Cucumbers are a popular garden crop that are easy to grow, but following a few key tips can make all the difference between struggling plants or a massive harvest. A big harvest means plenty of cucumbers for salads, fresh eating, pickling, and more. Here is a look at the 7 secrets to growing cucumbers for an incredible crop.
The 7 Secrets To Growing Cucumbers
#1 Plant for Early Morning Sun
Cucumbers need a lot of sunlight to produce a bumper crop. The plant relies heavily on photosynthesis to build strong, sturdy, and productive vines, which is centered around the sun entirely. Locate your crop in an area that receives a minimum of 8 hours of sunlight each day. Make sure your plants receive early morning sunlight to help dry off vines and foliage from early morning dew. Dew that lingers can create the perfect conditions for mildew and blight.
#2 Great Soil = Great Cucumbers
Cucumbers need rich, fertile soil to grow strong and thrive, whether planted in the ground or in containers. In addition, the soil needs to be light and airy to allow for good drainage. When planting, add in 6 to 8 cups (a few shovels) of compost to each planting hole. Compost adds vital nutrients that can easily be absorbed by the cucumber plants. It also loosens the soil to create excellent drainage.
Cucumbers thrive in loose, fertile soil that drains well. By adding compost at planting time, you can help to build soil with those exact qualities. Add in a quarter cup of worm castings to the compost to build even more power. The worm castings/compost combo can make a huge difference in the health and productivity of plants.
#3 Plant in Mounds
When planting directly in the soil, plant your crop in slightly tapered hills. In containers, make sure the primary stem is planted above the surrounding soil as well. Cucumber plants are highly susceptible to rot, but a bit of “raised planting” helps keep the main plant stem out of sitting water during heavy rains or watering. Create tapered mounds approximately 18″ in diameter that are 3″ to 4″ high in the middle. Remember to add compost!
#4 Transplants vs. Direct Seeding
Although cucumbers can be grown easily by direct seeding, it is preferable to start seeds early and transplant. The added growth and strength of a transplant give the plant a better chance to avoid and fight dreaded cucumber beetle attacks. Plant two transplants per cucumber mound, or if seeding, plant 3 seeds and thin to the 2 strongest after a few weeks. By growing multiple vines per mound, they intertwine for added strength.
#5 Be Careful What You Plant Nearby
What you plant around your cucumbers will play an important role in their productivity. One thing to avoid for sure is growing cucumbers near potatoes, which release a substance in the soil that greatly hinders the growth of cucumbers.
Planting radish seeds around your cucumber plants can help stave off beetle attacks. Radishes, when grown nearby or with cucumbers, help to repel harmful insects like cucumber beetles and aphids that attack tender cucumber plants. When planting cucumbers, simply seed 5 to 10 radish seeds on the edges of your mounds. The seeds germinate fast and will help stave away the beetles.
#6 Crop Rotation
Cucumbers, like tomatoes and peppers, are susceptible to soil-borne diseases when planted in the same spot year after year. To prevent this from happening, you should rotate your crops and plant them in different locations in your garden each season. By doing so, you allow the soil to recover, minimize disease, and reduce the possibility of long-term infestation.
For best results, you should wait at least three years before rotating back to plant cucumbers in the same location. This break will help reduce the risk of disease and ensure that your plants get the nutrients they need to thrive.
#7 Harvest Regularly
When cucumber plants start producing fruit, it’s crucial to harvest them regularly. If you let them stay on the vine for too long, they can become woody, full of seeds, and bitter. Moreover, when the plant gets overloaded with a harvest, it will redirect its energy towards making the existing fruit larger, which will hinder the production of new blooms.
Therefore, checking your plants daily is essential. Cucumbers can grow from 2 inches to 12 inches in just a day or two. To keep your plants producing, you can use slow and steady fertilizing. Apply a light dose of compost tea or organic fertilizer every two weeks until plants start forming their first cucumbers. Product Link : Dr. Earth’s Organic Fertilizer. Once they begin to fruit, you can cease fertilizing.
A Few Final Tips & Tricks
Choose the Right Variety The first secret to growing cucumbers is selecting the right variety. There are two main types of cucumbers: slicing and pickling. Slicing cucumbers are best for eating fresh, while pickling cucumbers are ideal for making pickles. When selecting your plants, consider which type of cucumber you prefer. For fresh eating, choose a quality slicing cucumber. If you’re interested in making pickles, opt for a quality pickling variety.
One popular pickling cucumber variety is the Boston Pickling cucumber. This bush variety produces small, thick cucumbers that are perfect for pickling. Look for this variety, or other pickling varieties, at your local nursery or online seed store.
Planting Methods Cucumbers can be planted either from transplants or directly sown from seeds. While using transplants can be more convenient, planting directly from seed into the soil has its benefits. This method allows the roots to grow uninterrupted and can be easier to plant. Whichever method you choose, be sure to get your cucumber seeds early to have them in plenty of time for the growing season.
To plant cucumbers from seed, prepare your soil by removing any weeds and debris. Then, create mounds or rows in the soil and plant the seeds about 1 inch deep. Cover the seeds with soil and water them thoroughly. Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate.
Keep Your Plants Picked One of the most important secrets to growing cucumbers is to keep your plants picked on a regular basis. This encourages the plant to continue producing blooms and cucumbers. When cucumber plants become too heavily overloaded with fruit, they send a signal to the plant to stop producing new blooms. Without blooms, there can’t be any more cucumbers to harvest! To prevent this from happening, pick your cucumbers as soon as they are ripe. This will also prevent them from becoming bitter or tough.
Provide Plenty of Water and Sunlight Cucumbers need plenty of water and sunlight to grow and thrive. They prefer moist, well-drained soil and at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. Be sure to water your plants deeply and regularly, especially during hot or dry weather. You can also provide a trellis or other support for your plants to climb on, which can improve air circulation and prevent disease.
In summary, growing cucumbers can be a fun and rewarding experience with the right techniques. Choose the right variety for your needs, plant your seeds or transplants properly, keep your plants picked regularly, and provide plenty of water and sunlight. With these 4 simple secrets, you’ll be on your way to a bountiful cucumber harvest in no time!