Growing Cucumbers in the Garden: Tips

bar chart comparing American per capita consumption of pickels and fresh cucumbers from 1970 to 2010

Cucumber popularity makes it a favored warm-weather garden vegetable. The bar chart, for example, shows that over a forty year time period, average Americans were consuming more cucumbers and choosing fresh cucumbers over pickles. No doubt the ease of growing cucumbers partially fueled the fresh cucumber boom.

Cucumbers need little help growing, and they grow in a fairly wide range of soils, from 6.8–5.5 pH levels. They also grow and fruit very quickly, a double bonus. Both pickle and fresh varieties can go from seed to table in under two months. That ease of growth explains why cucumbers, along with tomatoes and lettuce, rank as the most popular greenhouse grown vegetables.

Garden space might be the most important consideration. Like all vine crops, cucumbers need at least a 5 by 5-foot
ground area. Fortunately, cucumbers adapt to vertical gardening easy, and they can be trained to grow up trellises.

Plants flourish in a sunny garden patch with highly enriched soil, when soil temperature reaches 700F. Consumers can choose from multiple salad and pickle seed varieties. Each variety provides its own optimal seed germination recommendations, but generally, as warm weather crops, cucumber seeds thrive in warmer environments than most cool weather crop seeds. Some suggested seed germination temperatures for warm climate gardens range between 85oF – 90oF.

picture of a cucumber plant in flower, part of the growing cucumbers section

Cucumbers grow from seed or seedlings, however seedling taproots can be easily damaged when transplanted, so seed planting might be the safer garden route. They grow well near radishes and therefore fit into a fast growing vegetable garden theme.

Organic Tip: Encouraging large green leaf growth and thick vine development requires a high phosphate and potassium regime. Therefore, an organic fertilizer with a relatively lower N to PK ratio such as 5-10-10, provides ideal nutrition for flowering plants.

Less well known is the fact that cucumber skin color is correlated with nitrogen applications. A recent study in HortTechnology (2005) called , Fruit Yield, Size, and Color Responses of Two Greenhouse Cucumber Types to Nitrogen Fertilization in Perlite Soiless Culture concluded:

Fruit color responses to N concentration were dependent on the specific combination of experiment, samping date, and cultivar. For most xombinations of experiment, sampling date and cultivar, cucumber epidermal color was greener..with increased N concentration…The color was darkest and most intense…with intermediate to high N concentrations.

Pest Management

picture of a cucumber growing in the garden

Warm weather vegetables, including cucumbers, tend to be more susceptible to more garden pests than the average salad vegetable. Insects thrive in warm weather. Like most vine growing vegetables, cucumbers are subject to attacks by aphids, cucumber beetles, leafhoppers and mites.

Keeping the growing area weed free often provides a first good, organic pest control management strategy. Mulching or placing black plastic around the plants keeps the soil warm and relatively weed free. Over the counter organic remedies, for cucumber beetles, common pests of many Cucurbitaceae, can be purchased in many local stores.

Large leaves mean they are also susceptible to fungus such as powdery mildew. In areas where powdery mildew is common, cucumber varieties designed with resistance are recommended.