Growing cucumbers is quite easy, just follow the steps below:
Growing cucumbers is a backyard garden favorite. Cucumbers are fairly easy to grow and usually have very few pests or disease problems. We also love the fact that a small row of cucumbers, grown on a trellis, can produce upwards of 50 pounds of fruit per year. In fact, our little 6-foot trellis is so productive that we end up giving away cucumbers.
3 main types of cucumbers
Cucumbers can be divided into 3 main types:
Slicing cucumbers are perfect for fresh eating. A slicing cucumbers usually grow to between 8 to 15 inches depending on the variety. As the fruit starts to mature the skin of slicing cucumbers harden. This makes mature slicers unusable for pickling. But slicing cucumbers can be pickled when smaller and still tender skinned. Slicing cucumbers also make great refrigerator pickles.
Pickling cucumbers are much smaller. Usually, 2 to 6 inches and their skins are much more tender, making it easier for the pickling spices to penetrate the fruit. Pickling cucumbers are also generally more prolific. You will get more cucumbers per plant with picklers, especially if you are careful to pick them often.
Novelty cucumbers include middle eastern & oriental varieties. They also include some fun colors and shapes. Novelty cucumbers include a fun yellow-fruited variety called lemon and lots of fun, long funky shaped varieties. Most novelty cucumbers are eaten as slicers, although again they can be pickled when small.
General Information for Growing Cucumbers
Cucumbers are warm season veggies and must be grown in the summer.
Most cucumber varieties vine, making them perfect candidates for vertical growing. Growing cucumbers on a trellis keep the fruit clean, makes the plants less susceptible to cold and frost and allows you to plant more cucumbers in a small space. Additionally growing cucumbers on a trellis’ reduce the occurrence of some diseases like powdery mildew by increasing airflow and keeping the leaves drier. (Learn about our simple cucumber trellis here)
There are a few bush varieties out there. Bush cucumbers tend to be MUCH less productive. I tried a bush pickling cucumber a few years ago and was very disappointed with the production. But they do have their uses and do well in smaller gardens or small containers.
Like all members of the squash family, when they bloom cucumbers have both male and female blossoms. It’s easy to tell the difference.
The female blossoms have little baby cucumbers behind the flowers.
Don’t panic if when your plants first bloom, all you see are male flowers. There will often be a big flush of male flowers at first. This is natures way of drawing attention to the growing cucumbers plants and to get the pollinators interested. The female blossoms will follow after the bee’s know where to find the plants.
Growing cucumbers are almost 100% insect pollinated (there can be occasional wind pollination but this will be spotty at best) because of this it is always wise to be very careful with insecticides around your garden. You don’t want to kill those bees!!
Because they are warm weather plants cucumbers must be planted 1 to up to 6 weeks AFTER your average last frost date. Soil temperatures should be at least 60 degrees (You can find your soil temp using one of these handy Soil Thermometers)
Under the right conditions, it usually takes about 1 week for newly planted seeds to emerge as seedlings, so if you are willing to take the risk you could plant on, or even a little before, your average last frost date, and hope the seedlings don’t come out until after the frost. But be prepared to risk losing your plants and having to replant.
Plant seeds 1 inch deep and leaves about 3 inches between each seed.
If you would like to get a bit of a head start with growing cucumbers you can always start some seeds indoors 2 weeks before planting outside. Use fluorescent lights or a sunny window. Don’t let seedlings get much older than 2 weeks. Cucumber plants don’t transplant well if they are much older than that.
If you are buying seedlings from a store always buy seedlings that are very small, with no more than one set of true leaves. You not trying to transplant large plants, instead, you are just trying to get a couple of weeks head start. I will say it again, large cucumber plants that are already vining (or even worse blooming) DO NOT transplant well, go for the much smaller plant.
Care of Growing Cucumbers
Growing cucumbers love fertile soil, so it is always a good idea to add some good quality compost and blood meal to your soil. They would also appreciate manure added to your soil and dried seaweed (if available).
Growing Cucumbers love lots of water. They prefer long deep drinks, therefore it is always better to water with a drip system. Watering with sprinklers encourages mildew problems on the leaves. To little water will cause your cucumbers to be bitter.
Common pests for growing cucumbers include aphids, cucumber beetles, flea beetles, mites and squash bugs. Diseases include downy mildew and powdery mildew.
Plan on your first harvest between 50 to 70 days after planting.
Clipping the fruit from the vine with a pair of garden scissors, instead of pulling from the vine, will cause less damage.
Pick your growing cucumbers while they are still green, long and slender. Never let fruit stay on the vine so long that they are yellow and bulging. This will discourage extra fruit production as the plant will start focusing on seed growth.
Plan on picking often! 3 or 4 times a week at least, but you really should be checking daily! Frequent harvesting encourages more fruit production.
Freshly picked cucumbers will last around 1 week in the fridge.
Cucumbers are part of the Cucurbitaceae or squash family. As such you should plan on rotating where you plant your cucumbers each year and avoid spots where other squashes or melons have been planted in the past 2 -3 years.