Cucumbers are a popular vegetable for home gardens, and it’s easy to see why. Home-grown cucumbers taste far better than their supermarket cousins. An almost-dizzying variety of cucumbers are available to the home gardener, opening up a new world of tastes, colors, and textures. They’re a great way to introduce gardening to newcomers to the hobby or small children, as they give results relatively quickly. They also pair beautifully with tomatoes in salads and other dishes. And perhaps best of all, cucumbers are generally beautiful plants that are easy and fun to grow. Here are some of our top tips for how to grow cucumbers—we hope you find them helpful!
As with most plants, successful cucumbers start with soil preparation. Whether in the ground or in containers, cucumbers generally prefer well-drained soil rich in organic materials, well-watered, and with a neutral pH. Cucumbers may not grow well in poor soil or without adequate water, and dry soils or acidic/basic soils may give the fruits a bitter taste. Prepare your soil by removing all rocks, trash, and debris and working good compost into the planting site to the depth of about six inches/15cm. Some gardeners prefer to construct mounds of soil for their cucumbers to grow on, and that may work best for some varietals.
Once your soil is ready, it’s time to select a variety of cucumber to grow. As we’ve said, there’s a huge variety of cucumbers available to the home gardener, so finding one that fits your taste may just be a matter of personal preference. However, there are a couple of key decisions to make ahead of time. Cucumbers are divided into two general groups, based on how they grow. Bush cucumbers, as the name suggests, grow as a small bush-like plant, while the more traditional vine cucumbers grow on long, often expansive, vines. Which is best for you? Well, vine cucumber varieties tend to be more productive, but it really comes down to your preferences and your space. Container gardens and smaller spaces may benefit from the more compact bush cucumber, while larger gardens or those willing to provide some upright support for container plants may prefer the more prolific vines. There’s no wrong answer, just what works best for you and for your garden.
Now let’s get our hands in the dirt and start planting! Cucumbers are extremely sensitive to cold, so it’s best either to start them outdoors well after the last risk of frost and when soil temperatures have reached 70F/21C or so. For earlier harvest or to get a head start, you can start your cucumbers in small pots indoors three or four weeks before the intended planting date. Be careful when transplanting—while cucumbers will tolerate some root disturbance, they really don’t like it. How you space your cucumbers depends on how your garden is arranged. In general, you should thin direct plantings to roughly 8-12 inches apart, or three plants to a mound, depending on your arrangement. 2-3 plants will generally do well in a 5 gallon/20L container, roughly equivalent to a mound in size.
Using a straw mulch around the base of your cucumbers can help deter slugs and other pests, as well as keeping the soil moist. Cucumbers do like consistent watering—disruptions or irregular watering can cause bitter-tasting or misshapen fruit. Cucumbers in general need about an inch of water a week, but may require more in hot climates or during dry periods.
If you live in a place with a longer growing season, successive plantings every two or three weeks until about a month before your first frost can ensure a continuous harvest. Likewise, pinching off new growth and new flowers towards the frost date can encourage existing fruits, thus helping you make the most of the last few weeks of your growing season.
There’s a lot more to be said about cucumbers, but these tips and tricks should help you get started and get the most out of your plants this year. As always we love to hear from you! Got some tricks, tips, or ideas for growing the best cucumbers? Please share them in the contents or find us on social media!