While planning a survival garden that will be used during a prolonged disaster, cucumbers might be an important consideration.
During outbreaks of the Bubonic Plague (The Black Death) during the middle 1300’s, starvation might have killed as many people as the disease. As farmers and merchants died off from The Black Death, those that were still alive were left to a slow death of starvation. It was recorded in the journals of the witnesses to The Black Death – the starving masses even turned to cannibalism.
To prevent this type of situation from befalling family members and loved ones, every survivalist should have a stock of seeds for a home garden.
The cucumber belongs to the same plant family as watermelon, zucchini and pumpkin. Sometimes this is called the “Gourd” or “melon” family. This is because the plants can grow a hard outer shell. The benefit of this hard outer shell, most insects can not penetrate it to eat the softer inner flesh. This makes the cucumber somewhat pest resistant, as compared to other garden plants – such as the tomato.
Modern man has grown the cucumber for at least 3,000 years in Western Asia. Estimates are that the cucumber was introduced to parts of Europe by the Romans. The exact year of European introduction in unknown. Written records dating back to the Roman empire exist noting how much the cucumber was eaten in ancient times. As an example, the Roman Emperor Tiberius (November 16, 42 BC – March 16, AD 37) ate cucumbers on an almost daily basis. To ensure that cucumbers were on the dinner plate during the winter months, the plants were grown in carts. The carts were wheeled into the sunlight during the day, and brought inside during the night.
For the home gardener, cucumbers do best in loose, sandy soil. But they can also be grown in any well drained soil. While preparing the soil, remove rocks, large sticks and other debris before planting. Leave smaller or fine pieces of plant material for mulch. Use a home tiller, shovel or hoe and work the soil to about 8 inches deep.
Fertilizer For Cucumbers
Cucumbers require plenty of fertilizer, this is an important consideration for the gardener. If fast release fertilizer is used, the plant may stop producing or the cucumbers will become pointed on the ends. Slow release fertilizers such as manure and / or compost should be added to the soil. This will ensure continued production. If commercial fertilizers are to be used, scatter 1 cup of a complete fertilizers such as 10-10-10, 13-13-13, or 10-20-10 for each 10 feet of row. Work the fertilizer into the soil. If the soil is low in nitrogen content, the ends of the cucumber will become pointed. If the cucumbers do become pointed on the ends, spread some high nitrogen fertilizer (such as 21-0-0 or 16-6-12) around the plants and water in. Some fertilizers can be dissolved in water. So if possible, dissolve the fertilizer in water, then spray or pour the water around the base of the plant. This will cause the fertilizer to be absorbed much faster. Be careful of using too much nitrogen (aka nitrogen burn), or the plants may die. Some fertilizers such as 13-13-13 can be a little harsh on young plants. If 13-13-13 or 10-20-10 are used, make sure that the fertilizer is worked into the soil.
Raised beds are important in heavy or poorly drained soils. Even though cucumbers enjoy well drained soils, their roots can run shallow. This means the cucumber can be susceptible to drought.
To prepare the cucumber seeds for planting, take a cookie sheet and spread a hand towel across the bottom. Pour enough water into the cookie sheet to make the towel moist. Spread the cucumber seeds out across the wet towel, with a couple of inches between each seed. Take another hand towel and cover the seeds. Use another cup of water and pour enough into the cookie sheet to make sure that the top towel is wet. After about 3 – 5 days the seeds should start sprouting. Wait about 5 – 7 days from putting the seeds onto soak, at that time it should be clear which seeds are going to sprout and which ones are not. Remove the seeds that have not sprouted and discard (throw them away). Take the seeds that are starting to sprout and plant them.
Since cucumbers are a vine crop, they require a lot of room to run. The cucumber vines can grow to be 6 to 8 feet in length, or more. Plant the cucumber seeds about 12 – 24 inches apart and in rows spaced at least 2 feet apart.
The inner flesh of the cucumber is composed primarily of water. But the cucumber also contains vitamin C, silica, potassium, vitamin A and caffeic acid, both help soothe skin irritations and reduce swelling. The Cucumbers’ hard skin is rich in fiber and contains a variety of beneficial minerals including silica, potassium and magnesium. Once the outer skin is removed, the cucumber looses a lot of its nutrition content.
It is normal for cucumber leaves to wilt while in direct sunlight. However, if the leaves are still wilted after the sun starts to go down, or while the plant is in the shade – it needs water. Since the cucumber roots can run just under the surface of the soil, the plant is not very drought tolerant. If the plants go several days without natural rain fall, water might need to be added by other means. Long periods of wilting and no water may result in stunted growth.
If the seeds from the cucumbers are to be saved, hybrid types should be avoided.