Cucumber is very popular in Nigeria. It is a green vegetable with a tender skin that is consumed by virtually every tribe in the country.
Cucumber farming is a lucrative business due to the popularity of cucumber in the country. No matter where you are located in the country, there’s certainly readily available market for you as a cucumber farmer. Currently, most of the cucumber we consume is produced in the Northern part of the country; however, there are no constraints to where you can cultivate the plant.
The vegetable has a plethora of health benefits. Usually it is eaten raw or it can also be used as a salad vegetable. Cucumber is packed with potassium, folate, vitamin C and calcium. Also, it is low in calorie and this is an excellent option for those that are trying to lose weight. Below are some of the proven benefits of cucumber.
- Cancer prevention
Due to the presence of antioxidants in cucumber, this vegetable can boost your immune system and help mop up free radicals that have been linked with chronic conditions like cancer.
- Oral Health
The antioxidant effect of cucumber can help to heal mouth sores and gum disease which may be associated with bad breath.
- Eye Health
Often times during facial treatment, cucumber can be sliced and placed on either eye. This has been associated with reducing the under-eye bags and puffiness.
- Brain Health
Cucumber contains anti-inflammatory substances that improve memory and protect the nerve cells in the brain. In this way, cucumber may protect against diseases associated with progressive memory loss.
Cucumber is packed with B vitamins such as vitamin B1, B5 and B7. These vitamins help to boost your energy levels and reduce the adverse effects of stress.
- Heart health
Cucumber is rich in potassium and when you have potassium at optimal levels it has been linked with lower blood pressure. This is why cucumber is good for hypertensive patients.
- Digestive Health
Cucumber is 95% water and it also contains fiber. The fiber helps to move food quickly through your digestive system
- Weight loss
Cucumber is a low calorie food that helps to make you feel full for longer period so you don’t get to overeat which is important in weight management.
Generally, as it is with any business venture, proper planning needs to be done before you commence cucumber farming. There are important things you need to consider such as where to plant, when to plant and how to plant.
Then, when you’re done planting, you should have a strategy in place to reach your target market at their locations. Knowing your potential market is very important because this will prevent your cucumbers from staying too long on the farm after harvest has been completed.
This article has been written to make the process of cucumber farming easy for you. It provides a step by step guide on how you can be successful as a cucumber farmer in Nigeria.
Cucumber can be grown in any part of the country so it doesn’t really matter where you’re located. However, there are some things to consider about the soil. Ideally, the soil should be loamy or clay and the land should have adequate access to water. The pH of the soil should be fairly neutral or slightly alkaline (close to 7.0). Additionally, the area should have sufficient exposure to sunlight since light is very essential for cucumber growth. Finally, your site selection shouldn’t be too far from your potential market or target customers.
Generally, the larger your farm land, the greater your yield however, if you’re just starting out, it’s okay to start with a small piece of land then after some time you can scale up by increasing your farming area.
The land should be cleared and weeds removed. Herbicides shouldn’t be used to weed the farm land because these chemicals can affect the quality of the soil as well as the cucumber. You can apply organic manure to the soil in preparation for planting. You can also use inorganic fertilizers like the NPK fertilizer. This should be applied at the ratio of 15:15:15.
This is another important step in cucumber planting. It is one of the first things you should do once you’ve decided to become a cucumber farmer. Most times, the seeds can be sourced locally. Seeds from Europe or America are not suitable for the climate here in Nigeria. However, seeds can be imported from Thailand since their climate is similar to the Nigerian climate. If you’re not sure of where to source for seeds locally, you can visit the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture to get their recommendations on the best type of cucumber seeds. If you’re using a hectare of farmland for cucumber farming you can buy 5 kg of the seeds.
Cucumber can be planted at any time of the year. The plants generally need adequate water to thrive, so if you’re planting during the dry season, there should be an irrigation system in place to ensure sufficient water supply. You can plant on bed and you should ensure the right spacing between the plants.
Also, you can plant your seed in the nursery then transplant later to the farmland. However, the recommended method is planting directly on the farmland due to the fragile nature of the cucumber root hence transplanting could damage these roots. The seeds should be planted in damp soil. The soil temperature is also important prior to germination. Ideally, the temperature shouldn’t be between16 – 35C
The seed should be pushed slightly into the bed at about 1 to 2 cm from the soil surface. The spacing between plants should be about 1 foot apart while the spacing between rows should be about 4 to 6 feets. 3 seeds should be planted per hole; however once germinate occurs, you can thin the plants to 2.
After planting, it is necessary to support the growing plant with stakes or pillars. This is because cucumber plants are climbers by nature and they require the necessary support for optimal growth.
Mulching is also an important activity. When you mulch your reduce the quantity of fertilizer, you’ll need post planting because less nitrogen is lost via leaching. Also, mulching makes the soil warm and reduces weed growth.
Irrigation helps to promote the growth of cucumber. In fact, light irrigation increases the effectiveness of herbicides used in weed control. Irrigation is particularly important during fruit development. However, wetness of the foliage can allow for fungal disease infestation. Ideally, the plant should be watered daily once the seedlings begin to sprout.
Weeding should be done 20 to 30 days after planting. Liquid inorganic fertilizer or organic fertilizer can be applied every 2 weeks. Cucumber needs adequate nitrogen in the soil to grow optimally so you can apply an inorganic fertilizer that is high in nitrogen. However, mulching can help preserve the nitrogen content of the soil as stated earlier.
As it is with crops generally, pests and diseases can also affect cucumber farming. These pests include ladybird, beetles, spider mites and grasshoppers. Insecticides can be applied to control cucumber beetles. In the case of spider mites, apply the appropriate miticide.
Diseases that affect the cucumber plant include damping off, anthracnose, mildew and mosaic disease. As a way preventing diseases particularly fungal diseases, you should plant seeds that have been treated with fungicide. In the case of a disease like leaf spot and mildew, apply a fungicide once you notice any sign of the disease.
You can spray insecticides at regular intervals to control the pest. Livestock like cow and goats can also affect cucumber because these animals eat the leaves and fruits.
Cucumbers are harvested when they are immature and green in color. They shouldn’t be harvested when the cucumber is ripe. It takes about 40 to 45 days for the cucumber to mature. However the time taken to mature depends on the variety of cucumber seed planted.
Harvesting is usually done manually and the cucumber should be handled with care to prevent bruises. Also, high impact damage due to the cucumber falling can cause internal bloating. This is why you should avoid dropping the cucumber when harvesting or transporting them.
Once the cucumber is harvested, wash them quickly in a bowl of water and arrange them carefully in a bag for sale. Cucumber should be stored in a cool place with a relative humidity of 95%. However, it is not expected you store the cucumber for long.
Once the cucumbers have been harvested, there should be a defined process in place to move the fruit from the farm to the market. Obviously, this should have been sorted out during your research prior to starting the business venture. A readily available market coupled with a bountiful harvest is a perfect recipe for success in cucumber farming.