Let me tell you what my greatest enjoyment in the summer is. Sitting on my porch, sipping cold ice-tea and having a few slices of cucumbers, dashed with a bit of salt. To be honest, I can’t think of any other vegetable which is better suited for hot months.
Therefore, I’m giving you this article. As you will see, learning how to grow cucumbers is not a difficult thing, and will be beneficial, especially if you are an inexperienced gardener. So, let’s get started, shall we?
Common (And Not So Common) Knowledge About Cucumbers
I don’t believe that there is one human being who didn’t eat this vegetable at least once. Still, there are some interesting facts about cucumbers you probably didn’t know. To correct this, I’ll list them below.
As you can see, cucumbers won’t need a lot of your attention. Surely, there are some things you have to cover, but still, it is nothing drastic.
What Is The First Thing To Do?
Before you even begin, you have to decide which variety you want to grow? As I have mentioned above, there are three main groups of cucumbers, and according to their purpose, they can be:
These are most commonly grown since they are from the most significant group. The primary purpose of growing these cucumbers is to be eaten fresh, with salt or other spices.
The name speaks for itself. The main reason why someone is growing these smaller green guys is to enjoy pickled cucumbers during winter.
Again, nomen est omen, since cucumbers from this group will have much milder taste, thinner skin, and almost no seeds. These hybrid varieties are grown because some people might suffer gasses from these ingredients.
In general, I can suggest going with the first group. Its not-so-ripe fruits can be used for pickling as well, and are overall suitable for any other usage. Naturally, you can try your luck with seedless ones, just to see if it makes any difference.
Concerning tools, there aren’t many things which will be required. In fact, you probably have everything already, but still, double check that the watering can isn’t leaking, that hoe is sharp and the spade clean. Other than that, almost nothing is needed, except if you want to make a trellis.
Speaking of which, if you choose a climbing variety, you can follow my article on how to grow zucchini on a trellis, there’s a pretty nice guide on this matter.
How To Prepare The Soil For Cucumbers?
Before you start with anything else, you should know that cucumbers need full sun to grow properly. Therefore, take a good look around your garden, and see which part of the land receives the most of lighting, since you will set cucumbers there.
It is true that cucumbers need a lot of water, but they can’t put up with soggy soil. Therefore, your first item on checklist called “soil for cucumbers” should be to see if your garden retains a lot of water. If there are puddles of water after the rain, it means that you have a lower ground there, and should opt for raised beds instead.
Next thing you should check is pH of the soil. To do so, there are pretty cheap pH testing kits available on the market. After measuring, bear in mind that cucumbers can endure pH of up to 7.8, so if it is around 7, it should be fine. However, if the value is too low, add a bit of limestone to increase it.
As for nutrients, I tend to avoid artificial additives whenever possible. Therefore, I’ve added several inches of quality manure and tilled the ground thoroughly. You know, standard procedure in my garden, which was used many times. Now is probably a good time to start anyway, since the danger of frosts had passed.
How To Plant Cucumbers?
Since there isn’t a universal answer to this question, you will have to read the label carefully when buying seeds in your garden center.
In general, I recommend to sow a pair of seeds on each 36-60” for bush varieties, and at least one foot for those growing on vines. To make things much easier, you can set up trellis first, and sow the seeds underneath. The depth of sowing should be about 1” in both cases.
If the weather is a bit chilly, you can add a layer of straw mulch, to keep the soil a bit warmer, and to deter any new pests which can cause you trouble. Additionally, mulch will also keep the weeds at bay; since the early stage of growth is vital, you don’t need any competition.
How To Maintain Cucumbers?
When it comes to caring about cucumbers, you have two main things to worry about: watering and pollination.
Once the seeds are sown, apply water on a regular basis, and you will need about an inch of it per week. As the plant grows, increase the amount, until you reach about a gallon per week. Naturally, the watering should be as equal as possible. You can’t compensate three days of watering with three times amount of water. Keep the flow steady.
In case that you don’t know if water is needed, stick your finger to the ground next to the plant. If it is dry, add water. Also, you must take into account that there is zero possibility that you can just spray water around. Don’t do this by any means. Cucumbers should be watered at the base of the plant.
If you wet the foliage, there is a high probability of various diseases to develop, or the leaves to turn yellow. Luckily, the latter is already covered on my blog, so you can check it out here.
When it comes to pollination, there are two types of flowers which will develop; male and female. The latter can be recognized by small swelling at the base of the flower. Usually, the process of transferring pollen from one to another is done by bees.
If there aren’t many of those buzzing around due to various reasons, you can try one of these methods to attract bees. There is another method, which you shouldn’t take for granted. Some people are recommending to use a mixture of water and sugar sprayed on the plant to attract beneficial insects, but that can attract vermin as well.
To be sure that all flowers will bear fruit, you could pollinate the flowers by hand. Use a Q-tip to make things faster. Collect pollen from the male flower and transfer it to a female one.
Should I Fertilize Cucumbers?
If you followed my guidelines on preparing the soil and added manure, this means that cucumbers probably won’t need much feeding afterward. Still, to grow correctly, they will need some help.
From time to time, you could add liquid fertilizer rich in potassium and phosphorus. One of the best things for this purpose is wood ash. Distribute it around plants, and it will increase the amount of these nutrients, keep away some pests and increase the alkalinity of the soil, so keep that in mind.
If you are using bought additives, apply them when the seeds are planted, then about a week after blooming, and around once in three weeks after that. If you don’t want to bother with this, you can apply granular fertilizer, since this kind will release nutrients at constant but slower rate.
When And How To Harvest And Store Cucumbers?
Since there are many varieties, the optimal time for harvesting must be left to you. For slicing cucumbers, this is usually somewhere about 6-8” of length. Smaller varieties won’t grow that much, of course.
The harvesting process is straightforward. Take a kitchen knife or sharp scissors and cut the stem between the fruit and the stalk. Don’t pull off the fruit, since it will cause damage to the plant, and viruses can and will penetrate the system, causing damage.
If it is possible, harvest cucumbers once in every few days, so you will prolong its growing cycle. Of course, don’t leave it for too long, since as it matures, the taste becomes bitter, and the seeds are becoming harder.
As for storing, if you want to keep them fresh, wrap them in plastic, and put into the refrigerator. This way, they can stay usable for about ten days. On the other hand, if you want to store them for the more extended period, some pickling will be in order.
Are There Any Pests I Should Look After?
With its high percentage of water (about 95%), cucumber is an excellent target for several pests which will want to feast on its stems and fruits. You can expect slugs to appear, and those can be prevented to cause damage with already mentioned straw mulching.
However, row covers are great in preventing slugs and cucumber beetles. Of course, remove those once the pollinating season begins.
As for diseases, you should look after powdery mildew, which can be prevented by proper watering, which means NO FOLIAGE SPLASHES!
As you can see, learning how to grow cucumbers is not such a hard thing. It takes only a bit of will and spare time, and you will be treated with some of the best vegetables available. Surely, you will need suitable space, but I believe that you’ll manage.
In case that you have some exciting tips on this matter, feel free to use the comment section below.