and produce misshapen fruit.
Most commercial field-grown cucumbers are monoecious or gynoecious. With gynoecious varieties, seed of a monoecious type is mixed in the seed package to provide a percentage of plants with male flowers for pollination. Parthenocarpic and PF types are most commonly used for greenhouse production. With parthenocarpic types bee colonies need not be used.
Slicing cucumber. Photo credit: Bill Mansour, Oregon State University
See the Vegetable Variety Selection Resources page to find varieties that have been shown to perform well in the Pacific NW.
Slicing cucumbers are planted or set in the field from early May through June. With the availability of the less costly plug transplants, there has been an increasing interest in transplanting.
For direct seeding use 2-3 lb seed/acre if seeding is to be done without the use of a precision seeder. Precision seeding is highly recommended, allowing planting to a stand of 7,000 to 8,000 plants per acre and reducing seeding rate to about 0.75 to 1 lb per acre.
For transplant production, slicing cucumber varieties are usually started in individual containers in sterile media in greenhouses 3 to 4 weeks before transplanting outdoors. Do not transplant until all danger of frost has passed.
Thin direct-seeded plantings of slicing cucumbers, or set transplants, to a spacing of 8-12 inches within the row, and 48-72 inches between rows.
Recommendations are based on a row spacing of 60 inches. With decreased row spacings fertilizer rates should be increased.
When available, apply 10 Tons of manure per acre.
Use 80 to 150 lb N/A, with the lower rates of N being applied when legumes were grown the preceding year or a green manure crop is incorporated into the soil prior to planting. Apply one-half the N at or just before planting and the rest when vines begin to "run".
Exercise care in N fertilization. Excess N may result in viney plant growth, which interferes with bee pollination and harvest and promotes foliar and fruit diseases, resulting in reduced fruit set.
Cucumbers are sensitive to fertilizer burn. If the application of N plus potash (K2O) exceeds 50 lb/A, there is danger of seedling injury from the fertilizer if it is all banded at planting time.
There is less danger if the band application is split into two bands. The danger is aggravated as the band comes closer to the seed, and is greater with sandy than with finer textured soil. Immediate irrigation at the first sign of burn should reduce further injury. There is more possibility of damage to seedlings on acid soils where the pH is below 5.5.
At time of seeding or transplanting, band the following:
Nitrogen: 80-150 lb N/acre. Apply two-thirds of this during the last half of crop growth, with the first sidedress at the time the vines begin to runner.
Where mulching and trickle irrigation are practiced nitrogen can be fed through the trickle irrigation system at 20 lb/acre when the vines begin to spread. To prevent clogging or plugging from occurring use soluble forms of nitrogen (Urea or Ammonium nitrate) and chlorinate the system once a month with a l0-50 ppm chlorine solution. Chlorinate more frequently if the flow rate decreases.
These fertilizer recommendations are based on research conducted by OSU Horticulture and Crop and Soil Science Department faculty, and are quoted from OSU Fertilizer Guide FG 68. For more information on fertilization of cucumbers, see the Fertilizer section in the file Pickling Cucumber.
Use of plastic mulch and trickle irrigation has been shown to be very effective with both transplanted and direct-seeded slicing cucumbers. Early and total yields are increased and more than compensate for the increased cost. For black plastic mulch to increase soil temperature, it is critical that the soil surface be smooth and that the plastic be in close contact with the soil. This can only be achieved by laying the plastic with a properly adjusted machine. Clear plastic mulch is excellent for transferring heat to the soil but does not control weeds.
A new generation of plastic mulch films allows for good weed control together with soil warming that is intermediate between black plastic and clear film. These films are called IRT (infrared-transmitting) or wavelength selective. They are more expensive than black or clear films, but appear to be cost-effective where soil warming is important.
Research has shown that the use of drip irrigation under black plastic mulch is superior to sprinkler irrigation with black plastic mulch. Yields usually increase dramatically.
Plastic, spunbonded, and non-woven materials have been developed as crop covers for use as windbreaks, for frost protection, and to enhance yield and earliness. They complement the use of plastic mulch and drip irrigation in many crops.
Non-woven or spunbonded polyester and polypropylene, and perforated polyethylene, row covers may be used for 4 to 8 weeks immediately after seeding or transplanting. Covers should be removed when plants begin to flower to allow proper pollination by insects. Row covers increase heat unit accumulation by 2 to 3 times over bare ground. Two to four degrees of frost protection may also be obtained at night. Soil temperatures and root growth are also increased under row covers as are early yields, and in some cases total yields.
Preliminary research in California indicates that soil-supported covers or mini-tunnels have been used to promote early production of tomatoes, at a minimum of cost. This technology would have similar application in a number of other crops. Similar to hoop-supported tunnels, these increase soil and air temperature around the plants, maintain surface soil moisture, and prevent crusting. They may also provide about 7 days advantage in earliness and harvest season, depending on crop and time of planting.
Soil to form the sides of the tunnel is brought from the sides of the plant row, which may be direct seeded or transplanted at the same time, or before tunnel installation. A modified bedshaper is used to form a ridge on each side of the plant row, leaving a suitable area for planting. A 36-inch-wide piece of embossed clear plastic is then used to cover the plant row, leaving a 5 to 6 inch-high space between the planted row and the plastic cover. It is estimated that temperatures may be increased 10-20 F depending on time of planting and sunlight availability and intensity.
Slicing cucumbers are generally harvested in western Oregon from mid July through September; however, weather permitting, they can be harvested well into October. East of the Cascades, harvest may begin about 2 weeks earlier.
Approximate yields of fresh market (slicing) cucumbers are 115 cwt/acre with good yields about 250 cwt/acre. For highest returns, thoroughly harvest marketable fruit at regular intervals. Remove oversize fruit so later fruit can develop properly. During warm weather conditions, cucumbers may grow very rapidly and it is important to shorten harvest intervals.
When using appropriate plasticulture techniques, slicing cucumber yields as high as 660 cwt/acre have been reported.
Cucumber harvest, 1988. Photo credit: Bill Mansour, Oregon State University
Cucumbers can be held 10 to 14 days at 50 to 55 F with a relative humidity 90-95%. They are subject to chilling injury if held longer than about 2 days at temperatures below 50 F. At temperatures of 50 F and above, they ripen rather rapidly, the green color changing to yellow. This color change starts in about 10 days at 50 F and is accelerated if the cucumbers are stored in the same room with apples, tomatoes, or other ethylene-producing crops. Modified atmospheres, particularly with low oxygen (5%), will retard yellowing.
Cucumbers are vary susceptible to shriveling; hence, the humidity in the storage should be kept high. Cucumbers for the fresh market are usually waxed to reduce moisture loss. Shrink-wrapping with polyethylene film can also delay the loss of turgidity.
Symptoms of chilling injury are water-soaked spots, pitting, or tissue collapse. A surge in ethylene production may occur and extensive decay will develop when chilled cucumbers are removed from low-temperature storage.
Slicing cucumbers are commonly packaged in 55-lb (l-l/9 bushel) cartons and wirebound crates, 47 to 55-lb bushel cartons and wirebound crates, 26 to 32-lb cartons, or 28 to 32-lb L.A. lugs.