How to Grow Series
Cucumbers are one of my favorite vegetables to grow. The main reason is because they are so much tastier than the ones you find in the grocery store. Nothing says summer like a crispy, sweet cucumber salad, except maybe a tomato sandwich on soft white bread.
There are two types of cucumbers you can grow; vining varieties and bush varieties. Vining varieties can be left to creep along the ground if you have a lot of space to work with or they can be trellised in smaller spaces which also keeps them cleaner and makes it easier to harvest them. Bush varieties, generally don't need trellising though I like to stake them as the plants can become heavy with cucumbers late in the season. Bush varieties can also be grown in large containers.
Cucumbers do not like having their roots disturbed so transplanting seedlings can be difficult if not done correctly. Start seeds in biodegradable pots to help prevent transplant shock. Cucumbers won't germinate until the soil has reached 60 degrees, so you may want to warm up the soil first in order to plant earlier. Cucumbers are very susceptible to frost damage, so watch the weather closely in early Spring if you've planted early. Protect the plants with a hoop house or row covers. Cucumbers really don't like cool weather, so starting them early can be hit or miss. You can always sow more seeds after your last frost to ensure a nice crop of cucumbers for you and your family.
Choose a spot in your garden that gets full sun most of the day. To start cucumbers from seed, start with a soil that has a lot of compost and composted manure mixed into the top 6 inches of soil and that has a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Cucumbers are very heavy feeders and need a soil full of nutrients and organic matter. Check the information on the seed packet of the variety you've chosen, but generally you should sow the seeds about 2 weeks after your last frost date in the Spring. Press 2-3 seeds about 1" into the soil spaced between 18"-36" apart (check the seed packet as some varieties can be planted closer together).
Keep the soil watered well until they have sprouted. If the soil is warm and moist enough, this should only take between 4-7 days. Once the cucumbers have sprouted, mulch around the plants with straw or grass clippings that have not been treated with chemicals or pesticides. This will help to retain moisture and to keep the soil at a more even temperature. It will also help prevent dirt from spraying up onto the plant and fruit during heavy rains.
If multiple cucumbers have sprouted in the same planting hole, pick the strongest looking one when they are about 2" tall and snip the other plants off at soil level to allow the stronger plant to grow.
After your vine begins to flower, it is time to fertilize your cucumbers. I generally like to mix in an organic fertilizer such as Espoma Garden-Tone with compost, spread it all around the plants and water it in well. Follow the instructions on the bag for how much fertilizer you will need.
Harvest cucumbers when they are the suggested size of the variety you are growing. Simply cut the fruit from the stem so as not to damage the mother plant. Damaging the plant could result in pests being attracted to it and eventually killing it.
Continue to page 2 for troubleshooting problems with cucumbers.