Looking to start a vegetable garden this year? Learn how to grow a healthy cucumber harvest with these tips.
Aside from juicy garden tomatoes, cucumbers are a close second for me.
Love to grow them.
Love to eat them.
And I wish the season lasted longer here in my zone 6a Jersey garden.
Have you grown them before?
Here are some best practices for growing cucumbers.
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Cucumbers, also known as Cucumis sativus, are common vegetables that can easily be grown at home in the vegetable garden.
They are fabulous when pickled, eaten raw or in salads and grow best in warm weather.
Where I live, my Jersey garden produces the best cucumber crops July through September.
Cucumber varieties can be either long vines or bush varieties.
I enjoy growing the vine varieties and allow them to grow up a fence, trellis or obelisk to save growing space in my vegetable garden.
Trellising cucumbers also encourages better air circulation, fruit production and improves overall plant health.
Are Cucumbers a Fruit?
While most people consider cucumbers to be a vegetable, they are considered to be a fruit because they start from seed and grow from the plant’s flowers.
Cucumbers fall within the squash and pumpkin families, which are also classified as fruits.
How to Grow Cucumbers in Your Vegetable Garden
I love growing cucumbers in raised garden beds.
We have a resident groundhog and other critters that like to burrow, so we try to make it difficult for them to break into the vegetable garden.
Because my raised beds are sited on our septic field, the drainage field below makes it difficult for critters to come up underneath the beds.
And the corrugated metal makes it more challenging for chipmunks and the like, to climb up into the beds.
When we had the former vegetable garden, we built raised beds from cedar and laid chicken wire underneath.
So plan accordingly, if critters are an issue in your garden.
Test Your Soil
When planting any garden, it is so important to test your soil.
Understanding soil conditions and making improvements to the soil is the best way to grow happy, healthy plants.
Where cucumbers are concerned, they grow best in a soil ph between 6.0-6.5.
What does that mean?
Cucumbers prefer slightly acidic soil that is moisture-retentive yet well-draining.
To improve your soil, add manure or compost in spring and fall, and avoid using weed and feed fertilizers.
Stick to more organic options like THIS one.
Cucumber Plants Need Pollination
In order to grow fruit, cucumbers need pollination.
They have male and female flowers on the same plant.
In general, male flowers appear first attached by a slender stem.
in contrast, female flowers grow much closer to the main vine in a small round ovary shape.
Bees and other pollinating insects are necessary to move pollen between male and female flowers.
To help effectuate this, consider adding companion plantings around the vegetables like marigolds or nasturtiums to attract bees for pollination.
As an aside, lack of pollination is the main reason why home gardeners don’t get fruit on their vegetable plants.
So be sure there are plants around that attract pollinating insects.
Planting Cucumbers in the Vegetable Garden
Cucumbers can be started by seed indoors or sown directly in the garden.
You can also purchase plants ready to go into the garden from your local nursery.
It’s best to direct sow cucumbers after all danger of frost has passed.
Always follow the seed packet’s sowing directions but in general, sow seeds about 1/2 inch deep.
After seedlings sprout, thin plants to roughly 8-12 inches apart.
For vining varieties, give them a structure or apparatus to grow on to create more vertical growing space, improve air circulation, and brings more light to the plant to keep it healthy.
Watering Cucumber Plants
Cucumbers need an inch of water per week.
When watering, make sure to water the base of the plant, soaking through to the roots and avoid watering the leaves.
This watering practice helps minimize pest and disease problems.
Controlling Weeds Around Cucumbers Plants
It is so important to weed gardens because they pull nutrients away from plants we want to grow.
The best method for controlling weeds is to pull or hoe weeds on the surface around cucumbers, then remove weeds from the garden.
Don’t leave them there or they can reroot in the bed.
I love to use THIS hand tool when cleaning up the gardens because it makes weeding go quicker, faster, and more effective.
Common Problems, Pest, and Disease to Watch Out For
Some pest and disease problems associated with cucumbers include:
- the striped cucumber beetle
- spotted cucumber beetle
- powdery mildew
- fungal leaf spot and fruit rot diseases
- bacterial wilt
Other things to look out for is weather related issues that can reduce pollination like the heat of summer, cold, rainy or cloudy days.
How to Harvest and Store Cucumbers
Harvest cucumbers when they are the desired size.
Note: if you leave very large cucumbers on the vine, the overall yield will decrease. So harvest accordingly.
When harvesting, be careful not to disturb the vine so you don’t damage new growth.
I like to use pruners like THESE to harvest fruit in a snap.
Tip: avoid harvesting cucumbers after a rain or when the plant is wet to avoid spreading disease.
To store, keep in cold refrigerator or basement that is 55 degrees.
Not sure what to do with your harvest?
Consider pickling the cucumbers to store for year round use. I’ve never done this before, but would love to try this year!
My Favorite Cucumber Recipes
When cucumbers are in season, there is nothing better than dropping sliced cucumbers in a fresh green salad.
But wait until you try this cucumber salad with dill recipe!
It is so fresh, delicious and pairs well with any grilled dish.
But I also love this simple recipe for cucumber, tomato, and onion salad.
It is so light and refreshing to make in summer.
And if you are looking for a light and tasty sandwich, try this refreshing cucumber sandwich with cream cheese recipe.
Cucumber sandwiches are one of my favorites to enjoy.
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