Planting Guide - Cucumber Seeds
Novice and veteran gardeners alike find success with a rewarding crop of cool, crisp cucumbers. With a history spanning over 3000 years, cucumbers have kept a reliable spot in gardens by producing a dependable and versatile crop. Cucumbers bring a fresh scent and crisp taste during the hot days of summer and no al fresco dinner is complete without the sweet, crunchy, and aromatic qualities that only cucumbers can give.
Growing Cucumbers in Your Garden
While we dream of that fresh, au natural bite of cucumbers, it’s interesting to note that cucumbers were likely one of the first vegetables to be preserved by pickling. Knowing a bit about the different types of cucumber seeds available to purchase will help you decide what you would like to do with your cucumbers once they reach maturity. Choose from slicing cucumbers such as Marketmore 76 or Straight 8, pickling cucumbers such as Boston Pickling, National Pickling, or Homemade Pickles, or Asian and Armenian varieties such as Suyo Long or Armenian Pale Green or Armenian Dark Green. Don’t forget unusual heirlooms such as Lemon cucumber that offer a wonderfully citrus taste!
When & How to Plant Cucumber Seeds
Cucumber roots do not take lightly to being disturbed, so direct sowing is optimal. If you live in an area with short summers, start seeds indoors two weeks before your last spring frost and keep the soil moist and warm. Use a seed starting medium of peat moss or coconut coir so as not to crumble and disturb roots when transplanting. Set out seedlings 3-4 weeks later.
Choose a sunny spot with fertile, well-draining soil. Work in a 2 inch layer of rich compost and water thoroughly, adding a light application of organic fertilizer. Plant your cucumber seeds ½” deep and 6” apart. Once the seedlings have 2 leaves, thin to 12 inches apart. If transplanting seedlings, plant them 12” apart as well.
Water - Provide your cucumber plants with plenty of moisture, especially around the time the plant is flowering and fruiting. Any water stress during this period of rapid growth causes the levels of bitter-tasting compounds to rise. Use 1-2 inches of water per week depending on the weather and the characteristics of your soil. Keeping the soil slightly moist at all times is a good rule of thumb. Like with all your warm weather crops, mulch is your best friend. Reduce water stress on your cucumber plants by mulching around the base.
Temperature – Cucumbers are a warm-weather crop, but do not do well in areas that consistently stay in the mid-90s. Provide some filtered afternoon shade to help cool things down.
Fertilize – Cucumbers are heavy feeders. Feed your soil with rich compost or aged manure and side dress with compost when the first flowers appear.
To maximize production, keep close tabs on your vines and harvest regularly. Cucumber vines will focus its energy on sustaining and growing existing cucumbers, so picking often will redirect the energy into new production.
Using a trellis will increase your yield of flawless fruits that are easier to pick. Tomato cages or fences work best.
Plant new cucumber seeds each month during the growing season to increase your yield. Try different varieties too!
If you planted a fall garden that included cabbage-family vegetables, your summer planting of cucumbers will appreciate being planted in this same spot.
Possible Problems with Growing Cucumber
Bitter Cucumbers – Plants that are stressed are more likely to become bitter, but the degree of bitterness depends on the severity of the stress. Stress in a plant is most often caused by insufficient and uneven moisture, but temperature extremes and poor nutrition can also play a part.
Cucumber Beetles – Construct tents of fine netting or cheesecloth or use floating row covers over young transplants and seedlings. Remove covers before temperatures get too hot in mid-summer, and when flowering to allow pollinators access to blooms.
Crop Rotation – To reduce pest and disease pressure, do not plant cucumbers where you’ve grown them in the last two years.
We like to use a pair of clippers or pruning shears to make a clean cut on the stem about a quarter inch above the fruit. We have pulled out too many vines and snapped off far too many cucumber tops to rely solely on our hands quick snap.
Harvest slicing cucumbers around 6-8 inches long; most picklers are ready at 3-5 inches; Asian varieties 8-12 inches, but as long as 15; Armenian cucumbers can grow as long as 36” so best to harvest before then.