Cucumber as a crop is one of the most profitable crops any farmer can cultivate in Nigeria. As a matter of fact, cucumber farming is called the farmer’s ATM in Nigeria because of the ability to bring good returns to farmers within a relatively short period of time.
Cucumber belongs to the family of creeping vine called Cucurbitaceae Gourd. Cucumber is a type of vegetable crop and it has three broad varieties namely slicing, pickling and burpless varieties.
Slicing variety of cucumbers is the commonest variety of cucumbers in Nigeria as most Nigerians prefer to consume it.
Cucumber grows well in a tropical environment like Nigeria. It likes sunlight, fertile soil and adequate water. Cucumber contains a lot of water so there should be supply of sufficient water during the growing, flowering and fruiting periods of a cucumber plant.
Cucumbers mature within 36 – 50 days depending on variety. Most hybrid cucumber varieties in Nigeria reach a time of harvest within 36 – 45 days. That means, if you plant a cucumber seed today, you are expected to do your first harvest within 40 days.
Steps to take to plant cucumber in Nigeria
The following steps should be taken when cultivating cucumbers in Nigeria:
Prepare a business plan and marketing analysis: In order to plat cucumber or have a commercial cucumber farm, you need to prepare a business plan and do your market analysis. You need to do a deep cost and revenue analysis and ascertain the markets where you will sell your harvested cucumbers.
Find suitable farmland: Not all types of soil are good for cucumber planting. You need to find a suitable farmland if you want to plant cucumbers. Your farmland should also be safe from thieves and other vices.
Soil preparation: You need to prepare your soil for the cultivation of cucumbers. Land preparation includes deforesting the farmland, removal of stumps, ploughing, harrowing and ridging. Manure can also be added to the soil if the soil is not fertile enough.
Sort out irrigation: Drip irrigation is the best type of irrigation for cucumber planting. You need to get your drip irrigation system from credible vendors like Veggie Concept. Do not use sub-standard drip irrigation system, no matter how cheap it is.
Do soil and water analysis: I have seen a farmer who lost over N10 million because he did not carry out a simple soil analysis. A soil analysis will reveal the nutrient profile and the microbial nature of your soil. It will prepare you for the task of doing cucumber farming.
Recruit staff: To plant cucumbers on a large scale, you need to recruit staff experienced in precision farming. If you are a hobbyist farmer, you can plant your cucumber yourself in your home or on a small garden.
Use suitable variety of seeds: I strongly advise you plant hybrid cucumber seeds as they have better tolerances to diseases and pests and they yield more than open pollinated seeds.
Get fertilizers: Adequate fertilizers should be used for cucumber farming. You can also use organic fertilizers if you are an organic farmer. There are a lot of fertilizers, do not use only the NPK 15:15:15.
Get pesticides: Cucumbers attract a lot of pests and diseases especially in a tropical environment like Nigeria. You should use the correct type of fungicides, insecticides, acaricides, nematicides and bactericides. These pesticides can be organic or inorganic.
Do the planting of seeds: Good variety of seeds should be planted and the right size of planting population should be used. Seeds that fail to sprout should be replanted after a few days.
Apply fertilizers and pesticides: Fertilizers and pesticides should be applied in a precise manner. Venturi injectors can be used to dose and pass fertilizers and pesticides to crops through drip irrigation pipes.
Harvest: Harvest of cucumbers planted should be done every 2-3 days. Leaving the harvests for long intervals will reduce the overall yield.
Marketing: Marketing is key, though cucumbers sell well as it is a popular type of vegetable in Nigeria.
Cucumber planting can be very lucrative in Nigeria.