Cucumbers are a favorite in the summer because of their light, refreshing taste. With a few handy tips, you can grow your own in your garden or in a container.
There are several varieties of cucumber, from short pickling cucumbers to the long, salad-ready English cucumber. There are even round cucumbers, yellow in color, known as apple or lemon cucumbers.
As members of the same family that gives us squash and watermelons, cucumbers thrive in warm weather and sandy soil, but can grow in most types of well-nourished ground. The ideal temperature range is between 65 and 75 ºF. Cucumbers and the other members of its family do not tolerate frost.
Because they grow fairly fast, the soil that you plant your cucumbers in must contain plenty of nutrients and moisture. It is recommended that you prepare your soil in the early spring or the previous fall by working in plenty of organic fertilizer or compost.
To speed growing, start the plants indoors 10 to 14 days before you intend to plant them. Plant the seeds ½ inch deep in peat pots and do not disturb the roots when transplanting. Do not plant them outside until you are certain there is no danger of frost.
Make small hills of soil and transplant existing plants, or plant 4 or 5 seeds in each hill, spaced about 4 or 5 feet apart.
Cucumbers spread all over the garden if allowed to. To avoid having them take over your garden, you can use a trellis for cucumbers to climb. Not only does a trellis save space in your garden, it also helps prevent rot. The leaves on trellised cucumbers provide shade so the vegetables do not get sunburned.
Adequate moisture is essential, since cucumbers are 90% water. The plants are especially in need of water when the cucumbers start appearing. To conserve moisture in the soil, you can use mulch or black plastic after the soil has warmed.
Cucumbers are susceptible to diseases, like mildew, and pests, so watch your plants carefully.
There are varieties of cucumbers that are great for container gardening. Use a pot at least 1 foot in diameter. The height of the pot should be equal to its diameter.
The seed packet should tell you whether the variety of cucumber you have selected is suitable for containers. Plant cucumbers directly in the container, in about mid-May. You can plant them as late as July if you prefer a fall harvest.
An advantage of containers is that you have greater control over the soil being used. Your mix should contain equal parts potting soil, perlite, sphagnum peat moss and compost. Do not use garden soil because it is likely infested with pests. Pests can also infest compost, so be sure the compost was created under high enough temperatures to kill pests. Use slow-release fertilizers in your pots.
Use stakes in a teepee form to support your plants.
Cucumbers are best when enjoyed within a few hours of harvesting. Pickling cucumbers are ready to pick in about 48 to 60 days, and others are ready in about 52 to 72 days. Pick cucumbers as soon as they are ripe. If they are allowed to yellow on the vine, they will become bitter and will slow the ripening of other cucumbers. Pickling cucumbers are best at 3 to 6 inches long, slicing cucumbers at 6 – 10 inches long and apple cucumbers when they are the size of a small lemon.