Growing Cucumbers - How
to Grow Cucumbers Outside from Seed
been done for thousands of years as it is an
important salad vegetable. I love cucumbers, but not all varieties as
sometimes they can be extremely bitter. Sometimes this is just the
variety of cucumber, but often it is becauses it hasn't been grown
under the right conditions.
one likes bitter cucumbers. That is why we have this page for you to
guide to on your way to successful cucumber growing, whether you are
growing these lovely vegetables for summer salads, cool soups or of
course pickling cucumbers that so many of us of fond of too.
You can grow cucumbers directly in the soil,
in containers, vertically,
or even start them off in hotbeds.
Cucumbers can be divided
into 2 distinct groups; the frame or English
cucumbers or those grown outside called ridge cucumbers.
Frame cucumbers are
so called because they are trained to
framework and to grow straight fruit. Ridge cucumbers are cultivars
that are grown in ridges or hills or though there is no real reason why
they cannot be grown on the flat. These are grown without support and
allowed to ramble.
Growing Cucumbers by Seed
Cucumbers are usually grown by seed rather then seedlings,
can raise seedlings in small trays in a protected area and then plant
them out when all signs of frost have gone.
How to grow cucumbers
outside? Plant cucumber
seeds in hills or ridges in your soil. Small hills are built to receive
the cucumber seed and to give your plants a good start.
The hills should be 3 feet
apart in each direction.
fifteen or eighteen inches in diameter, and a foot in depth; fill them
three-fourths full of thoroughly rotted compost,
and then place four or
five inches of earth over the whole, raising the hill a little above
level of the ground; plant 6-8 seeds in each hole, cover half
an inch deep, and press the earth smoothly over with the back of the
When all danger from garden
and worms is past, thin out the
leaving but three or four of the strongest or healthiest to a
hill. Be very careful when doing this as the plants are fairly shallow
rooted at this stage and you don't want to end up disturbing your
healthy plants too much.
Growing Cucumbers in The Right Soil Conditions
cucumbers in dry or very wet soils should be avoided.
Cucumbers succeed best in warm, moist, rich, loamy ground with the
ideal pH level at 5.5 - 7.0.
The ideal conditions for cucumbers to grow
in requires heat, and a fair proportion of moisture.
They should not be planted or set in the open air until the cold
weather has past and there is a good prospect of warm weather.
cucumbers are planted early,
not only are the seeds liable to decay in the ground, but the young
plants are frequently cut off by frost.
hot weather make sure that your cucumbers don't get burned either.
Their large leaves are there to
protect them from the sun, but
ocassionally you do find that this is not enough.
Growing Cucumbers in
Containers or Vertically
cucumbers can also be grown in container
gardens, but the pots or containers should be at least
30 cm in diameter, and 20 cm deep. This is because cucumbers
have large leaves which take up a lot of space.
Choose a variety such as Bush
Champion for container growing, and
pinch out the
growing tips when the plant has about 7 leaves. Other cucumber
varieties for container growing are Sweet Success, Bush
Slicer and Liberty.
The Apple Cucumber is also a prolific
grower and perfect for growing in small spaces.
Growing cucumbers vertically
against a wire frame
If you have very little
space in your garden, consider growing
cucumbers vertically. They can easily be trained to climb
long as you take care not to break the fragile stems while tying to the
trellis. Cut up some old nylon stockings across the legs to get some
good ties that won't be harsh on your cucumbers as they continue to
Types of Containers for Cucumber Growing
It really depends on what is available. You can grow cucumbers in
commercial pots, be it plastic, or terracotta, or you can even find old
buckets, tyres, polystyrene boxes and old baths to grow your vegetables
in. I do like to recyle, but I am also aware of how untidy things may
look too. So I am fairly careful with what I use, and how.
If you are using buckets, just remember to drill enough weep holes in
the bottom for drainage. This is so important because if you don't the
soil will go sour and your vegetables will rot.
Watering your Cucumber Plants in their Containers
Because your cucumbers in their pots rely on you for their moisture you
will need to make sure that your pots and containers don't dry out.
