How to Grow Better Cucumbers

Cucumbers are one of the best crops for new and experienced gardeners alike. The following are some basic guidelines for planting, maintaining and selecting a few traditional and non-traditional cucumbers for your garden.

Cucumbers thrive in loose, nutrient-rich soil with a pH of 5.8 to 6.8 and in a location that receives plenty of sunlight. Sow seeds 1 inch deep in rows 4 to 5 feet apart one or two weeks after the last expected frost, when the soil temperature has reached at least 60 degrees F but is optimally closer to 70 degrees F. As the seeds begin to germinate, thin rows to one plant every 10 to 12 inches. Bush cultivars and trellised plants can be slightly closer together.

Giving cucumbers something to climb will keep your fruit off the ground and help prevent misshapen fruit from developing, while allowing air circulation to keep the plant healthy. Cucumbers grow well on flower trellises. Even a large tomato cage will do the trick. You may want to consider planting your cucumbers along an existing fence line. Even bush varieties will benefit from having a trellis or fence to grow on.

Cucumbers require regular deep watering to keep their shallow root systems moist. Mulching around the base of the plants will help keep even water levels in the soil even during the hot summer months. Mulching will also help slow weed growth around the plants which will compete with cucumbers for water.

Common cucumber diseases include bacterial wilt, mosaic virus, powdery mildew and downy mildew. If your cucumber crop this year has problems with these issues, next year, look for a hybrid cucumber that’s been bred for resistance to these diseases. Insect pests include whiteflies, aphids, squash beetles and cucumber beetles. Either spray with an organic insecticide, diluted liquid dish soap (blue dawn) or in the case of squash bugs, pick them off during watering.

When selecting cucumbers, you are likely going to see several terms on the seed packet that may seem confusing, including slicers, pickling, burpless and gynoecious—multiple terms can even appear on the same seed packet. Understanding this jargon is essential to growing your ideal cuke, so here’s a quick beginner’s guide to get you in the loop.

  • Slicers: These cucumbers are intended to be sliced and eaten raw; harvest when fruits are between 6 and 8 inches long.
  • Pickling: These varieties are a good size for pickling or fermenting, though you can also eat them fresh; harvest when fruits reach 3 to 5 inches long.
  • Burpless: These long, lean cucumbers are bred to have thin skin with less bitterness and easier on the digestive system than traditional slicers.
  • Gynoecious: This term is associated with some newer cucumber cultivars that produce all or mostly female blooms (the blooms that produce fruit), which translates into quick cucumber production and larger overall harvests.

Armenian cucumbers are another garden favorite, though they’re not true cucumbers—they’re actually melons. Most varieties of Armenian cucumbers produce large, light-green, oblong fruit with shallow furrows that share a similar flavor profile to cucumbers when picked small at a length of about 8 or 12 inches. When left on the vine, mature fruits can easily reach incredible sizes easily easily more than 2 feet long. These false cucumbers love the heat.

POLY MULCH AND ROW COVERS: Protect plants from insects and increase warmth for earlier and heavier yields.

 

HARVEST: Once bearing begins, pick daily.

STORAGE: Hold cucumbers at 45-50°F (7-10°C) and 90% humidity for up to 2 weeks.

GREENHOUSE CROPPING: Plants can be pruned and string-trellised. Use only parthenocarpic (need no pollination) varieties.

DAYS TO MATURITY: From direct seeding; subtract about 10 days if transplanting.

AVG. SEEDING RATE: 175’/oz., 6 oz./1,000′, 2 1/2 lb./acre at 6 seeds/ft. in rows 6′ apart.

TRANSPLANTS: Avg. 350 cells or pots/oz. at 3 seeds/cell.

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