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Growing Cucumbers

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on July 19, 2010

Growing cucumbers is not hard.  Like most plants, cucumbers have preferences for what type of soil they grow in, how they are watered, and how much room they have.  However, they can grow in most areas even if those preferences are not met when given some extra attention.

To get a good crop of cucumbers, you must build raised rows that are 4-6 inches high and the rows must be at least 36 inches apart.  This is to give the cucumber room to spread out.  The raised bed also improves drainage, as cucumbers will not grow with wet feet.

Cucumbers come in varieties that are primarily suited for pickling and varieties that are primarily suited for eating.  You can pickle eating cucumbers when they are small.  Pickling cucumbers are not so good when eaten raw, though.  Pickling cucumbers should be picked when they are 3-4 inches in diameter (think small enough to stuff in a jar).  Eating cucumbers are best when 6-8 inches long.  Any larger and they get tough and bitter.

It is important to wait until all danger of frost has passed before planting your cucumbers.  They will die in the cold.  Once you have made the raised rows I mentioned, then make a furrow about an inch deep down the center of each row.  Plant the seeds in clumps of 3-4 every foot or so.  Cover them with about an inch of fine soil.

Small gardens can still have cucumbers.  You simply trellis the vines so they spread up and not out.  You can also use wire cages to train the vines up.

When the plants come up and have four or five leaves, pick the healthiest plant in each clump and then clip the stem of the losers off at ground level.  Do not pull them out, as that will damage the roots from the healthy plants.  To save space in the garden, you can plant fast maturing crops such as radishes, lettuce, and other things that will be harvested before the vines get big enough to over run them.

Cucumbers require a lot of fertilizer and water.  You should have taken a soil test to see what nutrients your garden needs.  If you do not have one, you will have to use a 10-10-10 scattered at a rate of 1 cup per ten foot of row, then worked into the soil with a hoe.  You will need to fertilize again at the rate of 1/2 cup per ten feet of row when the cucumbers are about ten to twelve inches long.  After each fertilization, you need to water the cucumbers good to work the fertilizer into the root zone and prevent fertilizer burn.

Cucumbers should be kept weed free to prevent the weeds from stealing their water and nutrients.  Cucumbers have two types of flowers, male and female.  The male will drop off first, with no cucumber.  The female should stay on the vine and grow a cucumber.  If the female flowers start dropping off, you can take male flowers and pollinate the females by hand.  This process is described in my post on squash rot.

Bugs are a constant problem with cucumbers.  The banded cucumber beetle and squash bug are common.  The spotted cucumber beetle is the greatest offender, though.  When you find a bug, try to identify it so you know what you are dealing with.  You will then have to go to the store and look at the pesticides and find one that is allowed for use on cucumbers and that kills that bug.  Remember to follow the label and to use pesticides sparingly, as they kill the beneficial insects, too.

Harvesting is the fun part.  Remember to harvest at the right length for the purpose you have for the fruit.  Do not let cucumbers turn yellow.  That is a bad cucumber.

Did this article answer your questions?  What else would you like to know about cucumbers?

Gardenbookfrontcoverthumbnail For more help gardening, buy my book, Preparing A Vegetable Garden From The Ground Up
Available in print or ebook from Amazon.com or other retailers, this book walks you from choosing the site of your garden all the way through what to do after the harvest. Buy a copy for yourself or a friend today! 


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Custom Kitchen Cabinets July 24, 2010 at 5:06 am

I love gardening. That’s why I used to collect different kinds of plants in my backyard. I greatly appreciate this article, it was very informative. I am planning to belong this cucumber on my garden.

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Nabil April 11, 2011 at 7:42 am

Hey, Susan! My name is Nabil and I’m from Sweden.

I’ve got one question for you, and one question only. Can one grow cucumbers over here — in Sweden? And if so, when is one supposed to start growing them? On the summer?

Would appreciate an answer.

/Nabil, from Sweden.
Nabil recently posted..Kvinnligt håravfall- information…My Profile

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Stephanie Suesan Smith April 11, 2011 at 10:14 am

I do not know anything about the growing conditions in Sweden. Cucumbers take about 50-60 days from planting the seed to harvest. During that time, the soil temperature must be above 70 degrees F for them to grow properly. If you have an area that meets those conditions, then they will grow. As to variety, Burpless for slicing are good.

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Nils from tappar hår June 6, 2011 at 10:25 am

Hello Susan, what is the largest cucumber you have ever grown? Is it possible to grow cucumbers as large as the ones you buy in the store? Will try this out next year. /Regards Nils

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Stephanie Suesan Smith June 6, 2011 at 11:19 am

You can certainly grow cucumbers as large as those in the stores. However, keep in mind cucumbers become tougher as they get older, so large ones are tough compared to the smaller ones.

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B June 30, 2011 at 6:42 pm

I’m growing pickling cucumbers up a trellis in full sun in an above ground container box. I have a few little cucumbers but the little knubs that grow on them are turning brown… I grew them on a fen ce last year and thought it was rust but it’s happening again. Any tips?

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Stephanie Suesan Smith July 1, 2011 at 7:27 am

Texas A&M University has a web page with pictures of cucumber problems that may help you. Once you identify the problem, you can go to their IPM page and see how to fix it.

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