Cucumbers can be very rewarding when grown in your garden. They have many uses in the home; home-made pickles, used raw in salads or other recipes, and cucumbers can even be used on the skin as a beauty aid.
Cucumbers come in many different varieties, from the larger slicing cucumbers to the smaller gherkin variety, and in between are the pickling cucumbers. Keep in mind that cucumbers are vining plants and will take up a large space in the garden. If you’d like to make the best use of you garden space you might consider trellising the vines. There are even some smaller varieties that can be grown in containers if you are really limited on space.
Cucumbers grow best in well-draining soil with a pH of 6.5, though they are not all that picky and will grow in just about any soil type. You’ll want to be sure to add plenty of compost to the soil to be sure your plants will have enough nutrients to grow strong.
Plant your cucumbers where they will receive full sun, they grow best in temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Sow seeds directly in your garden in the spring when there is no risk of frost, a light frost can kill your plants. Space seeds every 6 – 8 inches in rows 4 – 5 feet apart, or plant in hills with 5 – 8 seeds per hill, cut off weaker plants leaving 3 per hill. Space hills 3 – 6 feet apart.
Applying an organic mulch such as yard trimmings, straw and/or wood chips will be beneficial to you cucumbers. Mulching will help retain soil moisture and prevent weeds from growing. The use of an organic mulch is also good for the soil, as the mulch breaks down it adds organic matter back into the soil.
Be sure soil remains moist, but not wet. Cucumbers can become bitter tasting from drought stress. On hot days it is normal for leaves to look wilted, but will recover by evening. If leaves remain wilted late into the evening they are either stressed from lack of water, or there is a disease problem.
Pick cucumbers when they reach the size you like them, but remember they taste better when they are on the smaller side. 3 – 4 inches for pickling varieties and 6 – 8 inches for slicers. If you see a yellowish color at the blossom end of the cucumber they are over-ripe. Don’t pull cucumbers from the vine, pulling can damage the plant and slow production, cut them with a sharp knife or garden shears. Pick often to encourage further production.
Try to harvest cucumbers in the morning when they are sweeter and refrigerate immediately. Do not wash them until you are ready to use them.