Cucumbers are a favorite for young and old alike, their juicy crispness is enjoyed both fresh off the vine and pickled for convenience. Grow cucumbers well in your backyard vegetable patch with plenty of organic soil and relatively little care.
You can choose from a variety of cucumber types depending on your tastes. Slicing varieties come in both seeded and seedless and are fairly long. Pickling varieties are often smaller and shorter. You can also harvest the slicing varieties when they are small for pickling purposes. Try a few different types to find your favorite and to stock the fridge and pantry with delicious cucumbers all year long.
Best soil for Cucumbers
Cucumbers may be high in water content, but they donít grow well in a soggy, wet garden. Plant your cucumbers in well drained soil. Sandy loam is good and building a raised bed will help to cut down on weeds and maintain excellent drainage.
Be sure that the soil has a generous amount of organic compost mixed in. Composted manure is easy to find and contains the nutrients that your vegetables need to thrive. Before planting out, turn over the soil to the depth of your spade for preparation.
When to Plant Cucumbers
You can start your cucumbers plants indoors or in the greenhouse. Be sure to use seed pots that will biodegrade to ensure the roots are protected and remain undamaged when planting out. Move the seedlings out into the vegetable patch about two weeks after the last frost. You can also sow cucumber seeds directly into the soil 14 days after the last frost.
How to Plant Cucumbers
As with most vegetables, cucumbers need sunny and warm soil to thrive. Growing them against a trellis or fence is a good idea since the vines like to climb. It will also save space in your bed.
Plant seedlings about 14 to 16 inches apart, giving them adequate space to grow. Planting rows of cucumbers works in a large vegetable patch and should be sown or planted 3 feet apart.
Sow cucumber seeds about 1 inch into the prepared soil. Try sowing two or three seeds into each hole for your best chance at germination. As the seeds sprout you will need to thin them creating enough space for the plants to mature. Cucumber plants can grow up to 6 feet tall (or 6 feet across the ground).
Proper Care of Your Cucumbers
Cucumbers need consistent water. Be sure the soil is evenly watered at least once a week. For the firmest, juiciest fruit keep the soil watered well. You can also side dress your row of cucumber plants once the first flowers are visible. Do this by sprinkling plant food or fertilizer along both sides of the row about 3 to 4 inches from the base of the plant.
Youíll need to weed your cucumber patch to keep out competition for nutrients and water. Be gentle when pulling weeds so as not to damage the plantís roots. A thick layer of mulch will help to cut down the need to weed and retain moisture.
Because the cucumber has both male and female flowers on it pollination naturally occurs. You can speed things along and increase the harvest by applying a cotton swab to the male flower and transferring pollen over to the female flower. Look for tiny cucumbers at the base of females to help you distinguish.
When to Harvest Cucumbers
Generally you should allow 50 to 60 days from sowing to harvest your cucumbers. Look at the fruit for signs that harvest is near. They will be large enough and have thick, dark green skin. A yellow cucumber is overripe and has been left on the vine too long. Itís still edible but the flavor and firmness is diminished. Also try not to wait until the fruit is too large. This makes them less juicy and harder to eat or pickle.
How to Harvest Cucumbers
When the fruit is ripe and ready for harvest you can simply twist it off the vine. If that doesnít, snip the cucumber off just above the tip.
Common Cucumber Pests and Diseases
Young and tender cucumbers are a favorite for beetles and bugs. The infamous cucumber beetle is a common attacker, as are white flies. Spray a bug soap and water mixture gently over the plants to keep away many beetles. Also, yellow fly paper mounted on the side of the trellis or stakes will attract and trap flies and other pests.
Mildew can also be a problem for cucumbers. Water your vines from the top before the heat of the day and only at the base between 11am and 3pm. Try not to water them at all after 3pm to avoid mildew and other fungi.
Cucumber Growing Tips and Tricks
The most successful tricks for growing healthy cucumbers are giving them enough water, sunshine and room to grow. Be sure your vegetable patch is in the optimal location and provide the necessary support to keep the cucumber vines spread out and airy. This will help with pests and watering as well as make sure the plant has the best exposure to the sunlight.
Harvest them when the time is right and enjoy your tasty cucumbers long into the year. For pickling or just as a crisp, nutritious snack, cucumbers are hard to beat.