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How to Grow Healthy Cucumbers (for Food and Medicinal Benefits)

I've been growing vegetables for over 50 years now, and I've tried and tested each of these methods and ideas.

Cucumbers grown in a home garden can be eaten raw or pickled. Be careful, however, if yours are allowed to grow on the ground. Mildew and disease are more common.

Cucumbers grown in a home garden can be eaten raw or pickled. Be careful, however, if yours are allowed to grow on the ground. Mildew and disease are more common.

Cucumbers are a popular plant for home gardeners to grow. From the gourd family, they're joined by squash and melons as creeping plants that produce edible fruits, which can be peeled and eaten raw. I like mine sprinkled with salt and pepper or, of course, they can be pickled.

The cucumber was first grown in India, but now it appears all over the world. More cucumbers are grown in the United States than anywhere else.

Today, cucumbers are very popular in the U.S. You'll even find fried dill pickles being cooked and served in some parts of the country. I make them all the time and serve with ranch dressing. If you've never had it, you should try cold cucumber soup. It's delicious also.

Cucumbers can be pickled in many ways for longer shelf life. Everything from dill to garlic pickles can be made from cucumbers. Then you can enjoy your cucumbers in the middle of winter!

How Does a Cucumber Grow?

These plants need to grow upward. As vines, they need support from lattice, poles, or chicken wire. Some people allow the cucumbers to grow on the ground, but if you do, you're opening yourself up to disease and mildew problems.

I grow my cucumbers every year in a large raised bed. I have two 25-foot rows with chicken-wire supports. This way, I can keep a close eye on the plants and keep the fruit picked off before they get too large. They are best at three to five inches long and three inches around. At this size, they can easily be peeled and eaten raw or pickled.

Cucumbers growing on a fence. This is a great way to grow them—they have support to grow up and are easy to pick.

Cucumbers growing on a fence. This is a great way to grow them—they have support to grow up and are easy to pick.

These cucumbers will be easy to harvest. Just walk along the fence and pick.

These cucumbers will be easy to harvest. Just walk along the fence and pick.

Which Type of Cucumber Should You Plant?

  • There are many varieties, but all can be pickled or eaten raw.
  • Look to see how disease-resistant a variety is. The grower or nursery should provide this information.
  • When in doubt, ask at your local farm and garden center which kind of cucumber grow best in your area.
  • One great variety is known as "country fair." They are seedless, burpless, not bitter, and resistant to disease. This variety is perfect for pickling.

Cucumber Growing Tips

Cucumbers need a lot of attention while growing, but with proper care they produce large amounts of fruit. Six plants can produce enough cucumbers to last a family of four through the summer.

  • The plants require warm weather and will mature quickly, so they can be grown almost anywhere.
  • Cucumbers grow from seed in 55 to 60 days.
  • I suggest providing plants with stable support. The fruit produces a lot of weight. I have fence posts about eight feet tall along the rows where I grow my cucumbers with chicken wire attached. The vines grow along the wire. Plants grown up on supports are less prone to disease and mildew and you'll get better-formed cucumbers.
  • Cucumbers need fertile soil with good drainage.
  • Cucumber beetles spread bacterial wilt. You can use a pesticide such as methoxychlor or carbaryl to kill them, but be sure to follow directions carefully and don't apply when the cucumbers are in full-sun. Always pull out and dispose of any wilted plants. Don't put sick plants into your compost because the wilt disease can grow there.
  • Every year after harvest, prepare the planting area and soil for next year.

How to Plant Cucumbers

  1. Dig up the soil to a depth of 12-14 inches and work in rotted manure or compost plus 1/2 pound of 5-10-5 fertilizer for every 10 feet of planted row.
  2. Fill the trench with top soil.
  3. When you are ready, set out cucumber plants or plant seeds two inches deep. I like to plant already started plants because I get a jump on the season and have cucumbers ready to harvest sooner than anyone else. You can start your own plants indoors in peat pots. I recommend using seeds that are gynoecious, which produce mainly female plants and more cucumbers.

Grow Cucumbers Vertically for Great Crops

Cucumbers will grow much better vertically than they ever will on the ground.

Cucumbers will grow much better vertically than they ever will on the ground.

Growing Indoors

If you have a front porch that can be sealed in with plastic for the winter, then you're in luck. My porch faces east and I lay down rugs on the floor and cover the screened windows with thick green plastic that has fabric inside. I use an electric heater that has a thermostat to keep the temperature on the porch at 72 degrees at night.

