Cucumbers come in two types: climbing and bush varieties. Climbing cucumbers require a trellis or other structure upon which to grow. Bush varieties require less space to grow, making them great for small gardens and even containers. Cucumbers are grown from seed or transplants. Popular varieties include Straight 8 and Salad Bush.
Cucumbers need a sunny spot with well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Work several inches of compost into the bed to a depth of 12". Rake the bed smooth. If planting a climbing-type cucumber, install a trellis or other structure on which the plants can grow.
Do not plant cucumbers until after the fear of frost has passed and the soil has warmed. For climbing types, space plants 8" apart and 6" in front of the trellis. For bush varieties, make 8"-tall mounds and plant four seeds per hill. Dig holes and sprinkle in one tablespoon of slow-release fertilizer. Add seeds or transplants, backfill with soil and water well.
After the plants germinate, add a thick layer of mulch to conserve moisture. Be careful to keep the mulch away from the stems of the plants so they do not rot. Feed the young cucumber plants every two weeks with liquid fertilizer. It’s is important to maintain sufficient moisture throughout the growing period.
Young cucumber plants are a favorite target for bugs and beetles. These insects attack the plants before the stems can harden, sucking the moisture out of the shoots and leaves. To protect them, cover the plants with floating row covers until they begin to bloom. One of the most effective ways to rid plants of cucumber beetles is to hand pick them when spotted.
With cucumbers, bigger isn't always better. Young cucumbers are sweeter and more tender, while larger ones are great for slicing. Because they grow very fast, keep a watchful eye on them. They should be harvested while still dark green. To harvest cucumbers, hold the fruit in one hand and snip the vine about half an inch above the fruit.