7 Expert Tips to Growing Cucumbers at Home

Cucumbers rank right up there with tomatoes when it comes to favorite cost-effective vegetables to grow at home, and no garden should be without a cucumber vine or two. Cucumbers are easy to grow and under the right garden growing conditions, a couple of cucumbers vines will keep a family eating fresh cucumbers all summer.

Choose the right variety.

Cucumbers come in several different growing varieties. To know which variety is best for your garden, think about garden space and how you plan to eat these vegetables.

The bush growing variety of cucumbers grow on small compact bushes and take up less space in your garden than vine growing cucumbers. Bush plants don’t produce runners so there will be no need to provide a growing structure for them.

Will you be eating cucumbers fresh or pickling them? Straight 8’s is a variety that is good for eating fresh. If you want to make pickles, choose a pickling cucumber variety. The vines produce more and smaller cucumbers that are perfect for making pickles.

The Grow It Organically! Website provides that: 

Cucumber varieties come in slicing, pickling, and “burpless” types. There are also “specialty” heirloom and greenhouse varieties of cucumbers.

Harvest to Table has a list of Cucumber Varieties: Best Bets and Easy-to-Grow for your quick further reference.

Consider that cucumbers can be grown indoors or outdoors.

Prepare the soil bed well.   

Cucumbers prefer a flat, well-drained sunny location in your garden. The vines are heavy feeders and require constant soil moisture.

Add several inches of compost or well-rotted cow manure to the garden soil and till in to the depth of 6 inches, then rake the garden soil level before planting. The compost or cow manure will keep the cucumber plants fed all season and prevent garden soil from compacting and hindering plant root growth.

Clean Air Gardening has a good explanation about the kind of soil that cucumbers need:

“Cucumbers may be high in water content, but they don’t 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.”

Rodale’s Organic Life supports this finding by saying:

“For the best-tasting fruit and optimum yields, grow plants in a sunny spot and in warm, fertile, and well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Raised beds are ideal. Cucumbers require a soil pH between 6 and 7.”

Plant right.

Cucumbers need to be planted in small hills, whether you’re starting with seeds or plants. If you plan to allow the cucumber vines to run freely on the garden soil, form hills 6 feet apart. Form each soil hill about 12 inches in diameter and 6 inches high, working a little compost or cow manure in each hill. Keep the garden soil worked to prevent weed growth and soil crusting until the cumber vines begin running, then apply a thick layer of mulch for the cucumber vines to grow on.

In early spring after all danger of frost has past, plant 2 cucumber seeds or plant 1 into the center of each hill. If you plan to use trellises and train cucumber vines to grow vertically, you can plant them much closer together, about 2 feet apart. The same is true for planting bush growing cucumbers, plant them with 2 feet of space on all sides. Apply a layer of organic mulch around each plant.

Fertilize and give enough water.

A side dressing of granulated fertilize will benefit the vines during growing season, since they are such heavy feeders. Apply a half cup of a balanced 10-10-10 granulated fertilize around each plant in mid-summer. Be careful not to allow the fertilizer to touch the plant.

Also, do not forget to water vines when soil is dry.

Use trellises.

You can use almost anything to make a cucumber trellis support the vines and keep them off the ground (the thick layer of mulch will do that if you opt to allow the vines to grow on the ground). Anything you have on hand can be used to create a trellis support, such as wooden sticks, metal stakes, fencing or you can purchase ready-made trellises.

A secure homemade trellis that will last several years can easily be fashioned from 4 foot high, heavy gauge wire mesh fencing. Pound metal fence posts into the soil 4 feet apart and secure fencing to the posts with wire. Plant hills of cucumbers 2 feet apart on alternating sides of the fencing. The vines will produce tendrils and will attach themselves to the fencing or whatever vertical trellis material you use.

Harvest in due time.

About 6 weeks after planting, tiny cucumbers begin to form on the vines.

Watch them closely after the first tiny cucumber appears, they grow into full sized cucumber literally overnight.

You can harvest cucumbers between 2 – 6 inches long for the best flavor and smallest seeds.

If cucumbers are allowed to grow too big on the vine, it will sap the vine’s energy and it will slow down production.

In addition, the bigger the cucumber grows, the more bitter it will become. The seeds inside the cucumber also grow larger, making the cucumber less tasty.

Save seeds.

Because cucumber do grow so quickly, you will inevitably have a couple that grow too big to eat. Save these large ones for seeds to plant next garden season.

Slice the cucumber lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Spread the seeds out in a single layer on newspaper or paper toweling to dry. Keep them out of direct sun. When the seeds have dried, brush away the dried pulp and place seeds in a labeled envelope. Store in a cool, dry place until planting time.

Seeds can be used to start planting indoors in late winter or planted directly into garden soil when all danger of frost has passed in the spring.

So, when are you going to plant cucumbers in your home garden?

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