Cucumbers love to grow when it is warm, which makes them a perfect addition to your summer garden! There are many options to choose from; from slicing to pickling cucumbers, round or slender, short or long. You might be eager to get started on planting your seeds, but you should wait until after the last frost. Preferably, a couple of weeks after it has passed to make sure the soil is nice and warm (at least 65 degrees F). To speed up the soil warming process, you can place plastic mulch over the soil.
Cucumber seeds do well directly planted in the ground and require full sun, at least 6-8 hours per day. Like most vegetables, cucumber plants need rich and well-draining soil. Heavy, compacted soils can stunt plant growth and result in small amounts of poor quality fruit. Mix in compost, cured manure, or other decomposed organic material to provide plenty of nutrients for the growing season. Plant seeds ½-1” deep and 12” apart. Water the seeds well and make sure the soil remains evenly moist throughout the growing season. They should emerge about 3-10 days after planting. Cucumber plants are heavy feeders, so they will require an addition of compost, manure or other type of fertilizer about once per month to remain healthy and to continue fruiting.
Make sure to provide a trellis or support system for your cucumbers. They love to climb and they use their little tendrils to grab onto the wire or string. Having a trellis will also make it easy to see the cucumber fruit and will keep them nice and clean.
Growing and Harvesting Cucumbers
Cucumber plants have separate male and female flowers. It is essential that the female flowers are pollinated in order to get fruit. Bees and other pollinators will typically get the job done, so it is important to encourage these insects to come to visit your garden. Once your plants begin to fruit, be sure to regularly pick them so that the plant will continue fruiting. Pick the fruit when they reach a good size and before they turn yellow. Yellow cucumbers are an indication that they are overripe and may taste bitter. Even with the lemon cucumbers; it is okay for this variety to have a little bit of yellowing on the ends, but despite the name, don’t pick them when they look like lemons.
Minimizing plant stress will maximize its flavor and will stave off bitterness. These plants can be sensitive to stress – not enough water, too much heat, not enough nutrients, etc. If they experience stress, the plants may produce less-than-tasty fruit.
Enjoying and Storing Cucumbers
After picking, store your cucumbers in a cool place to lengthen their shelf life. The varieties grown for pickling still taste great fresh and many of the slicer varieties taste great pickled.
We selected these heirloom varieties for our seed packets:
Striped Armenian: It is slightly fuzzy, long, slender, and striped. Excellent flavor. Lemon: A small and round cucumber that is pale yellow, very sweet, and crisp in texture. Great fresh or pickled. Salt & Pepper: A small to medium white cucumber with great flavor grown for pickling, but can be eaten fresh. Olympian: A beautiful, dark green cucumber with sweet flavor, crisp texture, and very high yields.
These varieties and more can be found at Johnny’s Seeds. If you planted them, please let us know via email or posting to your social media account using #mywinemygarden and #stsupery hashtags.