Cucumbers are a low-maintenance, high-yielding, low-calorie, nutrient-rich and scrumptious vegetable. Widely popular with home gardeners, cucumbers are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, with an assortment of selections adaptable to any gardeners space limitations.
Cucumbers: When to Plant
Cucumbers are a warm-weather crop that, once established, should produce well into the fall. When putting out transplants, wait one to two weeks after your last frost date; seeds can be sown directly into the garden on your last spring frost date. You can find your average last frost date here.
Cucumbers: Where and What Variety to Grow
To successfully grow cucumbers, you should choose a spot that gets at least 8 hours of sunlight daily and is easily accessible for watering. Once you’ve found the ideal location, space and personal preference will be the next factors to take into consideration. There are lots of cucumber varieties on the market:
- Dwarf Cucumber Plants such as our Bush Crop Cucumber Plant, are the perfect cucumbers for container gardens or for very small garden areas. This is also a popular choice for schoolyard gardens. Their growth is more upright than vining, and they do not require a lot of space.
- Semi-Dwarf Cucumber Plants such as our Fanfare Cucumber Plant, are also adaptable to container growing and will only take up a bit more space in your garden than a dwarf variety. They grow a little taller than vigorous varieties, but with vines about half the length.
- Vigorous Cucumber Plants sometimes referred to as vining cucumber plants, will require the most room in the garden. Some vigorous varieties grow on vines reaching up to 6 feet (or sometimes longer) in length. The fruits are most often 8 to 12 inches long and will grow best upon trellises. Our most popular vigorous variety is the Garden Sweet Burpless Cucumber Plant.
Cucumbers: How to Fertilize and Water
Cucumbers will grow best with adequate nutrition. Cucumber plants should be fertilized, preferably with an organic fertilizer, when first transplanted, again about a week after blooming, and then every 3 to 4 weeks afterwards. Use a low nitrogen fertilizer in order to avoid leggy, leafy, beautiful, but potentially fruitless vines.
Cucumbers also require consistent watering; inconsistent or negligent watering can result in bitter fruit. Water thoroughly two to three times a week, depending upon the climatic conditions in your area. Container plantings should be monitored closely and never allowed to completely dry out. Bear in mind that watering around the roots, as opposed to on the leaves, will provide the most efficient hydration to your vegetable plants and will help to prevent foliar diseases, mildew and leaf scorch.
Cucumbers: When to Harvest
When choosing a variety, be sure to know the estimated number of days to maturity. Remember, this is just a guideline; Mother Nature may have her own agenda. Climatic conditions, soil health, moisture and disease can greatly affect your cucumber harvest in terms of time and yield. And, since cucumbers produce throughout the entire season, it is virtually impossible to gauge the number of days any specific cucumber has been on the vine.
Cucumbers at their peak will more easily separate from the vine when you harvest. If you really have to aggressively tug or cut the vine, you may want to wait a day or two. Its a good idea to wear gloves when picking cukes, as their skins and stems are covered with prickly spines that can usually be removed easily by simply wiping with a glove or cloth. Make sure the skins are smooth before serving!
Delaying harvest until a cucumber starts to turn yellow can result in bitter fruit. Though your cucumber variety may generally produce 8- to 10-inch fruits, there are always exceptions, so don’t go by size, but rather by appearance. Pick cukes just as soon as they ripen to encourage the plants to keep producing fruit. Store them in the fridge for one to two weeks, or prepare vinegar-based cucumber salads that will keep for up to a week when refrigerated. Canned pickles keep for weeks or months. The skin contains valuable dietary fiber and nutrients, plus it adds a lot of crunch, so leave the skin intact when eating raw or using in recipes for the most dietary benefits.
Cucumbers: Companion Plants
All plants do not grow well together. For instance, cucumbers should be planted well away from tomatoes, sage and other aromatic herbs, such as lavender, mint or lemon grass.
On the other hand, vegetables such as radishes, beets and dill are good choices for planting in close proximity to your cucumber plants. Not only do they benefit your cucumbers when it comes to utilizing and providing needed nutrients, many of them will also help deter the most common cucumber pests, such as aphids, cucumber beetles, spider mites and pickle worms. Dill, for instance, will attract lacewings, which in turn will decimate an aphid population in short order. Lacewings will also eat the eggs of the cucumber beetle.
Many flowers, such as nasturtiums and marigolds, are an effective form of pest control, naturally reducing the need to utilize chemical pesticides in your vegetable garden while adding an attractive border or colorful accent. Experts recommend planting the most pungent marigold varieties, such as French or Mexican marigolds.
The healthiest and most pest-free gardens will grow in a naturally beneficial environment. To learn more, you can read our article on Natural Pest Control.
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