Melothria scabra. Also known as the Mexican Sour Gherkin, cucamelon seeds produce vines that could be mistaken for regular cucumber plants. The plants are not quite as productive as cucumbers, but the fruits are amazingly cute and novel. They look like tiny watermelons, but have a very appealing cucumber flavour with slight citrus notes. Eat them fresh or pickle them for a crunchy treat. Harvest them at the 2cm (1") size, before the seeds develop. This is a heat loving tropical plant that is most productive in hot weather or a greenhouse setting. Start the seeds indoors and treat as you would a conventional cucumber seedling.
Matures in 67 days. (Open-pollinated seeds)
Fresh cucumbers taste so much better than store bought ones and each variety has a unique flavour. Although cucumbers are fairly low in nutrients, they are surprisingly easy to grow, and very useful in the kitchen. Follow along with this handy How to Grow Cucumbers Guide and grow food.
When I Get My Seedling Home
Keep seedlings under very bright light to prevent legginess. Artificial lights are ideal, but a bright (ideally, south-facing) room will work for the short term. You may have to pot on seedlings more than once before they go out to allow for root growth. This is done by transplanting them into a slightly larger container with enough additional soil to keep the container mostly full. Keep the soil moist by daily watering and allow for free drainage so the plants are never sitting water.
Do not transplant outside until night time temperatures are steadily 10°C (50°F) or warmer. This may mean keeping seedlings indoors for up to a month. The plants should not require any fertilizer until transplant time.
Ideal pH: 6.0-6.8. Choose a warm, well-drained soil. Raised beds work well. Add dolomite lime and compost or well-rotted manure to the bed and ½-1 cup of complete organic fertilizer mixed into the soil beneath each transplant. Cucumbers are vigorous and need lots of nutrition and water. Use plastic mulch, plant under floating row cover or cloches – anything to warm things up. Once the weather warms up, keep soil evenly moist. When plants begin to flower, remove covers so bees can access the flowers to pollinate. Fruit that is not fully pollinated will be very small and shriveled, and should be removed from the plant. Most varieties should produce fruits until the weather begins to cool down. Keep plants well picked for better production. Try to water the soil only, keeping the leaves as dry as possible.
Almost all cucumbers benefit from being trained onto a trellis of some kind. Some vines can reach 7 or 8 feet in length, so growing them upward onto a trellis makes good use of garden space. Fruits that grow hanging into space tend to be straighter than those that form on the ground.
For a continuous harvest, make successive plantings every 2 to 3 weeks until about 3 months before first fall frost date. You must keep picking the cucumbers regularly, because if they get too big, the plant will stop producing fruit. About 1 month before first frost, start pinching off new flowers so plants channel energy into ripening existing fruit.
Diseases & Pests
Several diseases attack cucumbers, but problems with this plant are mostly caused by cultural practices that stress the plants. Make sure to keep the garden clean and tidy, remove diseased material and do not compost unless you’re able to get a hot compost pile going. Avoid over-watering and directly spraying water on to the leaves. Plant in a well-drained site and use long crop rotations. Whenever possible, use disease resistant varieties.
If plants get off to a good start, few pests will bother them. If pests are present, young plants are best protected with floating row covers that are removed when flowering starts. Aphids, cutworms and thrips can be a problem. The cucumber beetle causes problems only east of the Rockies.
Sometimes fruit begins to rot on the vine. This is caused by a fungus during periods of high humidity. Pick these fruit off. The situation will improve as the weather improves.
Powdery Mildew – An airborne fungal disease that causes white spots on the leaves at the end of the season. Several home-sprays are said to be somewhat effective. Spray any of the following at 7-10 day intervals. 1tsp baking soda and 1 quart of water with a squirt of dish soap, or 1 part milk to 9 parts of water. You can add a little Kelpman to the mix. Resistant varieties get the mildew just a few days later than the other varieties.
Various wilts cause the vines to wilt and die. Controls are strict sanitation in the garden and greenhouse. Avoid over-watering, plant in well-drained soil, use long rotations, and use disease resistant varieties when available.
Aphids and thrips are indications of plant stress. Before running out to buy an insecticidal soap or other chemical solution begin to solve the problem by trying to figure what the stressors are and dealing with them. Are the plants over or under watered? What fertilizer are you using? Is it a balanced organic fertilizer? Predatory insects will be attracted to the site and will benefit greatly by an inter-planting of Sweet Alyssum, dill, or cilantro. Our Crimson and Dutch White Clover planted along pathways between rows is excellent for attracting beneficial insects too. Place shallow dishes of water with small protruding rocks in amongst the cucumbers for beneficial insects to stop and have a drink. They’ll lay more eggs, eat more pests, and be more effective if you provide for their needs right where the problem is at in the garden. Instead of thinking that the solution is to remove the problem, think about what can be done to aid nature in creating a balance.
Cutworms can be handpicked during the day if small pieces of wood or cardboard are laid out near the cucumbers for them to hide under. All the better to find them. Keeping chickens or ducks works too.
Plant cucumbers beside asparagus, beans, Brassicas, celery, corn, dill, kohlrabi, lettuce, onion, peas, radish, and tomatoes. Avoid planting near potatoes and sage. Both corn and sunflowers can act as a trellis for cucumbers to good effect. Dill will help cucumbers by attracting predatory insects, and nasturtiums will improve the flavour and growth of cucumbers.
More on Companion Planting.