Everything You Need to Know About Growing Cucumbers
How to Grow Cucumbers at Home
You can easily grow cucumbers at home; there are just a few things to keep in mind. I will share my tips on how to grow them properly and discuss some important points to consider in order to maintain a healthy crop.
In this article, you will learn about:
- Where to plant cucumbers
- Proper soil conditions
- How much water to use
- When to harvest
- Common cucumber pests and how to deal with them
Where Should You Plant Cucumbers?
Cucumbers Like Hot Weather and Plenty of Water
When planning out where to plant your cucumbers, choose an area that receives 6-8 hours of direct sunlight in a day.
Cucumbers also require rich, fertile soil that allows drainage. Choose an area in your garden that will offer this (i.e., don't plant them next to dense clay or a wall of cement).
If you're planting them in containers, put 3-4 inches of gravel or small rocks at the bottom of the containers to ensure proper drainage. If they don't already have drain holes, you should drill a couple of small holes at the bottom of the containers so that they don't hold water.
Three Vertical Ways to Grow Cucumbers
Cucumbers Grow Best When Vertical
I've found that I got the most cucumbers when I grew them vertically. Find an area in your garden where you can build simple wooden frames—even as simple as putting up 8-foot sections of fencing attached to three sturdy, wooden poles.
If you are growing vertically, you should use a vine cucumber variety and space each plant about a foot apart. If you are growing in a pot or in the ground, you'll want a bush cucumber variety with about three feet between each plant to give them room to grow.
Plant the cucumbers at the bottom of the fence, and let them grow over the section. This can help you see all of your cucumbers and pick them more easily when it comes time to harvest.
Framing Ideas for Growing Cucumbers VerticallyClick thumbnail to view full-size
What Type of Soil Is Best for Cucumbers?
The ideal growing conditions for cucumbers is when the soil is maintained at 70 °F with a pH of 6.0-6.8. It may help to work some high-quality, well-rotted compost into the soil. I always grow my cucumbers in containers with 70% topsoil and 30% manure (I use Black Cow Manure).
Mix the soil and compost thoroughly before planting. Once the soil is mixed, pour it into your container or plot on the ground.
Plant the seeds 1.5-2 inches deep, and space them out a foot apart (if growing vertically) or three feet apart (if growing bushes).
How Often Should You Water Cucumbers?
Cucumbers need about one inch of water a week, but they may need more water if it is really hot outside. You want the soil your cucumbers are planted in to stay moist but not soaked.
Don't water the cucumbers when they are in the heat of direct sunlight. This can actually scorch them and ruin all of your hard work. It's best to water around sunset when the heat has cooled down.
I always lay down a lot of mulch on top of the soil. This helps keeps the moisture in and acts as a sort of insulator. It also prevents weeds and grass from growing since they have a tough time getting through all of the mulch. As an added layer of protection, you can lay down a layer of newspaper under your mulch.
When to Harvest Your Cucumbers
It's really up to you when you decide to pick your cucumbers. I like my cucumbers to get about 3-4 inches long and be nice and plump. Cucumbers are about 90 percent water. Check your vines for cucumbers every day or every other day because cucumbers grow very quickly.
How to Deal With Common Cucumber Pests
Another benefit to growing vertically is that you are less likely to encounter pests like slugs. However, there are other pests that you may have to keep an eye out for.
The most common one is the cucumber beetle, which chews holes in the leaves and the cucumbers themselves. They can also spread powdery mildew that causes plants to wilt and die. If you see white, powdery spots on your cucumber leaves, you should go to your local garden supply store to get a fungicide. I suggest taking a few of the leaves with mildew spots to the store so they can give you the correct product.
If you happen to have problems with slugs, put out shallow dishes of beer at sundown. In the morning, you should have a dish of bad beer and drowned slugs. You can also take a bright flashlight with you at night and look for the slugs. To kill them, drop them into a bucket of soapy water and dispose of them in the trash.
Companion Plants for Cucumbers
If you want to have fewer pest problems, planting companion plants like marigolds and sunflowers alongside your cucumbers may help. This also works great for tomato plants. It is known that marigolds and sunflowers will keep away common garden pests.
Tips for Growing Cucumbers
- Try to pick out varieties of cucumbers that are disease resistant. Ask your local farm and garden center what varieties of cucumbers grow best in your area.
- You will need to grow your cucumbers in an area with full sun and fertile soil with great drainage.
- Plant your seeds in the garden only after all dangers of frost have passed. You'll want to plant your seeds about 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep. By planting them a little deeper, your cucumber plants will develop a much better root system.
- Save your dryer lint and put a handful in the bottom of the hole where you plant your cucumbers. This will help hold the moisture there, and your cucumbers will be much healthier.
- Side dress cucumber plants with a 5-10-10 fertilizer about three weeks after your cucumbers come up. Don't touch the plants or cucumber leaves with the fertilizer. Dig a hole about 4 inches back from each plant and put in a half cup of fertilizer.
- Put down newspaper sheets around your cucumber plants and mulch heavily on top of the newspaper. This helps prevent weeds or grass from coming up.
- When your cucumbers grow up your wire frame, tie the vines in some places with cotton cord to secure the vines from heavy winds like during a thunderstorm.
- Water your cucumbers either before the sun comes up or after the sun sets. Never water your cucumbers when the sun is shining on your plants.
- If you use insecticides, always read the labels carefully. Be sure to know and understand exactly what the label says—especially regarding how long you should wait before using your cucumbers.
- Once your cucumbers start growing, you will need to harvest your cucumbers every day or every other day to prevent them from getting too big.
Are You Growing Cucumbers This Year?
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.
© 2014 Thomas Byers