People often fail at growing cucumbers like this because they forget to
water or don't water enough. The pots will dry out a lot quicker than
if they were in the soil, so make sure that the soil is moist at all
times. However, there is definitely a balance. Don't over-water!
So how do you get the balance right? You
need to put your finger into the soil of your containers. If the soil 2
inches down is dry, water. If not, hold off for another day and then
Soil for Growing Cucumbers in Containers
Make your own potting soil. Yes, you can buy commercial potting soil,
but if you make your own, you know that you have a good product.
You can make your own container gardening soil
by taking 3 parts of good garden loam, 1 part of moistened peat moss,
and 1 part coarse river sand. Added to this should be some well-rotted
farmyard manure or compost.
In addition to your organic material, you can add the following to
every 8 liters of soil:
1/2 cup Epsom salts
1/4 cup coffee grounds (rinse them clean)
4 egg shells (dried and crushed to powder)
To get air into your soil and to make it lighter, add some granular
polystyrene, or better still Perlite. A couple of cupfuls to your
containers should be enough. Adjust according to the size of the
container, but can make up 1/3 of the volume. Don't add too much as it
is a water-repellent, and unless you add extra peat moss, you will find
that your soil will dry out quicker than you want.
Finally I always add a good handful of blood and bone to give the
vegetables a good start in their containers. I am also a fan of poultry
manure more than any other for vegetables because of its high nitrogen
content. Just make sure that it is not fresh, as it will burn the roots
of your vegetables.
Growing Cucumbers in Containers and Fertilizing
your plants is very important. The have no where to send out their root
system in search of nutrients. They rely totally on you. Cucumbers are
also heavy feeders, so you will have to fertilize your plants at least
once a week.
This is why soil preparation for your containers is so important.
Fertilize with either a seaweed solution, liquid manure or compost tea.
See below for more details.
Growing Cucumbers in Hot Frames and Hotbeds
If you live in an
area that gets snow and late frost, you may want to
start your cucumbers off in cold frames and hotbeds so that they can be
transplanted out, once the weather has improved.
Good compost, including leaf
mold and rotted farm manure can be used as
intended to use in a hotbed must be turned over every 3 or 4
days and watered lightly until you are sure that most of the heat has
been reduced from the pile.
Place the compost manure mix onto the ground, 2 - 3 feet wider than the
frame itself and trample down to compact it lightly. At this stage it
is still wise to place sticks or rods into the compost at various
places to test the heat.
Once you are ready to plant, place the frame on top of the compost and
then place a layer of soil inside the frame.
After the first day raise the sashes to allow circulation of air and
the manure to sweeten and cool. Then place the cucumber seed into pots
or trays, sowing thinly, and place the pots to half their depth into
the soil. After the plants start to develop their leaves, then
transplant into pots 2-3 to a pot. Use rich, light soil and tamper down
after transplanting and water with tepid water. Again place the pots
into the soil to half their depth.
Shade them from full sunlight for the first couple of days, and water
well to encourage vigorous growth.
In the meantime start another hotbed in the same manner. In the first
hotbed you can now take the plants out of their pots after a week or
so, and transplant into the hotbed directly. Place in hills, as you
would if you were planting outside making sure that the temperature in
the hotbeds is kept between 85 - 90 degrees F. during the day, and no
more than 10 degrees below that at night.
Continue to protect the plants from full sunlight. When the plants have
started to make progress, pinch out the points to encourage lateral
shoot growth. These again are pinched back in turn to the fruiting
points until the frame has been filled. Once the weather warms up you
can start opening up the frame during the day to let in the air.
Keep the shoots thin to encourage good air flow and adjust the
temperature making sure that it doesn't fall too low by removing the
original layer of manure lining the outside of the frame and adding
more manure to the outside of the frame to a depth of 2 feet, all
around, which will be higher than the original layer.
If your ground is warm enough your plants can be planted outside,
however, they must be protected at night by either covering them up
with cardboard or glass panes.
If you are planting them outside, again after the first pinching, the
main vine should be allowed to grow, but the laterals should be stopped
in the same ways as those in the hotbeds.
