Growing

How to Grow Cucumbers: Complete Guide

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Cucumbers are a refreshing addition to a summer salad. Slice cucumbers and put them over your eyes for a hydrating mask, or mash them up for a full face mask that hydrates your skin. Growing cucumbers in your vegetable garden aren’t as challenging as you think.

This vegetable is easy to grow for novice gardeners. As long as the plants receive enough sunlight and water, as well as regular care and maintenance throughout the season, you can expect a bountiful crop.

Most cucumber varieties grow in any size garden, and a limited growing area doesn’t hassle them. These plants like to climb, and they don’t like it when they end up on the ground. Supporting your cucumber plant with a trellis helps to keep the leaves and cucumbers safe from rot.

Cucumber plants come in two varieties; bush cucumbers, and Viking cucumbers.

Cucumbers grow quickly, with Viking varieties being the most popular for planting in the ground or greenhouses. Bush varieties are ideal for growing in containers. You can succession-plant your cucumbers, starting in the early spring, with successive plantings in the summer and early fall.

In this guide, we’ll give you everything you need to know about planting, caring, and harvesting your cucumber plants this growing season.

When to Plant Your Cucumbers

Visit your local nursery and buy a few young cucumber plants. Chat with the consultant about the right cucumber variety to suit your needs. If you’re looking to pickle your harvest, then we recommend the “Boston Pickling” variety for your garden.

Transplant your cucumber plant into the ground or greenhouse two-weeks after the last frost date. Check your local listings for the last frost dates in your region. Cucumber plants are very susceptible to cold and frosts, so if you live in a part of the United States that experiences frosts, make sure that the last frosts are over before you start planting.

If you want to start your cucumber plants from seed, then sow them indoors in containers for three weeks before your planting date. Cucumbers prefer a heat mat to provide warmth to the roots from the bottom, mimicking soil conditions in the ground.

You can purchase Cucumber seeds online from Amazon

Tips for Preparing a Planting Site

When choosing the ideal spot in your vegetable garden for your cucumber plants, makes sure the site receives good sunlight from the morning to the afternoon. Cucumber needs 6 to 10-hours of sunlight each day. Plant them in an area of the garden that gets shade in the afternoon from 3 pm onwards.

Make sure that your soil has adequate nutrients to support the growth of your cucumber plants. Prepare the planting area before the start of the winter for the best results. Add some fertilizer into the soil and till. Let the soil rest over the winter, and your planting area will be ready for your cucumbers in the early springtime.

Add some Fertilizer to the Soil for the best results

You must plant your cucumbers in soil that drains well. Cucumber plants don’t like getting wet roots, and saturated soil could result in the development of root rot. Make sure you aerate the ground throughout the growing season by digging around the base of the plant to loosen the soil and improve drainage and airflow to the roots.

Cucumber prefers growing in soil with a pH of between 6.6 to 7. Take a soil sample from your garden to the local nursery for analysis. Make adjustments to your ground to bring the pH into balance, and use the advice of the nursery consultants on the right products for the job. Cucumbers enjoy growing in light, loamy soils that are full of nutrients.

Tips for Planting Cucumbers

When planting cucumbers, make sure you place them an inch deep in the soil, at a distance of 2 to 3-feet apart, in rows. If you’re planning on growing the vines using a trellis, you can reduce the spacing to 1 to 2-feet apart.

Plant your cucumbers in mounds, with spacing 1 to 2 feet apart — plant 2 to 3 cucumber seeds in each soil mound. After the plants reach 4-inches in height, remove two of the plants, and give them another space in the garden.

Covering the mound with black plastic helps to retain moisture in the summertime, and keep the roots warm in the winter. After finishing your planting, cover the pile with straw or mulch to keep pests away from your plants.

Cucumbers Growing
Cucumbers growing in the garden

How to Care for Your Cucumber Crop

The best tip we can give you for caring for your cucumbers is consistent watering. Cucumbers are thirty pants, and they require plenty of water, especially when it’s hot outside.

Water your plants in the early morning to prevent as much evaporation as possible. Watering in the early morning allows the water to seep into the ground and quench the plant’s roots before the sun evaporates the moisture away.

