[Nameplate] Partly Cloudy ~ 70°F  
High: 73°F ~ Low: 49°F
Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Tips on growing cucurbits

Monday, June 7, 2010

What is a cucurbit? We eat them all of the time. They are some of our favorite and most popular garden vegetables. A cucurbit includes cucumbers, muskmelons, watermelons, pumpkins, summer squash, winter squash and gourds.

Cucurbits are a warm season crop that requires warm days to grow well. They grow best in neutral soil and prefer full sun. The seeds don't like to germinate unless the soil is at least 60 degrees, but some prefer even warmer soils.

They are best if they are planted in a hill that is composed of an 8-10 inch mound of soil. Each mound should be planted with 4-6 seeds, and the hills should be 4-8 feet apart depending on the space requirements for the cucurbit you are planting.

These plants usually take a lot of room in the garden, but most are easily grown on trellises to preserve garden space. Cucumbers develop a really nice long shape when they are grown on a trellis. During the summer months, cucurbits may require some extra watering to maintain growth and vigor. They are a deeply rooted plant, so they require deep watering. They need about 1 inch of water per week in the summer.

One way to determine if you have watered enough is to use an old tuna or cat food can and set it in your garden when you are watering. When the can is full you have watered about an inch of water.

Soaker hoses work really well for watering cucurbits.

If you are watering with overhead sprinklers, you will want to water in the morning to early afternoon so that the moisture is dried off of the leaves before evening. This helps prevent diseases on the leaves of the plants. Later in the season you can decrease the watering to encourage the fruit to mature. This decrease in watering is especially important to pumpkins and squash.

Weed control for cucurbits is not hard. The large leaves of most of the plants shade out most weeds and the rest can be hand weeded out. Black plastic mulch is extremely effective when used with cucurbits. The black plastic warms up the soil faster in the spring and the cucurbits can be planted earlier. The plastic also helps keep the weeds down.

In the summer, mulching the cucurbits can be very beneficial to help retain water in the soil. Straw, lawn clippings and compost can be applied to about a 3-inch depth. At first, you may see tons of blooms on your plants, but no fruit. This is pretty normal behavior for cucurbits. The first flowers are usually male and do not bear fruit.

In time, the plant will produce both male and female flowers so pollination can occur. If you are getting misshapen fruit, the likely problem is that the female flower didn't get completely pollinated. This can be due to lack of male flowers or wet, cool conditions.

I hope you enjoy your garden and have good luck with your cucurbits. If you have any question about specific cucurbits please feel free to contact me, Ann V. Delchambre, at 653-8411 or e-mail adelchambre@purdue.edu or Facebook Putnam County Agriculture or Twitter AgAgent.

Upcoming events

June 5: Greencastle Farmers Market opens

June 8: 4-H Cat Workshop, 6:30 PM

June 9-11: Home and Family Conference at Purdue

June 12: Putnam County Master Gardeners' Garden Tour

June 12: -- Bird Fest, Turkey Run State Park

June 14: E. H. Leader Lesson "Reading and Story Telling for Fun and Literacy" 7 p.m. at Ext. Office

June 15: Greencastle Farmers Market start in Robe-Ann Park

June 15: 4-H Cat Workshop, 6:30 PM

June 17-19: 2010 State Conference for Purdue Master Gardeners

June 23: Farm Management Tour, Boone and Hendricks counties

July 1: State Fair Cat, Dog, Horse & Pony, Goat, Poultry, and Rabbit forms due

July 1: Purdue Weed Day, Throckmorton-Purdue Agricultural Center

July 6: Junior Master Gardener Informational Meeting -- Court House Annex