  • Purchase seeds for Picklebush cucumbers at your local garden supply store or online. Midget Bush Pickler is another variety that grows indoors in winter.
  • Plant your seeds according to package directions in containers. Use a mix of 80% top soil and 20% 10-10-10 fertilizer.
  • Use a small paint brush to pollinate your plants. Go from flower to flower, gently pushing the tip of the brush into each flower. This will do the same thing a bee or insect would do.
  • Feed once with low-nitrogen, high-potassium, time-release pellets (9-15-30) after the first true leaves appear.
  • Once the plants have three to four sets of true leaves, feed once a week with a low-nitrogen, high-potassium fertilizer (9-15-30).
  • I use metal tomato cages to encourage my vines to grow up and over.
  • You want the soil to feel moist but not wet to the touch. Don't drown your cucumbers or your plants will die and not produce.
  • You shouldn't have to worry about beetles or other pests indoors. Cucumber beetles can get in however in late spring, so watch out for them.
  • You can also easily grow cherry or plum tomatoes and various other varieties of squash indoors in winter. I have also moved cayenne peppers that I have in large pots indoors in winter and they have produced pepper all winter.
  • In about 45-60 days, you will have cucumbers to harvest, even in the dead of winter. You can speed things along by putting a long tube grow light just above the plants and set it to go on at 6 a.m. and off at 6 p.m.

If you grow cucumbers indoors in winter, please tell us all about it below in the comment section.

Cucumbers can be sliced and then chilled. You can sprinkle the cucumbers with salt and pepper or marinade them in vinegar for an hour or so.

Cucumbers can be sliced and then chilled. You can sprinkle the cucumbers with salt and pepper or marinade them in vinegar for an hour or so.

These are perfect pickling size.

These are perfect pickling size.

Medicinal Uses of Cucumbers

In Western folk medicine, cucumbers are used as a laxative and a diuretic.

  • Used externally, the juice is found to be soothing for the skin and helpful for treating inflammation and burns.
  • First introduced in China around 200 B.C., cucumbers are said to have detoxifying properties in Chinese medical practice.
  • They are also used to soothe dry lips.
  • People with sore throats are often given finely chopped cucumbers to eat. In the American South, a soup is often made from overly ripe cucumbers and given to people with sore throats. It is said to work very well.
  • The roots, stems, and leaves are also used, especially to treat diarrhea and dysentery. These parts of the plant are dried in the sun, ground up by hand with a mortar and pestle, and stored in containers with tight-fitting lids.
  • There are reports from China that parts of the cucumber plant are effective in treating high blood pressure.
  • Also in the United States, peeled cucumbers are pureed in the food processor, mixed with a little mayonnaise, and used as a facial mask to prevent and cure acne.

Cucumbers in History

Did you know that Charlemagne had cucumbers growing in his garden in 9th-century France? They were introduced in England in the early 14th century, but they were not accepted by the people until 250 years later. Christopher Columbus of Spain, who was once thought to have discovered America, brought cucumber seed to Haiti in 1494. The Mandan Indians grew cucumbers in the 16th century in area now known as North and South Dakota.

Thanks for Reading!

I want to thank you for taking the time to read my article about growing cucumbers. If you ever have questions, feel free to ask them here, and I will be sure to give you a quick answer. Thanks for your time!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Please Post Your Comments About Cucumbers

Catherine on April 17, 2016:

Do you have a suggestion for an easy, cheap trellis in the geat? I live in the desert. TIA

Thomas Byers (author) from East Coast , United States on June 17, 2013:

Yes the soil where you plant them is very important. My cucumbers are just now coming on the vines and I got to eat the first ones yesterday. They were so delicious. Thanks for the comment.

SolveMyMaze on June 17, 2013:

Great hub. A friend of mine has been desperate to get into growing cucumbers so I've passed this Hub onto her.You make a great point of preparing the plot of land that you'll be growing the cucumbers on the following year. I think this is one of the most important aspects that a lot of people may over look and not think much about until they try to grow the next batch.

Averil from St Ambroise, Finistere, France on May 20, 2013:

Hi thanks for the information video on how to grow cucumbers, I now feel inspired and less afraid to try growing them

Paula on August 06, 2012:

Never heard of mounding them..maybe that's why my yield is so low.

Eiddwen from Wales on February 22, 2012:

Even though we grow all sorts of fruit and veg we have never tried growing Cucumber;but this may change now.

Thank you for sharing.


Tim Mitchell from Escondido, CA on February 19, 2012:

I liked your very informative hub. I haven't room to grow, but a friend a work keeps me supplied during the season.

I felt like I was walkiing with you in the garden inspectiing the plants listeing to wisdom. Flowing nicely with little tids and tats of intereting information my interest was held strong. Very nicely done.

hazelwood4 from Owensboro, Kentucky on February 19, 2012:

This is a very informative article about growing cucumbers. My dad years ago grew cucumbers here in Kentucky, you just wouldn't believe how big each would grow? We lived pretty close to the river back then, and I the cucumbers really liked the rich sandy soil.

Thomas Byers (author) from East Coast , United States on February 19, 2012:

I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the comment. It is appreciated.

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on February 19, 2012:

Great hub and wonderful information! Very informative. We grow cucumbers every year. I love to eat cucumbers right out of the garden with a little salt. We make pickles with many of them and can enough to last all year. My kids, which are grown, always take a jar of pickles with them when they come over. We are having to make more and more each year. I truly enoyed reading your hub! Voted up and useful! Have a great day! :)