Cucumbers come in 3 main different varieties. There is the seedless variety known as Burpless, and there are also the Pickling and Slicing varieties.
Several cultivars have been created from these 3 varieties. However, Pickling and Slicing cucumber varieties are the most common.
Best climate for growing cucumbers
Cucumbers require fertile soil, warmth and a lot of sunlight to produce a bumper harvest. They grow in full sun, but also in partial shade created by tall growing plants such a corn.
The reason for their need of much sunlight is that they rely heavily on photosynthesis to build strong healthy vines. Ensure they receive a minimum of 8 hours of sunlight per day.
It is also important to note that you can grow your cucumber plant using indoors grow kits.
Choose right cucumber variety
Start with choosing the best or right variety of cucumbers. Most people prefer the dark green slicing variety over the light green (Armenian), yellow (lemon) and white cultivars.
How to prepare soil when growing cucumber – Step 1
Prepare the site you have chosen that means you need to be armed with the proper gardening tools. The soil should be slightly acidic with a pH of 5.5 to 7.0. Light sandy soils are best for growing cucumbers because they allow for drainage.
However, if the soil is dense, such as clay soil, you can improve its aeration by sieving the soil, adding compost, peat or manure. Use 10 to 20 pounds of compost per 100 square feet.
The site should be well drained. Cucumbers perform best in sandy loam soils, but they can also be grown in other types of soils whose texture has been improved.
Seeds or Seedlings, How to plant cucumber– Step 2
Cucumbers can be grown by planting seeds or by planting seedlings. However, although they can be grown either way, planting seeds in a nursery and then transplanting is always preferable as it gives the transplant added growth and strength to both fight and avoid the dreaded cucumber beetle attacks.
Plant seeds in rows. The rows should be 3 to 4 feet apart, and the seeds should be planted 6 inches apart. The seeds should be planted 1 inch deep into the soil.
Plant 3 seeds and thin to the 2 strongest after a few weeks. Always check the packet for instructions because different varieties have different requirements for planting.
Cucumbers can also be planted in hills. Plant 4 to 6 seeds in a hill, 2 to 3 inches apart on all sides of the hill. Cover them with soil and water the soil. If you live in colder climates, you can warm the soil by covering the rows with plastic covers.
Mulch the rows with organic mulch to not only conserve water but to also keep pests away. Cover the seeds in a net if there are pests in the land to keep them from digging out the seeds.
- Cucumber Seedlings
Plant seedlings when they have produced 3 to 4 true leaves or what are referred to as vines. Plant the seedlings 12 inches (1 foot) apart.
Dig a narrow trench that is about 2 inches deep for each plant. Lay the root of the plant and a large part of the stem in the trench and cover with soil.
Seedlings or transplants can also be grown in mounds. Growing multiple vines per mound helps them to intertwine for added strength. A mound is a slightly tapered hill.
It is what is known as “raised planting”. It helps keep the main plant stem away from sitting water when watering plants or during the rainy seasons. The mounds should be 18 inches in diameter and 3 to 4 inches high in the middle.
Plant your cucumbers on the east side where they will access the morning sun easily. The morning sun will dry the dew from the leaves thus preventing mildew.
You can plant tall crops on the west side to provide shade in the late afternoons and early evenings.
Avoid growing cucumbers near potatoes and other aromatic herbs as they tend to release a substance in the soil that hinders their growth.
Best cucumber seed varieties
There are several varieties of cucumber seeds in existence. Examples are Salad Bush, Straight Eight, Sugar Crunch, Tendergreen Burpless, Sweet Slice, Spacemaster and Sweet Success.
Seek to know the best plant that will suit your needs. Needs will vary based on what you want to use your cucumbers for. Find the best variety for your space too.
The reason for this is that cucumbers can be grown not only in gardens and raised beds, but also in containers. For instance, the vining varieties of cucumber can be grown to hang down over containers.
Best nutrients for cucumbers – Step 3
The most important cucumber nutrient is water. Cucumbers need plenty of water to thrive. This calls for consistent watering, about 1 inch of water per day.
