The cucumber is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family along with squash and melons. They are picked and eaten fresh or pickled.
The leaves of the cucumber plant are large, triangular in shape with pointed lobes and have a slightly rough texture.
Most cucumber plants grow vines that will sprawl endlessly along the ground, or if trellising is provided they will climb using their tendrils to wrap around anything it comes into contact with.
The plants bear both male and female flowers. The female flowers are the only ones that will bear fruit.
They are easily identified by the small swelling behind the petals that the male flowers don’t have. This swelling is the beginnings of the cucumber fruit.
Cucumber varieties are many and varied, with different plant sizes, season lengths, fruit sizes, shapes, colors, and even flavors. You might say a cucumber for every situation.
The most commonly grown cucumbers are the long green type like in this picture.
Of the many other types one of the lesser known and grown is the lemon cucumber. These are delicious picked straight from the vine and eaten like an apple.
Cucumbers are a tender, frost sensitive, warm-season vegetable. Plastic row covers can be used to maximize night-time temperatures and lengthen the growing season.
Growing cucumbers is for the spring-summer garden, planted when the
soil temperatures are 70 F (21 C) and above, and harvested before the
They grow best in humid weather with warm soil and with plenty of sunlight.
Under these good growing conditions they are prolific producers.
Cucumbers like fertile, organic rich and well drained soil with a pH range of 6.0-7.0
In most areas cucumbers are best started by direct sowing in the garden. If spring plantings of cucumber fail, more often than not it is caused from planting too early when the soil is still cold and wet.
In areas where the growing season is short planting seedling might be necessary to get a crop through to harvest.
Cucumber plants don't like their roots being disturbed. So when growing cucumbers indoors for later transplanting to the garden, it is a good idea to start your seeds in a pot type that will allow minimum root disturbance throughout the whole process of seed sowing to transplanting.
Peat pellets are one type of seed starting system that will help with this.
The most important aspects of caring for cucumbers are;
Plant 3-4 seeds per 12 inches (30 cm) and ½-1 inch (12-25 mm) deep with the rows 5-6 feet (1.5-2 meters) apart.
When the seedlings are 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) tall, pick the strongest seedlings and thin to one plant every 12 inches (30 cm) in the row.
When using the hill method for growing cucumbers, plant 4-6 seeds per hill and thin to three plants per hill with the hills 48-72 inches (120-180 cm) in every direction.
Cucumbers grown on a trellis should be planted the same as for planting in rows, but thinned to 18 inches (45 cm) apart.
Start with a weed free bed then mulch, mulch, mulch.
Growing cucumbers need a lot of water. To ensure the mature fruit are crisp and juicy adequate water throughout the growing season is as important. Moisture becomes especially critical for growing cucumbers from the time fruit begins setting through to maturing.
Cucumber plants that are deprived of water will produce small, bitter and deformed fruits.
Using a soaker hose to provide deep down moisture especially during the hot dry summer months will go a long way to ensuring a good crop of cucumbers.
If a sprinkler is your choice of watering, it is best to water the plants in the morning so the leaves dry during the warm hours of the day.
Even when planted in rows because of their sprawling nature it is difficult to side dress ground grown cucumbers so be sure the beds are well fertilized from the beginning
2 weeks before sowing or transplanting apply 3-4 quarts per 100 sq feet (3.3-4.4 liters per 9.3 square meters) of All-Purpose 5-5-5 Organic Fertilizer. When transplanting use liquid starter fertilizer. Side-dress just as the vines start to run and finally as fruit begin to set.
Growing your garden vertically is an excellent way to grow more in a smaller space or just keeping the garden neater. There is an endless list of materials that will accomplish the job.
This trellising is made from bamboo and garden twine.
Slightly more elaborate PVC pipes bamboo poles and garden twine.
Plant cucumbers as the first crop in the rotation in a well manured bed. Do not plant in the same ground that any member of the Cucurbitaceous family, Cucumber, Cantaloupe, Gourds, Muskmelon, Pumpkin, Squash and Watermelon, have been grown within the previous two seasons as the same problems effect them all.
Aphids, Cucumber beetles, cutworms, flea beetle, garden centipede, pickleworm, slug, snail, squash bugs, squash vine borer
Alternaria leaf spot, anthracnose, bacterial wilt, cucumber wilt, downy mildew, leaf spot, mosaic, powdery mildew
On average, pickling cucumbers are ready to pick in about 48 to 60 days. They are best at 3-4 inches (7-10 cm) long and will need to be picked every day as they can quickly grow too large for use.
Slicing cucumbers can be picked as you need, most slicing cucumber vines will produce their first fruit in about 55-75 days. They are best when the skins are uniformly green and are still firm. Their size will vary depending on the variety grown.
Most slicing cucumbers are at their sweetest and most crisp when 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) long.
Apple cucumbers are usually best when they are about the size of a small apple.
It is important with all varieties of cucumber to remove any missed fruits that are over-matured and going yellow.
With too many fruits on the vines in this stage of development the plant will go into shut down mode thinking its job is done.
Like many other plants continual picking of the fruit will encourage the plant to produce more fruit.
Harvesting cucumbers is best done in the early morning before the sun heats up. Use scissors or shears to remove the fruit from the vine to reduce damage to the rest of the plant. Where possible you should refrigerate cucumbers immediately to preserve their freshness.
Cucumbers can be stored for 2-4 weeks at 50-55 F (10-13 C) and 90-95 percent relative humidity. They are not particularly long keepers and quality will deteriorate quickly.
Cucumbers are not a particularly easy vegetable to store for any length of time other than pickling or adding to a relish. So if you are a cucumber lover, lengthening the growing season by using frost protection at either end of the season is something you might want to consider.