I have discovered that growing cucumbers in a home garden is not that easy. The plant is subject to many diseases, they are very frost-prone, and many gardeners plant them too early asking for trouble from a late spring frost.
They need a 55-60 day period for growing which is from planting to picking. They like humid weather, warm soil, and lots of sunshine. Those difficulties aside, cucumbers are undoubtedly a terrific addition to your summer salad table.
There is a way to gain time by starting the plants indoors. This should be done 10 to 14 days prior to your calculation of the last freeze if this affects your area.
You can avail yourself of peat pots or pellets to accomplish this method. The growing cucumbers should be planted by sowing two to three seeds per peat pot.
This can be done with any good potting soil. The seeds should germinate within three to four days. At six to seven days thin the plants to one to a peat pot.
There are some recommendations of planting three to four weeks prior to planting. I feel this is way too long for growing cucumbers. Your transplants could become too large and will not produce adequately in your garden.
Growing Cucumbers Transplanting or Direct Sow
Transplanting your growing cucumbers from indoors to your garden can be a bit tricky. The important factor here is not to disturb the roots.
This is a vine crop and like other vine crops you cannot transplant them with any success as a bare root plant. This is why I recommend peat pots because you can sink the entire pot into the ground without any disruption to the root system.
If you are planting seeds directly into the garden, plant them at a depth of one-half to one inch. Cucumbers grown on the ground should be planted at least 36 inches apart, and space the rows at least two feet from each other because of the need for substantial space in which to grow and produce a good crop.
You May Want To Consider Trellising
The majority of cucumbers are vines and as such, they enjoy climbing on a trellis or pole. It is a known fact that using trellis to grow cucumbers would yield two or even three times the amount of cucumbers.
Trellis-grown cucumbers tend to be more uniform in terms of shape and size. They tend to be healthier as well. When picking, you’ll notice that trellis-grown cucumbers appear cleaner and thanks to the air circulation, various diseases that often plagued the growing cucumbers are prevented.
In addition, extra space can be gained from trellising, thus enabling you to plant other crops that can benefit from the shade like lettuce under the trellis for instance.
I would like to point out that the trellis in the picture above is a treated wood lattice. I don’t think a treated lattice is a good product for your cucumbers. If you are going to use this type of material, I would purchase an untreated lattice.
I actually recommend using a number 8 wire for the top and a number 12 wire on the bottom. The use of plastic or sisal twine tied between the two wires at each plant. The posts can be either a regular metal fence post or wooden one as long as it is not treated wood.
The posts should be spaced at no more than fifteen apart with the top wire being very tight. You may require additional braces as the growing cucumbers become a heavier load place these between the posts.
Growing Cucumbers Requires Good Soil
The cucumber soil should be loose and also be warm and moist. It’s best to grow cucumbers in 6.0-7.0 pH range, with lots of potassium as well as phosphorus and medium quantities of nitrogen.
Fertile clay soils with plentiful of humus will make them grow excellently. I might caution here not to plant your cucumbers in an area that’s always wet. The roots of the cucumber plants do not take too kindly to being soaked in enormous quantities of water repeatedly.
More about Fertilizer
Prior to planting your cucumbers, add a 5-5-10 to your soil according to the recommendations on the bag. I would additional one week after blossoming begins and again three weeks later.
It is best not to over fertilize because encourages beautiful vine growth and slows down the cucumber from appearing on your vine. Growing cucumbers do well with mulching, using either black plastic mulch earlier on in the spring to trap all available heat, and then changing to an organic mulch during the summer.
A Little About Watering
I did not mean to imply that cucumber watering should be ignored. Cucumber plants that never receive the proper amount of water produce disgusting small, bitter and deformed cucumbers. The soil should be soaked deeply during dry times with either soaker hoses or hand held soaker wands.
It is important to water the base of the plant avoiding the leaves and if all possible, do your watering in the morning especially if you are using an overhead sprinkling system. The presence of wet leaves and night really promotes the appearance of diseases.
A Major Worry about Insects and Diseases
The weeds, diseases and insects are necessary to control if you desire to grow any kind of crop. Click here to read a brief discussion concerning spider mites and cucumber beetles.
Now It Is Time to Harvest Your Growing Cucumbers
The growing cucumber is ready for harvest at 50-70 days from actual planting. An interesting point here is the cucumber is usually eaten at an immature stage.
The best thing about cucumbers is they maybe pickled based upon the use and variety. A cucumber can be pickled at a length of two inches for pickling, 4 to 6 inches in length for dills, and the delicious sliced pickle in the picture below at 6 to 8 inches for the slicing cucumber.
The cucumber is at its best when has a consistent in green color as well as firm and crisp. The gardener should not allow the cucumber to become yellow since it will be extremely bitter to the taste.
Any missed cucumbers should also be removed from the vine so that the young cucumbers have an opportunity to grow. If you have planted your growing cucumbers directly on the ground, try to avoid smashing them down with your feet.
This is another reason why trellising is best. I would remove the ripen cucumbers at about one-quarter inch above the cucumber by cutting the stem. The cucumber is a rapid developer and as such should be picked at least every other day.
Some Good Varieties of Cucumbers
• Bush Pickle Harvest at 48 days; produces a compact plant; good for container growing
• Carolina Harvest at 49 days; medium sized plant with good disease resistance
• BUSH CROP Harvest at 55 days; very flavorful;6-8 inch cucumber; excellent on a trellis
• SALAD BUSH Harvest at 57 days; a very uniform cucumber at eight inches on a compact plant; can tolerant a number of diseases.
• FANFARE Harvest at 63 days; tasty; a big producer; disease resistant
• STRAIGHT 8 Harvest of 58 days; best-loved by cucumber growing folks; very solid flavor; an even dark green cucumber
• BURPLESS Harvest of 62 days; the original long and sweet; excellent on trellis
• MARKETMORE Harvest of 68 days; very consistent; dark green; straight cucumber; resistant to many diseases
Storage and Preservation
Cucumbers should be picked in the early morning hours, especially before they become heated by the sun and placed in your refrigerator immediately. They may be stored for no more 3 days in a loose and perforated plastic bag.
The grocery store has applied an edible wax to prevent moisture from escaping. If you have the ability to control the climate with temperatures no higher than 50-55 degrees and relative humidity at 90-95%, then you are good to go for 2-4 weeks.
The best thing to do is pickle your cucumbers as it is the only assured way to preserve. There are numerous ways to make a pickling solution.
They can be fermented or packed in a vinegar solution and prepared in boiling water and be kept on the shelf for up to one year. There is no precise way of pickling as it can be done by the quart or in a five gallon crock as my mother use to make.
Here is where we separate the canning know-how from knowing absolutely nothing about canning. Pickles can be made in the refrigerator but if I were you, I research canning in a crock or a quart jar as I feel they have a better flavor.
It is best to use pickling cucumbers because the skin has a less bitter taste than the slicing cucumber. Any how you prepare them; cucumbers have a great nutritional value. They have very few calories, carbohydrates, and lots of vitamin A.