How to Grow a Cucumber Garden
Whether you peel them, pickle them or press them onto your eyes, cucumbers can be a fantastic vegetable to grow yourself. Here are some home gardening secrets to help you on your way.
Photo By: DK - Simple Steps to Success: Fruits and Vegetables in Pots © 2012 Dorling Kindersley Limited
Cool, Calm and Crisp
Growing cucumbers can be a wonderfully rewarding adventure. No veggie tastes fresher than a cucumber cut right off the vine. The more quickly you harvest your ripened cukes, the more that will grow in their place during the season.
Cucumbers are very sensitive to cold and should be planted when soil temps reach about 60 degrees in a spot that receives full sunlight. If you’re worried the weather hasn’t warmed up enough yet, you can start them inside using a heating pad and/or a sunny windowsill.
Because cucumber plants can be a “bush” or “vine” variety, the plant spacing needs will vary. Bush types have been bred to take up only 2 to 3 feet, with extremely short vines, while vining cukes can run between 6’ – 15’.
Cucumber seedlings should be planted a minimum of 12” apart if trained up a trellis, and three feet apart if they’ll be growing without a support. Cucumber seeds need to be planted one inch deep and lightly covered with soil, in a well-drained part of your garden.
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Depending on your space, they can be left to sprawl across the ground, or trained up a trellis for best air circulation.
Prune away the lower leaves of your cucumber plants in order to avoid airborne disease. Cucumbers need between 1 to 2 inches of water per week, delivered at the root of the plant. Causing water stress while the plants are flowering can result in bitter tasting fruits. In hot weather, make sure you adjust your watering schedule accordingly.
Moving On Up
Cucumber plants shoot out tiny thin tendrils, which wrap around other plants—and each other. This is how they climb up trellis and netting. Looking for an excellent companion plant? Cucumbers play well with beans, corn, radishes and pollinator plants like nasturtiums.
Powdery mildew fungus is a popular enemy when it comes to gardening. To ward off this pesky problem, spray a mixture of one part milk and one part water on your plants about every 10 days or so.
Each female flower that appears on your cucumber plant has the potential to become a cucumber. Male flowers, as seen here, tend to appear first, and often in clusters.
Let's Talk About Sex
Both male and female must be present in order to cross-pollinate, so don’t be surprised if it takes a bit before you begin to see female flowers on your plant. You’ll recognize them as female when you see the tiny, slim fruit that forms behind them.
In order to bear cucumbers, the flowers must then be pollenated by industrious and irreplaceable bees. Consider planting bee-friendly flowers, such as nasturtiums or marigolds, near your cucumber plants in order to keep those bees coming around.
In 2010, over 57 million cucumbers were produced worldwide. There are three main categories: slicing, pickling and burpless. Within each group, the varieties seem endless.
These vining sweeties are as easy to grow as the more common types of cucumbers. They’re never bitter and make a flavorful and colorful addition many recipes. Harvest just as they begin to turn yellow to avoid them having too many seeds. Should mature in around 65 days.
Pick Your Pickle
Although pickling cucumbers tend to make the crispiest pickles, you can actually pickle any variety. Whether you enjoy your cucumbers right from the garden or preserved with tangy seasonings, it’s safe to say: homegrown is best.