Manure in the form of mulches and liquid manure should be applied
regularly while your cucumbers are growing as cucumbers are voracious
feeders and will need lots of feeding. You can never feed cucumbers too
Growing Cucumbers and Looking after your Plants
As soon as your
cucumbers start to flower give
them an application of
liquid manure. Make sure that you do this by applying the
the foliage in the root area after a thorough watering.
They also like a feed of an organic soluble potash fertilizer when the
fruits start to set.
Growing Cucumbers and Knowing When to Harvest and Pick
as the cucumbers reach a suitable size,
usually after 8-10 weeks, they should be picked, whether required for
use or not. The imperfectly
formed, as well as the symmetrical, should all be removed. Fruit,
however inferior, left to ripen on the vines, soon destroys their
productiveness. The fruit should be removed with a sharp knife or a
pair of secateurs about twice a week.
Growing Cucumbers and Crop Yield
growing cucumbers and other crops people want to know how many pounds
or kilos of fruit or vegetables they will get from a plant. So how many
cucumbers do you get from one plants?
Well that really depends
the growing conditions and the varieties. However, if you are growing
cucumbers in a greenhouse, expect 10-12 cucumbers per plant.
are growing cucumbers outdoors, then your yield will be a little less.
However, for large yields, you really need to water cucumbers well, and
mulch the plants to keep the moisture in the soil for longer.
Growing Cucumbers and Identifying Diseases and Pests
When you learning how to
grow cucumbers you should also be aware of the types of
pests and diseases that attack this vegetable.
The most common pests
spider mites, cucumber beetles (image left)
and fruit flies. If you plant catnip (nepeta cataria) as a companion
plant with cucumbers you will find that the catnip will repel cucumber
beetles and aphids in your vegetable gardens.
Cucumbers are also susceptible
to diseases like powdery and downy mildew.
Mildew on plants
is a fungal disease that
with humid weather and watering plants in the evening where the
moisture is retained by the leaves. It is better to water in the
mornings, allowing the sun to dry the leaves off, minimizing the chance
mildew from attacking your plants. See our section on organic pesticides to get rid of
these pests from your vegetables.
If you notice white
patches on your cucumbers that are oval in shape and found on the
upper-side of your cucumber fruit this is sun scorch. It
midsummer when the sun is beating down and the foliage is starting to
deteriorate and not being able to protect the plants. The only remedy
is to make regular pickings.
Growing Cucumbers and Saving the Seeds
makes sense to save
varieties. When a few
seeds are needed for the vegetable garden, two or three of the
finest-formed cucumbers should be selected early in the season, and
allowed to ripen on the plants. In September, or when fully ripe, cut
them open, take out the seeds, and allow them to stand a day or two, or
until the pulp attached to them begins to separate; when they should be
washed clean, thoroughly dried, and packed away for future use.
Growing Pickling Cucumbers
land for raising pickling
be in good
condition, and not easily affected by drought. It should be
deeply plowed, and the
surface afterwards made fine and friable by being thoroughly harrowed.
The hills should be 3
and are generally formed by
furrowing the land at this distance in each direction. Manure the hills
with well-rotted compost, level off, draw over a little fine earth,
and the land is ready for planting.
This may be done at any
time from the middle of June to the first week
in July. The quantity of seed allowed to an acre varies from
three-fourths of a pound, upwards. In most cases, growers seed very
liberally, to provide against being eaten by worms and bugs; usually
putting six or eight times as many seeds in a hill as will be really
required for the crop. When the plants are well established and beyond
danger, the field is examined, and the hills thinned to three or four
plants; or, as many plants required.
As fast as the cucumbers
reach the proper size, they should be picked;
the usual practice being to go over the crop daily. In gathering,
all the fruit should be removed,—the misshapen and unmarketable, as
well as those which are well formed; as when any of the crop
is allowed to remain and ripen, the plants become much less productive.
Troubleshooting Questions & Answers for Growing
Q. Some of
my small cucumbers are badly misshapen. Will
they develop into normal cucumbers? A. No. They
should be removed from the vines. Misshapen cucumbers may result from
poor pollination or low fertility. Side-dressing with a complete
fertilizer may help later cucumbers to develop normally.
