Cucumber Production in Miami-Dade County, Florida
Cucumber (for pickling or slicing), a traditional vegetable crop in Miami-Dade County, is grown on annual acreages of 200 to 900 acres. Yields range from less than 300 bushels/acre to more than 600 bushels/acre. Production costs may exceed $8 per bushel or $4,850/acre for an acceptable yield of 600 55-pound bushels. Cucumber produced in Miami-Dade County is sold mainly on the fresh market during winter nationwide.
Refer to Table 7.3 in Chapter 7 of the Vegetable Production Handbook of Florida 2020–2021 for variety selection (Freeman et al. 2021, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/CV123). The major varieties currently grown in the Miami-Dade County for pickling are ‘Eureka’, ‘Napoleon’, and ‘Transamerica’, and for slicing are ‘Speedway’, ‘Greensleeves’, ‘Dasher II’, ‘Thunder’, ‘Lightning’, and ‘General Lee’.
Soils, Land Preparation, and Seeding
Cucumbers in Miami-Dade County are mainly grown on gravelly soils. To be suitable, gravelly soils must be a minimum of 6 inches deep above the bedrock. Periodic rock-plowing increases soil depth and brings the finer soil particles to the surface. Cucumbers are susceptible to flooding. There is a high risk of losing cucumber crops by flooding of low elevation marl soils. Planting on raised beds reduces losses during periods of flooding.
Typically, cucumber beds are 36–40 inches wide, 6–8 inches high, and spaced 6 ft between the centers of adjacent beds and 6-12 inches between plants. To allow sufficient time for the fumigant to dissipate completely, cucumber seedlings should not be transplanted into the fumigated bed until at least three weeks after application of the fumigant. The fumigants are all phytotoxic to plants (Noling 2019, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/NG025). Preplant fertilizer should be applied in two parallel bands, each about 9 inches from the center of the bed and incorporated into the soil by rototilling to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. After rototilling, the bed must be re-formed. The bed should be irrigated and kept moist for at least one week to promote the germination of weed seeds. Either one or two drip irrigation tubings, 12 to 14 inches apart, should be installed in the surface layer, and the bed is immediately covered with plastic mulch.
Transplanting season extends from October to late February. Seedlings should be spaced 6–12 inches apart and set 2–3 inches deep. If seedlings are planted in a "double row" (parallel rows 10–15 inches apart on the same bed), the within row spacing should be the same as in a single row planting.
Calibrated soil tests for the calcareous soils of Miami-Dade County are not available at present. Before the tests are available, you may refer to Chapter 2 in the Vegetable Production Handbook for Florida 2020–2021 (Liu et al. 2017, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/cv296). More practically, tissue analysis is recommended for determining the composition and rates of fertilizers to be applied. Instructions for tissue sample collection, preparation, and submission are provided in Plant Tissue Information Sheet (Mylavarapu et al. 2017, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ss182), which is available from your local UF/IFAS Extension office. Information on plant tissue analysis for cucumber is provided in the Vegetable Production Handbook of Florida 2020–2021 (Freeman et al. 2021, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/cv/cv12300.pdf). The total amount of fertilizer required in Miami-Dade County depends on the variety, soil fertility, and other environmental factors. Less inorganic fertilizer should be applied if a cover crop or soil organic amendment (compost, biosolids, manure) has been applied. Pre-planting fertilizer formulas of 6-6-6, 6-3-6, 10-10-10, or similar formulas are satisfactory. Less than one-half of the fertilizer (N, P, K, or all) should be applied to the beds prior to planting. Fertigation should be initiated with a 4-0-8 or similar formula 3-4 weeks after transplanting to provide the remaining fertilizer. The beds should be fertigated once or twice a week with daily rates ranging from 0.5 lb N to 2 lb N per acre. Magnesium nitrate or sulfate and EDDHA-chelated iron (Liu et al. 2018, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs1208) should be applied if the soil-test report shows low nutrient levels. Please also refer to Chapter 2 of the Vegetable Production Handbook for Florida 2020–2021 (Liu et al. 2021, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/cv296).
Irrigation and Freeze Protection
Drip irrigation systems are used for cucumber production in Miami-Dade County. One drip irrigation tubing per bed has proven to provide adequate amounts of water for the plants. The water requirements for young plants are very low. Irrigation frequencies of once or twice a week suffice for most plastic mulched young plants until 5 weeks after transplanting. Over irrigation should be avoided since it stresses the plants and leaches the fertilizer from the root zone. A tensiometer installed at a 6-inch depth can be used for irrigation scheduling. Optimal plant growth and yields are achieved when the soil moisture is maintained at tensiometer readings between 10 to 15 cbars. The UF/IFAS Extension Miami-Dade County office provides relevant information and calibrates tensiometers.
Cucumber is very sensitive to freezing temperatures of less than 31°F. Therefore, growers in Miami-Dade County arrange for freeze protection of cucumber from late November through February. A high volume solid-set irrigation system with a water delivery rate of 0.25 inch per hour should be used.
Refer to Chapter 7 of the Vegetable Production Handbook of Florida 2020–2021 (Freeman et al. 2021, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/cv/cv12300.pdf) for extensive information on pest control. The major pests of cucumber are the melon thrips, melonworm, pickleworm, and spidermites.
Refer to Chapter 7 of the Vegetable Production Handbook of Florida 2020–2021 (Freeman et al. 2021, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/cv/cv12300.pdf).
Refer to Chapter 7 of the Vegetable Production Handbook of Florida 2021–2021 (Freeman et al. 2021, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/cv/cv12300.pdf).
Cucumbers (slicers and pickles) produced in Miami-Dade County are used mainly for the domestic market. The harvest season extends from October through mid-December and from February through June. Cucumbers are hand-picked.
Cucumber can be rotated with tomato, eggplant, pepper, herbs, or squash. However, there is risk in rotating cucurbits with solanaceous crops because of Phytophthora blight. This disease is caused by Phytophthora capsici, which develops explosively in moist conditions and produces large numbers of infective sporangia. The disease is very damaging and difficult to control.
Freeman, Josh H., Eugene J. McAvoy, Nathan S. Boyd, Monica Ozores-Hampton, Mathews Paret, Qingren Wang, Christian F. Miller, Joseph W. Noling, and Xavier Martini. 2021. Cucurbit Production. HS725. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/cv123
Liu, Guodong, Edward Hanlon, and Yuncong Li. 2018. Understanding and Applying Chelated Fertilizers Effectively Based on Soil pH. HS725. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs1208
Liu, Guodong, Eric H. Simonne, Kelly T. Morgan, George J. Hochmuth, Monica Ozores-Hampton, and Shinsuke Agehara. 2021. Fertilizer Management for Vegetable Production in Florida. CV296. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/cv296
Mylavarapu, Rao S., William d'Angelo, and Nancy Wilkinson. 2017. Plant Tissue Test Form. SL131. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ss182