Growing Cucumbers! When it comes to backyard gardens, cucumbers are right up there with tomatoes as one of the most popular home-grown vegetables.
It’s not hard to figure out why. Is there anything better than a fresh cucumber sprinkled with a little bit of salt?
And beyond that delicious fresh taste, they are, of course, prized for making pickles. In our house, pickles rule! (See our Pickle Recipe Page)
Whether its making a quick batch of our overnight garlic pickles, or canning bread and butter, dill or hot pepper-garlic pickles, we simply love them!
But to make a lot of pickles, you have to grow a big crop of cucumbers. I have to say, it took us several years to really perfect the art of growing a banner crop.
We thought we would share 5 of our biggest tips we’ve found to help grow that perfect crop.
5 Keys To Successfully Growing Cucumbers
#1 Plant In A Sunny Location
At the top of the list, sunshine. Cucumbers need the sun, and a lot of it! Locate your crop in an area that receives at least 8 hours of sunlight a day.
Much like pumpkins, gourds and zucchini – cucumbers rely heavily on the photosynthesis process to grow the strong vines needed to producing heavy fruiting. No sun, no photosynthesis.
Locating your crop in the sun also allows leaves and vines to dry off from early morning dew. This is a huge help in controlling mildew and blight. Avoiding both of those issues are big to keeping your crop healthy.
#2 Provide Rich, Fertile, Well Drained Soil
Cucumbers love rich, fertile, well-drained soil. The more you nutrition you can provide at planting time, the better.
We add a few shovelfuls of compost, and a quarter cup of worm castings to each planting hill or container. It creates a rich soil for the young seeds or transplants to get off to a great start.
The worm castings / compost combo has made a huge difference in the health and productivity of our plants!
When planting directly into the soil, we plant in slightly tapered hills about 18″ in diameter, 3″ to 4″ high. This helps keep the plant stems out of sitting water during heavy rains or watering.
We prefer planting transplants over seeds. The added growth and strength help give them a better chance to avoid dreaded cucumber beetle attacks.
If you are planting transplants, use two plants per hill. If you seed, plant 3 and thin to 2.
Cucumbers, especially bush-style varieties, can be planted in containers as well.
Again, be sure start off with a rich, well-drained soil mix to give plants the nutrition they need. Use only one plant per container to avoid draining the soil too quickly of nutrients.
Product Link: Worm Castings
#3 Be Careful What You Plant Nearby
What you plant around your cucumbers can play an important role in their productivity. One thing to avoid for sure is planting cucumber crops near potatoes.
Potatoes release a substance in the soil that greatly hinders the growth of cucumbers.
Radishes, on the other hand are great, as they help to repel harmful insects like cucumber beetles and aphids that attack tender cucumber plants.
It is also easy to sow a few inexpensive radish seeds around plants. They germinate fast and really do help stave away the beetles.
Nasturtiums and Alyssum are also excellent to plant right alongside your growing cucumbers.
The nasturtiums will help repel and deter a whole host of nuisance insects, while the alyssum acts as a sacrificial plant to beetles, keeping them away off of your cucumbers.
One final note on where you plant. Be sure to practice crop rotation. You can keep soil-borne disease at bay by rotating your crops each year to a new location.
Wait at least three years before planting them back in the same location. This allows the soil to recover, minimizes disease, and reduces the possibility for infestation.
#4 Provide Support
If you are planting a vining variety of cucumber, be sure to provide support in the way of a trellis, fence, or rope or wire.
A folded piece of metal fencing will work great in open garden settings. By providing a place for the vines and cucumbers to grow, it keeps the plants and fruit off the ground and less susceptible to mold, blight and disease.
It also helps support them during winds and heavy storms.
Compact, bush varieties can usually be grown without support, but even with these varieties, a little help in holding them up goes a long way.
#5 Harvest Regularly
Once cucumber plants begin to produce, you need to pick regularly to keep them producing well. If left on the vine too long, cukes get woody, full of seeds, and bitter.
In addition, the plants will put their energy towards making the existing fruit larger, and not producing new blooms. Check plants daily, cukes can go from 2″ inches to 12″ in a day or two!
There you have it! Five of our favorite tips for growing cucumbers successfully.
We hope you enjoyed this week’s gardening article.
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