Q. Why do some of my plants suddenly wilt and die? Dead
or dying plants are scattered all over my cucumber patch. One plant in
a hill may be healthy, while another dies. A. These are
typical symptoms of the bacterial wilt disease. This disease is spread
by cucumber beetles early in the season. The beetles must be controlled
immediately when the plants are small.
Q. Is there really a "burpless" cucumber? A. Yes.
Burpless cucumbers are no longer considered novelties and are offered
in most garden catalogs. They are mild, sweet and crisp when fresh. The
skin is tender and free of bitterness, although many people peel it
off. Most varieties are long (10 to 12 inches) and curved, unless grown
on a trellis. These varieties are better eaten fresh, using
conventional varieties for most pickling uses.
Q. What cucumber variety should I buy for gherkins?
A. Buy the West
Indian gherkin. It is a close relative of the garden
cucumber used for pickling. The fruits are generally oval, 1 to 3
inches long and more spiny than cucumbers. They are also called "burr
cucumbers" but are usually listed in catalogs as West Indian gherkin.
They are grown in the same way as cucumbers. Small-fruited, prickly
varieties of cucumber are sometimes sold as "gherkins." If small,
tender cucumbers are what you want to pickle and call "gherkins," then
these misnamed cucumber varieties serve the purpose well.
Q. Why do my cucumbers fail to set fruit and yield
properly? A. The first
yellow flowers appearing on the plants are male flowers that provide
pollen. These flowers normally drop off after blooming. The small
cucumber is evident at the base of the female flower (even before it
opens) and should develop into an edible fruit if properly pollinated.
Anything that interferes with pollination of the female flowers reduces
fruit set and yield, including cold temperatures and rainy weather that
hamper bee activity or improper use of insecticides that kill bees.
Q. What are gynoecious hybrids? A.
Gynoecious ("female-flowering") hybrids are special hybrids of slicing
and pickling cucumbers that are advertised in many garden catalogs.
Because they have all female flowers, they may be earlier and higher
yielding than other varieties. Usually, the seed company mixes in a
small proportion of seed of a standard cucumber as a pollinator.
Q. How far away from melons should I plant my cucumbers?
I am concerned
about cross pollination. A. Contrary
to popular opinion, cucumbers do not cross-pollinate with muskmelons or
watermelons and cause them to become bitter, tasteless or off-flavor.
Because cucumbers and melons require considerable space in the garden,
however, plant the rows far enough apart for proper vine growth without
Q. What causes my cucumber plants to be stunted? The
leaves are a mottled yellow, and the fruits are blotchy and taste
bitter. A. This
condition is caused by the cucumber mosaic virus. Grow mosaic-resistant
Q. What causes the white mold growth on the upper
surfaces of my
cucumber leaves? A. This
condition is caused by powdery mildew, a fungal disease that is most
severe during late summer and fall plantings. Grow resistant varieties.
Countryfarm Lifestyles: 10 Tips on Growing Cucumbers:
As the summer wears on you will need to shade your cucumber
fruit and continue to make sure that your soil doesn't dry out.
By pruning your cucumber plants so that you restrict the
length of the main vines and encourage side growth by pinching out the
trailing shoots from time to time will increase your crop enormously.
Peg the stems to the ground to prevent the plants from
being broken off in windy or stormy weather.
Pick the cucumbers as soon as they are of a useful size.
Never allow fruit to ripen on the vines unless you are saving
Remove the side shoots from areas where most of the
cucumbers have been harvested to allow light and air into the plants.
Top dress liberally with diluted liquid manure during crop
growth from time to time.
The more you pick, the more cucumbers you will get.
The season can be extended at the end by removing the old
stems that are no longer bearing fruit and feeding the remaining plants
with diluted liquid manure.
Cucumbers are heavy feeders so make sure that your soil is
rich with mulch or manure before you start and continue to feed them
throughout the growing season.
Cucumbers should always be eaten crisp. To keep them that
way, after you pick them place the stem end in a bowl of shallow water,
as you would flowers, until needed. Refresh water daily.
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