Food historians believe the cucumber was first cultivated in India over 4,000 years ago. The cucumbers we plant and grow today are much improved over those early varieties. Now, there are many types of sweet and smooth-skinned cucumbers that are easy to grow in Summer gardens. Besides the familiar slender green slicing cucumbers, there are those with ridges, some with pale yellow skin, and unusual varieties like round lemon cucumbers.
How to Grow Cucumbers
Cucumbers are warm-season vegetables that grow on long vines usually supported on a trellis. If you have limited garden space, compact cucumber varieties can also be grown in a patio or container garden. Most gardeners sow cucumbers directly in the garden after the danger of frost has passed; however, seeds can be started indoors about 3-4 weeks before transplanting them into the garden.
- Whether you plant cucumbers in the garden or a container, prepare a light rich soil that will drain well.
- Amend the soil by digging in compost, well-aged manure, or a combination.
- A good option for gardeners with clay soil is to plant and grow cucumbers in raised beds.
- Wait for warm days and nights before planting cucumber seeds or transplants. The soil should be at least 70 degrees; warmer is better, so wait for nighttime temperatures to be a reliable 55 degrees before planting.
- Soak cucumber seeds overnight to help speed germination before planting.
- Plant seeds ½” deep and 3” to 4” apart in rows or hills. Rows should be at least 36” apart. If planting in a container, space seeds about the same distance apart, around the container’s edge.
- Cucumbers have high water needs, so set out a soaker hose or drip irrigation system. It’s important to water at the soil level and try to keep the leaves as dry as possible.
- When seeds sprout, thin plants so they’re 10” or more apart. Train vines to grow up a trellis to keep plants off the ground and to ensure blemish-free cucumbers.
- As plants start to grow, sidedress with a dry, well-balanced fertilizer or use a liquid soluble fertilizer during watering.
- Keep up good watering practices, especially in hot weather and when plants are flowering and fruiting.
- Apply an organic mulch after the soil has warmed considerably.
- If the flowers drop from the vine or the fruits are misshapen, it’s probably due to a lack of pollination. Cucumbers are also susceptible to environmental stresses, like sudden cold or hot temperatures, inconsistent watering, and lack of adequate fertilizing.
- If you notice insect problems, cover the plants with row cover cloth until the vines start to flower.
- If vines dry and wither, it’s best to pull the plant and dispose of it.
- Some cucumber varieties can grow quickly, in as little as 50 days from seed to harvest.
- Clip cucumbers as they mature, even if they’re only a few inches long. Smaller is better because that ensures sweet fruits with tender seeds. If left on the vine too long (and the cucumbers start to yellow), the plant will stop producing fruit.
- Fresh cucumbers should be eaten as close to harvest as possible, although they can be stored for about 7 days in the refrigerator. Wash just before eating to help maintain freshness.
Plant Cucumbers with these companions:
- Cabbage family members
- Flowering annuals that attract pollinators
Avoid planting near sage
Materials for Success
- Soil thermometer
- High-quality compost and manure
- Fertilizer for side dressing
- Soaker hose or drip irrigation
- Organic mulch
- Row cover cloth
To learn more about growing cucumbers or about growing your own edible vegetable garden, contact the pros at Nick’s Garden Center.