107°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

IN SEASON: The best and easiest cucumber to grow in the desert is a melon

Growing cucumbers in our neck of the woods can be quite a challenge. Even worse, if not grown in just the right conditions, your hard work may simply result in a bitter, inedible fruit.

Fortunately, here in the desert there is a cucumber that flourishes all throughout our superheated summers and will never become bitter. The Armenian cucumber is not a cucumber at all, but rather a member of the muskmelon family.

The thin-ribbed skin of Armenian cucumbers, also called yard-long cucumbers, take on a pale green hue, which is much lighter and more tender than contemporary cucumbers. There are now also dark-skinned varieties that can be purchased at various seed stores online. Their appearance, texture and flavor are close to the better-known English cucumber.

Though they are a melon, they taste like just the cucumbers we know and love. They are not suited for pickling, which is a shame given how prolific they are once established. Armenian cucumbers are excellent for use in fresh salad and for juicing.

Planting and growing:

Armenian cucumbers can be seeded indoors in early to mid-March and transplanted to the garden once temperatures are consistently above 65 degrees at night. Alternatively, you can direct seed them into the garden in mid-to-late May. Another round can be direct seeded in the garden in late July to early August.

Amend the soil with finished compost at least one to two weeks before planting. Space the cucumber seedlings at least 1 foot apart. If direct seeding, plant two to three seeds together also 1 foot apart at a depth of 1 inch. When the seedlings are 4 inches tall, thin them to just one plant every foot.

After planting, water the seedlings or seeds in well, leaving the soil damp but not flooded. Keep the soil moist, watering as needed. Covering the soil with a light-colored mulch such as straw will help preserve moisture. Water the soil near the roots and avoid overhead watering to prevent disease issues such as powdery mildew.

Armenian cucumbers, like most melons, are water hogs. I water mine with a dripline twice a day for 10 minutes each time when it is under 90 degrees, and three times a day for 10 minutes each time when it is over 90 degrees.

As the cucumbers grow, they will put out vines that can grow to be over 12 feet long. Trellising the vines can help to prevent disease issues and make it easier to spot the cucumbers as they grow while keeping the vines contained to a smaller area. Trellising the cucumbers will also help the fruit grow straighter.

To trellis the vines, simply wrap the them around the support of your choice in the direction that they naturally want to travel. Some great options for trellis material are bamboo poles laced into an A frame, a metal frame made from electrical conduit and fitted with trellis netting, or my personal favorite, a chain link fence.

Common problems that may occur:

Though Armenian cucumbers are a melon, they can be affected by squash bugs. Keep an eye out on the underside of the leaves for the characteristic brown diamond-shaped cluster of round eggs that squash bugs lay. If you see them, simply wipe them away from the leaf with your finger or a cloth. If you notice adult squash bugs, kill them on site by squishing them or dropping them into a bucket of soapy water.

Squash bug nymphs are harder to control and their swarms can take down a plant in just a day or two. Some gardeners I know use a handheld vacuum to vacuum them up. Another method that will help you catch them is to flood the base of the plant with water. The squash bugs will crawl to the top of the plant making it easier to dispatch them.

If you notice that the fruit dries up and falls off shortly after forming, this can be a sign of poor pollination. Planting flowers in your vegetable garden will help attract pollinators. Basil is a great companion to plant with trellised cucumbers and will give you an additional harvest in the same amount of space. Another good choice is creeping thyme. It is not only an edible culinary herb but is a very attractive flower for pollinators.

Harvesting and storing:

Once you see that the small yellow flowers have formed into fruit, check on them daily. Armenian cucumbers can grow 8 inches in a single day when given an abundance of water. If you go out of town for a few days, you could return to a baseball bat-sized overgrown cucumber.

I find that once I spot the fruit growing, it is ready for picking within three to four days. At that point, it has reached a length between 12 to 18 inches. When picked young, the delicate fruit is nearly seedless.

To harvest the cucumber, gently clip the stem from the vine with a pair of shears or a knife. Leave a few inches of stem attached to the cucumber.

The cucumbers will keep well sitting on a kitchen countertop for a few days or up to a week in the refrigerator. I have not found a great way to preserve Armenian cucumbers for the long term, so I encourage you to enjoy them fresh while they are in season.

By growing the appropriate variety for our climate, you can easily grow more cucumbers than you need. Like zucchini, your friends and neighbors may get tired of receiving your extras. If you or your friends have chickens, they would be more than happy to relieve you of your excess bounty.

Terri Meehan is the Founder of Southern Nevada Gardening Association a regional group. She is a garden mentor and local farmer in Pahrump. Send questions or comments to her at sonvgarden@gmail.com

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Two transported after collision at Hwy 160, 372

Two people were transported to Desert View Hospital following a two vehicle collision at the intersection of Highways 160 and 372 at approximately 1 p.m., on Thursday June 17.

Hit and run crash leads to power outage

A hit and run crash led to a power outage on Wednesday, according to authorities..

Cooling stations open in Pahrump

As triple-digit temperatures are expected to extend into next week and beyond in Pahrump, there are some area residents whose homes are not adequately adapted to handle the heat.

Social services fair deemed a success in Nye

The Nye County Social Services Fair attracted more than 200 families and individuals seeking information on the various services provided by the county and other area entities.

Nye County to receive additional $9 million in federal COVID monies

One year after the announcement that Nye County would be receiving $8.5 million in federal dollars thanks to the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, a second round of federal monies is making its way to local governments and the county is expecting to receive another COVID-19 windfall, this time for over $9 million.

Zambelli prepping for Pahrump’s Fourth of July Fireworks Show

Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic derailed the traditional town of Pahrump Fourth of July Fireworks Show, forcing town officials to restrict access to the park and require that attendees stay in their vehicles to watch the fantastic display, much to the chagrin of the general public. This year, however, things are returning to normal and the entire community will have the opportunity to head out to Petrack Park on Independence Day and relax in the grassy fields for what Zambelli Fireworks crews are promising will be an incredible pyrotechnic experience.

Natural Vibes fundraiser to benefit Clean Up Pahrump

Natural Vibes Wellness and Nutrition Center is continuing in its mission to give back to the local community, with another fundraiser set for this coming Saturday and this time, the beneficiary will be Clean Up Pahrump, a nonprofit organization with the goal of dedicating time each week to picking up trash and removing debris from the valley’s roadways and stretches of unoccupied land.