Thursday, September 1, 2011

Growing Cucumbers

Today is the first post in the "Growing" series.  September is all about Growing! (It's also my birthday month so I might take a day off... or 2)

Please feel free to make comments during this series.  I love feedback!

Preferred Growing Conditions
Of course, cucumbers need lots of sun—full sun, in fact. Vegetable gardens should have 6-8 hours a full sunlight a day. Cucumbers, also, like warm weather. If you have a limited growing season, start cucumber seedlings indoors early, so you’ll be ready to plant when the warm weather arrives. But wait till soil temperatures have reached 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Even light frosts will kill these plants.
Cucumbers like soil rich in organic matter, well drained, and around a neutral pH (around 6.5). These all really go hand in hand, anyway. Just add some compost to your soil or your planter, and it should take care of the three soil preferences of cucumbers.
Cucumber plants are flexible with the pH level. So, they’ll do great as long as the pH level is around 6.5. Cucumbers are hearty plants and easy to grow. Just make sure they have full sunlight and soil is rich in organic matter.
Remember, mulch helps soil retain moisture. When vegetables like full sun, soil tends to dry out quickly. Mulch will also keep the cucumbers off the soil away from pests and clean.

How to Plant Cucumbers
Cucumbers can be planted in containers, rows, hills, or raised beds. Be warned: one plant produces a lot of cucumbers. And, some plants can produce all summer long. So, think about spacing out plantings to harvest all season.

Cucumbers grow as bushes or vines. Bush varieties grow well in containers. Refer to the variety list above for types of cucumbers suitable for containers and planters. Vine cucumbers will need a trellis, and there’s more space for those in a garden out in the yard.

You can plant rows of cucumbers once soil temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Space rows 6 ½ feet apart, and plants should have about 2 ½ feet between them. But check your variety, if growing a smaller cucumber plant, you may be able to add more plants in a smaller space. There are some varieties that only need 8-10 inches between the plants.
Since cucumbers are a warm season crop, seeds do pretty well sowing directly into your garden. For row gardening, plant cucumber seeds about 6 inches apart. When the seedlings become established (have their second set of leaves- not just seedling leaves), you can thin seedlings to suggested planting space. By planting seeds 6 inches apart, you can count on getting enough cucumber plants.

A hill of cucumbers. Know what this it? Because, I thought I had it down pat, and I was wrong. I thought it was about mounding the dirt for water retention around the roots. Well, sort of, but there’s more to it than just that.
Vine crops are often grown this way, like cucumbers, squash, and melons. The idea of hill planting is to start the root system in the center. From there they grow outwards, not competing with each other for water or soil nutrients.
Again, hill planting is for your vine cucumbers. Hills need to be about 3 feet apart. Plant about 5 or so seeds in the hill. Once seedlings have established, reduce to only three plants. Instead of pulling up the seedling, just cut it off. This will prevent any disruption to the root system.
Remember, vine cucumber plants are better trellised. These plants have healthier vines, and harvesting is easier since you can see the fruit.

Raised Beds
You can plant any type of cucumber in a raised bed. The benefit of using raised beds with cucumbers is soil drainage. Raised beds, in general, will provide well drained soil.
I keep saying raised beds are my preferred gardening method. There’s a reason I say this: it makes gardening easier! It’s easier to reach the vegetables, control soil health, and control pests and weeds.

Companion Plants for Cucumbers
Growing these companion plants around cucumbers will be helpful: nasturtiums, radishes, marigolds, sunflowers, peas, beets, carrots, and dill.
Some plants actually are bad to the health of cucumber plants. Avoid these plants around cucumbers: tomatoes, sage, and other aromatic herbs.

Maintaining Your Cucumber Plants
Cucumber plants are easy vegetables to grow. There’s not a whole lot of work to do while you’re waiting to harvest: trellis vine cucumbers and water. Watering is key, and you need to water deep to reach all the roots. Cucumbers absorb and need a lot of water!

When to Use Organic Fertilizer
If you are ever going to use an organic fertilizer, the vegetable garden would be the place to do so. Cucumber plants really absorb water, soil nutrients, and fertilizers around them. Chemicals are the last thing you want in your homegrown food.
Fertilize cucumber plants about a week after they produce blossoms. You can fertilize about every 3-4 weeks. Make sure you don’t over fertilize. It can lead to misshapen cucumbers.

When to Harvest Cucumbers
Cucumbers are ready to harvest about 55-70 days after planting. It’s better to pick them early than late. Don’t wait to see how big the cucumbers get! Cucumbers get bitter as they grow bigger, and the seeds can harden, too. Get them before they turn yellow.
To harvest, you can cut the vine about 3/8 inches above the cucumber. Or catch them at the right time, and they just pop off the vine. Cucumbers last longer stored in the refrigerator.

Cucumber Pests and Diseases
Keep an eye out for pests, like aphids, pickle worms, mites, and cucumbers beetles chomping on your cucumber plants. Common cucumber diseases are anthracnose, powdery mildew, downy mildew, bacterial wilt, and angular leaf spot.

I'm almost ready to harvest Cucumbers.  Before I bring the girls in I'll share my favorite Cucumber/Tomato recipe.

Cucumber Tomato Salad


  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste


  1. Combine tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions in a salad bowl. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Chill.
This recipe is SO easy and VERY yummy!

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