The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Finally, Time to Plant Cucumbers

June 19th, 2011 · 3 Comments · Posted in garden

Hoping to see this soon

I finally got around to planting this year’s cucumbers. Why, you might ask, did I wait so long?

I’m so glad you ask.

Last year we had problems with cucumber beetles killing all of our plants. Actually, it’s not the beetles. They just like to feed on the plants. But they carry a bacteria in their stomachs that attacks the cucumbers and once the plants are infected, they’re done for. The infection cuts off their circulation and they just collapse. Nothing to be done except throw the plant in the trash. (We do not compost diseased plant material.)

Here’s a good rundown on the problem at the University of Maryland Extension Service’s website.

Although other control measures are available, such as encapsulating the plants in row cover, or spaying with insecticide, I chose the simplest method: waiting until June 15, when the beetle’s life cycle has finished.

Adult cucumber bettles overwinter, then emerge in the spring to lay eggs. The larvae feed around the plant roots and emerg as adults to feed on the  young plants. But if there around any cucumber plants to be hand (because they haven’t been planted yet) the adults will leave in search of food elsewhere. Hopefully. The life cycle lasts from four to six weeks, meaning there can be as many as three generations of beetles to worry about per season.

Another problem we had last year was squash vine borers. These like to eat their way through the stems of the squash vines, eventually destroying the plants. One way to approach these is to find the entrance hole into the plant, open it with a knife and remove the borer. Again, there are several other approaches to dealing with them, like wrapping stems with aluminum foil, encapsulating the plants with row cover or spraying. I chose the simplest route: wait till mid-June when the pest’s life cycle has finished.

I once got a request from members of a community garden here in D.C. for ways to remedy cucumber beetles. When I suggested they hold off planting, they howled in protest. “We can’t tell our members when to plant!” they said. Well, if people won’t use accepted methods, there’s not much else to do for them.

I’ve even considered just not planting certain things for a year after they’ve suffered an infestation. Would that really be such a bad thing?

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  • Terry Golson

    Cucumber beetles in my patch greatly reduced when chickens allowed to scratch in the fall garden.

  • Dudge OH

    I’m surprised at the response of those community gardeners, unless they are happy to spray or build covers. Part of gardening is finding ways to overcome your problems, often through the advice of others.

    Are there any companion plants one might use, if one was looking for an earlier planting of cukes and squashes?

  • Sarah

    I picked off a cucumber beetle (and squashed it!) today. What does it mean the end of the life cycle? I’m just waiting for the bacterial wilt to set in — already lost my older, gorgeous vine to that menace. I’m in a community garden, where the ‘old timers’ have given up on cucumbers.