Growing Cucumbers

Michelle RobertsGardening, Planting Tips


There is nothing like taking a bite out of a fresh from the vine cucumber.  I love the crisp crunchiness and the cool mild flavor. Cucumbers are one of the veggies I really miss in the dead of winter.
Cultivated for 3000 years, cucumbers are listed among the foods of ancient UR, cherished by the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, and found in Native American gardens as early as  the 1500’s.  They originated in the Himalayan Mountains of India and have made their way around the globe.
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Health Benefits of Cucumbers

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  • low cal veggie with lots of dietary fiber
  • reduces constipation
  • protects agains colon cancer
  • eliminates toxic compounds from the gut
  • good source of potassium – a heart friendly electrolyte
  • anti-oxidants b-carotene and a-carotene
  • mild diuretic properties
  • checks weight gain and high blood pressure
  • significant amounts of vitamin C, A, & K
  • promotes bone mass building
  • limits neuronal damage in Alzheimer patients
  • [/ul] [spacer height=”30″ mobile_hide=”true”] Cucumbers are divided into four main categories; slicing, burpless, space saving or bush, and pickling.  All can be used as slicing cucumbers and all can be fermented or pickled, but some are most suited to preservation or slicing and eating than others.

    Most pickling cucumbers mature at 3 to 5 inches and have a small circumference. They are awfully tiny for slicing and adding to a salad and tend to be a little more bitter as well.  Slicing cucumbers on the other hand have larger seeds and mature between 4 – 9 inches which does not work well for pickling.  

    Burpless cucumbers are not really burpless.  It is just the marketing name for the oriental trellis cucumber. They are considered slicing cucumbers.

    Bush cucumbers can be grown in containers and don’t spread out over a large area. They are also slicing cucumbers.

    A very popular cucumber known as the Armenian cucumber which grows about 3 feet long and has a light green skin that does not need to be peeled, is not really in the cucumber family, but in the melon family.  However, they are sold and eaten as cucumbers and a favorite of our family.
    [spacer height=”30″ mobile_hide=”true”] [outerOneHalf] Armenian Cucumber

    Armenians With A Regular Slicing Cucumber

    [/outerOneHalf] [outerOneHalfLast] Pickling Cucumber

    Pickling Cucumbers

    [/outerOneHalfLast] [spacer height=”30″ mobile_hide=”true”] Growing cucumbers can be fun, rewarding, and easy.  Choose cucumbers according to your eating habits.  We like to pickle and we like to eat them in salads or with dip, so we plant a variety of cucumbers.As is the case with most vegetables, cucumbers like lots of light airy soil full of organic matter.  Compost your beds with manured compost if you can find it. Cucumbers are heavy feeders so you will need to reapply compost in mid-season. Adding Azomite or some source of calcium to the soil is also recommended.

    Cucumber plants are very sensitive to frost, so if you are interested in growing cucumbers early protect them with row covers, hot caps, milk jugs, or some sort of cover. Unless they are covered you should not set out starts until all danger of frost is gone.  If you are direct seeding you can seed 2 weeks before that time.  Soil temperature should be at least 60 degrees.

    Make sure your plants have plenty of sunlight.  Mulching around the base of the plant is helpful in keeping the soil evenly moist which will reduce stress.  Cucumbers need about 1 – 2 inches of water per week.  Hot temperatures above 90 degrees will cause more male flowers and less fruiting female flowers.  Providing shade covers in the heat of the summer is advisable.

    Armenian CucumberYou can grow cucumbers up trellises or on the ground.  If you plan to grow them on the ground, plant 1 – 2 seedlings in hills that are 3 feet apart. Space rows 4 – 5 feet apart.

    If you are growing on trellises, you can plant them in containers, in garden beds, or in green houses.  If you plant them in garden beds, you can plant them 1 foot apart in rows that are about 2 feet apart. The advantage to growing them in hoop or green houses is they are not subject to  wind damage. Cucumbers that are blown against wire or wood trellises are often scarred and not fit to sell.  Growing on trellises allows you to conserve garden space by producing much more in smaller spaces.

    Take off suckers if you are growing on trellises.  By keeping one central vine  your cucumber plant will produce plenty of larger fruit and it won’t be a chaotic mess of massive vines.If you are growing cucumbers in a hoop house, you can train them up a stake, pole, or let them grow on the ground. However, growing cucumbers on the ground takes up valuable space. By taking off the suckers (shoots that grow between the main stem and the leaf and grow into another vine) and a number of unnecessary leaves, plant energy goes toward production of fruit and is not spent sustaining unneeded leaves.

    Leaves that are left on grow very large providing plenty of shade. Greater yields are realized by growing on trellises.Do you have problems with bitter tasting cucumbers?  Often times bitterness is due to variety and not because you did something wrong.  Be sure to pick a variety that is suited to your soils.  By contacting your state extension service, you can find out which cucumbers are most suited to your soil. Plant one of those varieties for best results.

    Stress can also cause cucumber plants to become bitter.  Wondering what causes cucumber stress? 
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  • deficiencies in nutrients – compost and add minerals
  • not enough water –   1″-2″ per week are recommended
  • variety – market more 80 is not bitter / check with local extension service
  • excessive heat – shade covers
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