An all-time favorite, cucumbers are versatile veggies that taste great eaten raw, chopped into salads or pickled. You can even float a few slices in a pitcher of ice-cold water for a refreshingly healthy drink on a hot summer day.
Choose varieties carefully. Pickling cucumber aren’t very good eaten raw and slicing cucumbers aren’t well-suited for pickling. Bush cucumbers are more compact, but vining cucumbers, which must be trellised, ultimately yield more cucumbers.
Cucumbers are cool season, sun-loving vegetables. However, don’t plant seeds until the soil is warm and all danger of frost has passed.
Work a generous amount of compost or well-rotted manure, along with an all-purpose fertilizer, into the soil a couple of days before planting.
Plant seeds in rows or in hills. Planting vining types on a trellis or against a fence saves space and keeps the cukes off the ground.
Once planted, keep the soil evenly moist but don’t water to the point of muddiness.
Tips on Caring for Cucumbers
- Once cucumbers germinate, they need an inch or two (2.5 to 5 cm.) of water every week. Water deeply, preferably with a soaker hose or drip system.
- Don’t allow the soil to become bone dry or you may have a crop of deformed, bitter cucumbers. A layer of mulch will help keep the soil uniformly moist.
- Thin the plants when they’re 4 or 5 inches (10-12 cm.) tall, leaving 9 to 12 inches (22-30 cm.) between each seedling. If you planted cucumbers in hills, leave only the two strongest seedlings.
- Side-dress along the rows or around the hills with a nitrogen-based fertilizer before blooms appear. Always water well immediately after applying fertilizer.
- Control weeds when they’re small and easily removed by scraping the soil with a hoe. Don’t wait until weeds are large; they’re difficult to remove and they draw moisture and nutrients from the cucumbers.
Control pests like aphids, mites and whiteflies with insecticidal soap spray. Pick cucumber beetles and caterpillars by hand or apply Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a natural bacteria.
Powdery mildew and downy mildew often afflict cucumbers in spring. Bacterial wilt, leaf spot and other diseases are more common later in the season. Prevention is the best means of control, as many diseases are difficult to manage once established. Keep the planting area clean and free of plant debris. Practice crop rotation. Water at the base of the plant and keep the leaves as dry as possible.
Cucumbers are ready to harvest 50 to 70 days after planting, depending on the variety. Harvest regularly to encourage continued blooming. Don’t allow cucumbers to get too large because they rapidly lose flavor and quality.
Can I Plant Cucumbers in Containers?
Compact varieties such as Spacemaster, Little Leaf or Piccolino do well in a large container, but be sure to provide a trellis or tomato cage for vining types. Water regularly; potted plants dry out quickly in warm weather.