Using the black plastic over the mound is another great idea to retain moisture, and mulching regularly throughout the season will also keep your cucumber plants moist and thriving. Try to give you cucumber plants at least an inch of water throughout the week, and double the requirement as the plant starts producing cucumbers.

Inconsistently watering your crop will lead to bitter-tasting cucumbers. If you want to test the soil to see if it’s time to water, stick your finger an inch into the ground. If it feels moist at your fingertip, then your plants are okay for now.

Mulching
Adding mulch around the plants will help retain moisture in the soil

Pests and Diseases Affecting Your Cucumber Crop

Some bugs love your cucumber plants as much as you do. Throughout the season, makes sure that you stay on the lookout for cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and aphids. These pests can kill off your harvest quickly. If you do notice an invasion, spray your plants with a natural organic pesticide to control the outbreak.

If you find that your cucumber plants are late in producing fruit, then it’s probably a disease that’s to blame. Some of the more common diseases affecting cucumber plants include powdery mildew, which tends to show up in rainy, cold climates.

Keeping a sulfur burner in the greenhouse or treating your plants with a sulfur-based fungicide is the best option for containing and killing the mold before it ruins your crop.

Your plants might also not bear fruit due to a pollination issue. Some varieties of cucumbers may require you to have both male and female plants present in the garden to fertilize the female and have the plant bear cucumbers.

Female flowers are the blossoms with small, cucumber-shaped bulges around the base of the stem that eventually become cucumbers. A lack of fruit on the plant may also be due to cold temperatures, rain, or the use of some chemical insecticides.

If you want the best results, it’s best to hand-pollinate your plants. Use a q-tip, and rub it into the male flowers, then spread the pollen onto the center of the female flower. It’s important to note that if you are growing some types of hybrids, you need to add companion pollinator plants to your garden.

Tips for Harvesting Your Cucumbers

When your cucumber plants start to bear fruit, don’t let them get too large before you start your harvest. Large cucumbers will taste bitter. Pick them when they are between 6 to 8-inches in length, with large varieties like the “Burpless” growing to a maximum length of 10-inches before harvest.

Your cucumber plants will require harvesting every morning, or else you run the risk of cucumber falling to the ground. Any fruits on the ground will rot overnight, ruining your harvest while attracting pests to your crop.

Don’t let your cucumbers get yellow, or the seeds will be hard and bitter inside the fruit. Use a knife to harvest and cut the stem. Avoid pulling them off the vine, as this damages the plant. You need to keep picking the plants to keep them producing.

Harvesting
Harvesting your cucumbers

Tips for Storing Your Cucumbers

After picking your cucumbers, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap to retain their freshness. Store them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to 10-days. Any cucumbers left beyond this point will start to go soggy in the center.

Your best option is to pickle your leftovers. Pickling your cucumbers preserves them for up to a year if left in the fridge.

Recommended Cucumber Varieties

  • Early Yields – ‘Sassy’ or ‘Calypso’
  • Boston Pickling – The best choice for pickling.
  • Burpless Bush – A hybrid bush variety popular with gardeners.
  • Parisian Pickling – A good choice for making gherkins.
  • Lemon Cucumber – A small cucumber, great for adding to water.

Final Tips for Planting Cucumbers

According to legend, if you plant your cucumbers in your garden in the dark, on the first day of May before the sun rises, no bugs will eat your crop. According to the tale, you need to be wearing your pajamas as well.

If you’re growing cucumbers, consider planting some dill around your crop – it’s the ideal pickling herb.

We also recommend you try blending cucumbers in the food processor to create luxurious, hydrating face masks to keep your skin glowing and looking healthy.

Hollie Carter

Hollie is a life-long gardener, having started helping her Dad work on their yard when she was just 5. Since then she has gone on to develop a passion for growing vegetables & fruit in her garden. She has an affinity with nature and loves to share her knowledge gained over a lifetime with readers online. Hollie has written for a number of publications and is now the resident garden blogger here at GardenBeast. Contact her at hollie@gardenbeast.com or follow on twitter https://twitter.com/greenholliec

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