However, this amount may vary depending on weather factors, type of soil and the irrigation method employed.
Fertilizer is another critical nutrient. The best type of fertilizer is compost because it helps to retain moisture in the roots. It is very rich in nutrients and excellent for growing healthy cucumber plants.
Some of the nutrients found in compost and which are needed by the plants are Nitrogen, Potassium, Calcium and Phosphorus. Mix 6 to 8 cups of compost with soil in each planting hole.
Give each plant a cup of compost tea or fish fertilizer on a weekly basis until the first flowers form. Once the first blossoms appear, spray the plants with kelp.
- Weed control
The best method of weed control is mulching. Mulching smothers out weeds and discourages their growth. Weeds can also be controlled by inter-planting rows of cucumbers with rows of companion crops such as radishes. Radishes help to repel harmful pests such as cucumber beetles and aphids.
Another method of weed control is to hoe around the plants as often as needed, ensuring to do the final cultivation just before the vines begin to spread.
How to water cucumber – Step 4
Use a soaker hose or drip irrigation to keep cucumber plant leaves dry. Always water the plants at their base and not directly on the foliage to prevent leaf diseases such as powdery mildew caused by fungi as these diseases tend to destroy the plants.
Seedlings need a lot of water and this calls for frequent watering. Once fruit forms, water needs to be increased to a gallon. However, overwatering is harmful to cucumber plants as it causes the leaves to turn yellow.
Roots of cucumber plants are unable to absorb nutrients from the soil when seated on excess water. Actually, this may lead to root rot disease.
How to control pest and diseases when planting cucumber – Step 5
When it comes to cucumbers, the best defense against pests is to ward them off by growing healthy plants. Healthy plants are not susceptible to infections.
Crop rotation is another method of controlling and managing diseases caused by pests. Cucumbers can develop soil born diseases when planted in the same place year after year.
Cucumbers are susceptible to a number of pests and diseases. Use resistant varieties of cucumbers, particularly those resistant to bacterial wilt, a disease spread by cucumber beetles.
Plant antifungal plants such as garlic, chamomile, and oregano near cucumber plants as they help to repel and treat fungal outbreaks. It is also recommended to use the cuttings of these plants as mulch around your cucumber plants.
Tansy and catnip herbs also help to deter cucumber beetles when planted near the plants and can also be used to mulch around the base of the plants.
Use a floating row cover which provides sufficient shade and prevents cucumber beetles. When the plants begin to flower, lift the floating cover every morning for a few hours to allow bees time to pollinate the plants through what is called natural cross pollination.
To control cucumber beetles, mix a handful of agricultural lime with a handful of wood ash in a 2 gallon watering can full of water, then spray the leaves of the cucumber plants with the mixture. You can also spray the leaves of the cucumber plants with kaolin clay.
At the end of the growing season, pull out and dispose all the diseased plants. Neither use them as mulch nor use them to make compost. If you keep chicken, allow them to roam freely around the infested beds so that they can forage for beetles and larvae in the soil.
How and when to harvest cucumbers – Step 6
The size at which you harvest depends on the variety you have planted. Harvest cucumbers daily as soon as they are 3 to 6 inches long.
Be sure to wear gloves to protect your hands from the pricky vines. Leaving cucumbers on the vines for too long or allowing them to get too big lowers production.
The more frequently you pick cucumbers, the more the cucumber plants will reproduce. Left for too long, they become bitter and full of seeds.
Best way to store cucumbers
Use cucumbers as soon as possible after harvest for great texture and flavour. Store at room temperature during cold seasons or in cold climates.
This can be done for up to 2 weeks. However, for people in very warm and hot climates, it is advisable to always refrigerate cucumbers to keep them crisp and firm.
Wrap the cucumbers individually in paper towels before putting them into plastic bags. The towels help to absorb excess water since cucumbers have a high water content.
Alternatively, wrap the cucumbers in plastic or place them in zippered plastic bags before refrigerating them.