How To Grow Cucumber Plants

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Cucumbers grow well on a trellis

Cucumber grow well on a trellis

The question of how to grow cucumbers is a pretty simple one to answer. Find a sunny spot, get a seed, stick it the ground and apply water and you are away. Of course there is more to it than that but like growing a lot of things people tend to over complicate it.

What do they need

Although they are known for their coolness cucumbers are a warm season vegetable but they are pretty adaptable. They need a full sun position and the soil needs to be 68º  (20ºC) or above for good gemination.

Sow the seeds directly into soil that has had some compost dug in and is crumbly and well-drained so the roots can easily push through it. Clay soil will need to be improved. You can let your cucumbers roam free but I like to grow mine up. That way they take up less space and I feel as though the air moves around better and reduces fungus diseases that cucumbers are prone to.  I usually use a bamboo stake as I plant things wherever I have space but many people use a trellis either up a wall or free-standing. If you go for the near the wall  method just be careful how hot they get – although they like it warm in hot areas the fence or wall can heat up and they almost cook.

This year I decided to let them run free so just stuck them in the ground and added water.  I used a different seed variety so not sure if that’s why but I got heaps more cucumbers this year  and the vines are very healthy. I only had 3 plants and I’ve had at least 50 cucumbers and still going. Just an example that you need to try different things and see what works best for you.

Once you have planted them make a bit of an indentation like a dish around the plant to encourage the water to stay near the roots when you water.

Cucumbers are shallow rooted and because of this they need a fair bit of water. Don’t let your seedlings dry out keep them moist but not too wet. Check out what happens when it rains. It is the most amazing thing my cucumbers have been known to double in size when it rains they just suck up all the water and get big and fat. I also find that no matter how hard I look I always miss one and it ends up so big it almost could be mistaken for a melon.  I use mulch for a few reasons – it keeps the soil from drying out, if there is one on the ground it stops things like snails eating them, it keeps the weeds down and as it breaks down it improves the soil for my next crop.

Pick your cucumbers whenever the look good to eat. Picking them often will encourage more flowers and therefore more cucumbers. Don’t let them get to big they are better when they are small. They will suck up a lot of water when it rains so keep an eye on them.

You will need to tie them up to start with but after a while they develop little tendrils that use to hang on. Once they start to flower give them a feed with a multi purpose fertilizer and then feed them ever 5 weeks or so.

If you get flowers but no fruit it may be too cold or you may  have a shortage of bees. PlantCucumber_Flower some blue flowers near by to attract bees of you can hand pollinate by transferring pollen between flowers with a paint brush.

Help I have too many cucumbers

Sometimes a bumper crop can be just as bad as no fruit at all. Cucumbers are really perishable so don’t last very long once you pick them, they start to lose their moisture and go all wrinkly and pretty yuck. Lots of people pickle them – I’m not a fan. They will last a few days in the crisper section of the fridge but I’ve discovered that if you completely wrap them in cling film and put them in the crisper they will last really well.

Problems with Cucumbers

The biggest problem I have is powdery mildew which is a white powdery fungus that totally covers the plant in just a couple of days, it seems to dry the leaves out and then the plant stops producing and becomes unhealthy. – it’s at it worst when the weather is humid. Lady

Spotted cucumber beetle

Spotted cucumber beetle

beetles seem to help but just when you think everything is fine it’s everywhere. You can spray with a systemic fungicide, dusting with sulfur should also help. You can also use milk. Mix up a solution of 1 part milk to 10 parts water and spray it on your cucumber plant and anything else that gets powdery mildew is an effective treatment. Use full cream milk and don’t be tempted to make it stronger as it can cause problems like sooty mold. You need to do this regularly about every seven to 10 days when it’s hot. Make sure you get a good even coverage over all of the leaves. I have to admit I tend to just rip it out and start a new plant off as I have usually had heaps of cucumber by then and will generally be needing a break anyway.

Another problem that people get with cucumbers is cucumber beetle – (they can be spotted or striped) luckily I have been spared this so far. A remedy I read is to collect as many as you can of the little suckers and squash them (you’ll feel better already) then mix them up with a couple of cups of water and spray it on the effected plants the beetles it seems don’t like the smell and stay away.

Varieties

There are generally three types

Apple cucumbers which a round and have lime green to

sweet success is a popular variety

sweet success is a popular variety

creamy white skin they take about 10-12 weeks to produce fruit.

Green (sometimes called supermarket) which are long and dark green they are a bit less prone to powdery mildew problems.

Lebanese – pick these when small, less than 6 inches, they are sweet and burpless. Your local plant supplier will have ones that grow well in your area.

6 comments

  • What a wonderful website, with great content. My friend Tom, has been after to me to start growing my own vegetables. Insisting that even with only a fire escape as an outdoor space, I can do it. I’m not even sure it’s legal.
    I would beyond any doubt be growing my own, if I had as little as four square feet of outdoor space and some Sun.

    • Hi Phil Thanks for the lovely comment. Your friend Tom is right you can grow stuff anywhere. Even if you just grow one flowering plant you can almost bring the sunshine inside when it starts to flower. I really can’t imagine my life without things growing near me.

  • Vicki

    Thank you for this wonderfully written piece on all the Cuke issues and your natural resolutions, I love the milk/H2O mix for mildew!

    I had an issue with Japanese beetles last year on my raspberries, all my reading has led me to buying some Heterorhabditis bacteriophora Nematodes, about 10 million it said for around $30 .

    That would handle up to 3,200 square feet which is way more than enough, does that make good sense Vicki?
    Thanks in advance,

    Gary

    • Hi Gary I have to admit I haven’t got any experience with using bugs to control pests but it seems like a reasonable idea. I know I plant marigolds to ward off nematodes but it seems there are two types neneficial and non beneificial. I just always think about things that are introduced like the cane toad in Queensland Australia to control bugs on cane plantations – no they are in plague proportions. all I have heard and read about using bugs seems to make practical sense I’d probably give it a go 10 million sounds like a lot though. What will they eat when all the japanese beetle have gone?

  • Hi! Love your site! Very informative and easy to read articles. After reading this one about growing cucumbers I think I will investigate further how I can try this at home too. Sounds awesome to grow my own vegetables. I recon my kids would love to help out with both the gardening and the eating too. 🙂

    Keep up the good work.
    Regards, Andreas

    • Hi Andreas growing vegies can really give kids a buzz. They are usually quick growing so most days there is something to get a bit excited about. Something is usually happening – even is a bug munching a leaf kids can find that fascinating.

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