Cucumbers are delicious, prolific and can be incredibly easy to grow, if you know what to look for! In this post I’ll cover my best tips and tricks for how to grow cucumbers.
Cucumbers are easy to start from seed, are prolific and relatively easy to grow. They can be eaten fresh or preserved as pickles and relish.
For more posts on how to preserve cucumbers, check out:
nutritional value of Cucumbers
Cucumbers initially seem like tasty bricks of water, nutritionally, they may surprise you. On the off-set, one cup of peeled, sliced cucumbers contains 12% of your daily recommended dose of Vitamin K.
However, it doesn’t stop there. Cucumbers also contain a lot of phytonutrients we don’t normally measure.
They contain three types of phytonutrients: flavonoids, lignans and triterpenes. Without getting into the scientific-y details, these are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and possibly anti-cancer ingredients.
Personally, I grew up eating slices of cucumbers in balsamic vinegar.
Later, while living in Mexico, I learned to eat them from bags. They’re served as street food, covered in chili powder and lime juice. It’s still one of my favorite ways to eat them!
While I don’t like pickles (yuck!) Baby Jack does (weirdo). So I always put up a few jars of pickles every summer.
For all my family garden planning, I absolutely love Melissa K Norris’s Garden Planning Book. Melissa is a 5th generation homesteader and she’s been growing crops for her family for decades. (Plus she’s a LOT more organized than I am!) Her book is a great guide, easy to fill out and keeps all of your gardening notes, lessons and yields so each year can be better than the last!
How to Grow Cucumbers
To begin, you need to know what kind of cucumbers you want to grow. There are two: pickling cucumbers and slicing cucumbers.
Pickling cucumbers are smaller, denser and stand up to canning without getting mushy.
Slicing cucumbers are just that – intended for slicing and serving fresh.
NOTE: if cucumber plants get stressed, they’ll release a chemical called cucurbitacins that will make them taste bitter. To prevent your plants from getting stressed, monitor their water intake and temperatures. If they get too hot they may get stressed.
Water Needs of Cucumbers
Cucumbers need quiet a bit of water, as water makes up the majority of the fruit. However, the big, broad leaves are susceptible to downy mildew and sunburn, so water the roots, not the aerial parts of the plant.
Mulching heavily underneath the plant will help retain water, which will slowly release back into the ground meaning less waterings and less dramatic changes to the plant – they’ll be slower to wilt or drown.
You can absolutely grow cucumbers on the ground if you have enough room. The main plant will send out vines up to 10 ft long, so make sure you’ve got plenty of room.
A better way to grow cucumbers is to provide them with a trellis system so they can grow UP. I usually will plant them along my garden fence and weave the vines in between the slats to give them plenty of room.
Growing cucumbers up prevents a lot of disease issues, as they have plenty of room to breathe.
While it’s easy enough to provide a trellis, think of other ways you can put the cucumbers to work for you:
If you have a south-facing window that you want to shade during the hottest time of the year, and keep your house cooler in the summer, erect a trellis over the windows. As the cucumbers grow, they’ll shade your house.
Do you have an archway or gazebo area to provide shade for a porch or sitting area? Or you can grow cucumbers up the side of your chicken run and provide your chickens with a fresh summer snack.
Pests and Disease
Funguses grow in very wet and very warm conditions. There are a number of different types of fungus however they all result in brown spotted leaves and fruit. If you start to see spots on your leaves, treat with neem oil or a 1/1 ratio of water and milk.
The biggest cucumber pest is the cucumber beetle. To prevent, remove any adult beetles you see or any eggs laid on leaves. If you spray with neem oil for other fungues, this will also likely take care of the cucumber beetle.
Another organic way to attack pests is to sprinkle your plants with diatomaceous earth.
Check out Plant Village for more detailed explanations of pests and diseases and how to treat.
If you’re growing Cucumbers this year, here’s what you need to know:
1 inch per week
Direct sow 2 weeks after last frost
Beans, Corn, Peas, Radishes, Sunflowers, Okra
Avoid Planting With
Potatoes, Aromatic Herbs
36-60 inches (without trellis), 12 inches (with trellis)
Low maintenance. Climbing varieties will need some sort of trellis or support.
Saving The Seeds
To save cucumber seeds, remove the seeds from the fruit and allow them to ferment for at least three days. Then wash and dry. Since cucumbers open pollinate, you can unintentionally cross-pollinate and get seeds for strange hybrids. Diseases can also be communicated through the seeds, so only harvest from those plants that were disease free.