How To Grow Cucumbers

CucumberPhoto by joe quick

Cucumbers are a warm-season vegetable. They are planted outside in the ground no earlier than two weeks after last spring frost date. Thanks to the plant’s ability to climb, most varieties will grow in any amount of space. The growth of cucumbers is fast and if you care for them properly, the crop yield is abundant. Cucumbers are great for tossing in salads, pickling, or eating straight of the vine.

Planting, soil and care

Cucumbers require fertile, warm soil with a pH of 6 to 6.7, even though they’ll tolerate more alkaline soil to 7.5. Work composted manure or compost into soil. Depending on variety, plant seedlings 36 to 60 inches apart. Space plants one foot apart for vines trained on a trellis. If you are living in area where spring is cool and long, you can warm the soil three to four degrees by covering the row or hill with plastic.

In case you don’t plant in plastic, then mulch with chopped leaves, wheat straw, pine straw, or other organic mulch of your choice shortly after planting. However, if the weather is unseasonably cold, you should wait a few days to mulch until the soil is naturally warmed by the sun. Keep in mind that mulch is very important to keep the vines not growing on a trellis and the fruit clean for bush types.

It is recommended that you trellis your vines. By doing so, you’ll save space and keep the fruit clean. A twelve to eighteen-inches diameter cage, made from four to five foot welded wire fencing, will support two to three vines. Wire will allow you to easily grab cucumbers as the plant grows. Cucumbers do not demand a lot of care and grow fast. All you have to do is keep the soil consistently moist with one inch of water each week.

Inconsistent or inadequate moisture causes poor-tasting or oddly shaped fruit. In order to keep the foliage dry, water your cucumbers with a soaker hose. This will help to prevent leaf diseases which can ruin the plant. Fertilize with a liquid food every two weeks, applying it directly to soil around plant stems. In addition, you can use a granular, slow-release fertilizer sprinkled around the plants later, or worked into the soil when your plant.

Harvest and store

When the cucumbers are big enough to use, you can pick them whenever you want. Don’t forget to check vines each day as the fruit starts to appear, since they enlarge quickly. The more you harvest, vines produce more fruit. Use a clipper or knife to remove the fruit, cutting the stem above the fruit. Do not pull them, because you may damage the vine. Also, do not let the cucumbers get oversized or they’ll keep the vine from producing more, and will be bitter.

Yellowing at the bottom of a cucumber means over-ripeness. In that case remove the fruit immediately. Lemon cucumbers should be harvested before they start turning yellow. Even though they’re called lemon cucumbers because the small round fruits turn yellow and look like a lemon, it may be a little too seedy for most tastes by the time the fruit turns yellow. Harvested cucumbers can be refrigerated for seven to ten days. However, you should use them as soon as possible after picking for best flavor.

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