Cucumbers are a superb vegetable for many things including salads, pickles, and making dressings or soups. You can also eat cucumbers straight from the vine – just rinse off, cut the ends, and enjoy!
There are many cultivars of cucumbers available. Cucumbers come in different types such as: pickling, slicing, seedless, and burpless – just to name a few.
For pickling purposes, you can try ‘Little Leaf’ or ‘Northern Pickling’.
If you desire the long, slicing variety, there is ‘Burpee Hybrid II‘ or ‘Marketmore’.
If space is a rare commodity for you, try the compact versions, ‘Bush Champion‘ or ‘Spacemaster’.
Seedless cucumbers are sometimes referred to as English Cucumbers. They do not develop large seeds from not being pollinated. They do still have seeds, but are very small and hard to see.
There are many cultivars of each type to choose from. Typically in my garden, I grow the ‘Marketmore’ or ‘Marketmore 76′, ‘Straight 8′ and ‘Straight 9′ varieties. As you can see, I mainly grow the slicing types of cucumbers.
How to Plant & Care for Cucumbers
Choose a warm, sunny location with humus-enriched soil that drains well. Direct-sow the seed when the soil has reached at least 60° F, planting 1½” deep and 2’ apart in rows 2-3’ apart (those using a trellis can be as close as 10” apart).
I have transplanted nursery bought cucumber plants before with some success, but generally, it is better to sow the seed directly in the garden.
Also, I use a homemade trellis for my cucumbers. I have found that letting cucumber vines run on the ground results in various problems.
One problem is the plants can become more susceptible to possible disease, such as powdery mildew. Another problem is that if the fruit sits on the moist ground, they can begin to rot. You could go out to your garden, and see a beautiful 7-12″ cucumber laying there, just to pick it up and realize the bottom is rotten. Trust me, you will want to almost cry if you experience this!
If you are interested in growing cucumbers in your garden, a trellis or some type of support system is the way to go to ensure a healthy crop. I have much better results when I use a trellis for my cucumbers. For more information on building a simple, inexpensive trellis for your cucumbers, please visit How To Build A Simple Cucumber Trellis.
Cucumbers require a good amount of water. Plants should receive about ½” of water per week or more during periods of high heat. Spreading organic mulch around plants when they are young is a good idea to help keep the soil moist.
How to Harvest Cucumbers
Cucumbers grow fairly rapidly and are ready to pick 50-75 days after planting. Harvest when they are 8-12” long for the slicing varieties and as small as 2” for the pickling types.
If you let a cucumber sit on the vine too long, the seeds can become harder and the fruit becomes bitter. Picking frequently also encourages more production. I generally harvest my cucumbers when they reach around 7-12″ long.
Harvesting your cucumbers according to size also depends on the cultivar you are growing. Some cultivars are ready to pick at much larger sizes than others. The appropriate harvesting size should be on the seed packet of the seeds you are using. Use that information as a guideline for harvesting your cucumbers. Harvesting your cucumbers early and often can help to stimulate more production.
Be sure to snip the cucumbers from the vine with snips or scissors. If you just yank or pull the cucumber from the vine you could damage the plant, or tear it from the trellis, if you are using one.
Pests & Diseases of Cucumbers
Cucumbers are susceptible to a wide variety of problems, but new hybrid varieties have been developed for disease resistance. Choose cultivars that have been specifically bred for your climate. Choose varieties that are resistant to fusarium wilt, anthracnose, black rot, gummy stem blight and powdery mildew.
You can apply fungicides if you want, but I do not recommend this if you want an organic garden. If I run into these problems, most of the time I remove the plant from the garden and start over if it is still fairly early in the season. Sure, it is more work, but it usually works out well and in the end is worth the extra hassle.
The striped and spotted cucumber beetles are the most significant pests with cucumbers. They can spread bacterial wilt in the plant. Aphids carry cucumber mosaic virus – you can knock them off with the water hose. You can also introduce ladybugs to the garden, as they love munching on aphids if you have a big aphid problem.
Avoid using any pesticides to prevent killing beneficial pollinators. Remember, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators are needed for the garden to produce. What you use to kill one bad insect will most likely kill the good ones, too.
With some planning and good ole’ fashioned work, growing cucumbers in the garden can be fun, rewarding and not to mention – delicious!