Cucumbers (Cucumis Sativus) are members of the Cucurbitaceae family along with melons and gourds. They have been cultivated for thousands of years and are a summertime favorite. Today, cucumbers are normally one of three types: slicing, pickling, or specialty.

Slicing cucumbers are generally long and cultivated to have thin, less bitter skin for eating. Burpless cucumbers are a variety of slicing cucumbers developed to have less of the chemical compound that generally causes gas.

Pickling cucumbers are usually shorter and firmer with drier flesh, perfect for soaking in brine.

Specialty cucumbers include heirloom varieties and cucumbers that require no pollination, usually grown in greenhouses.

Cucumbers are a warm weather plant. They should not be planted in the ground until the earth is in the 70 degree and up temperature range, weeks after the danger of frost has passed. They like rich, moist soil and lots of sun. Cucumbers grow on a vine and can take a considerable amount of space. Providing a trellis for the vines to grow onto will save space and help give your garden a neater appearance. Cucumbers planted to grow on trellises should be placed in the ground about 8-12” apart. If you are allowing them to grow horizontally, plant seedlings about 3’ apart.

Prior to blooming, you can use plant covers such as Veggie Mesh to protect the plants from pests and help them off to a good start.

Cucumbers need plenty of water, from 1-2” each week. Mulch will help with water retention. Try straw or even dry grass clippings (as long as your lawn hasn’t been treated with chemicals). Add mulch when your seedlings are about 3” tall, and leave room around the base of the plant for air circulation.

The majority of cucumbers grown in home vegetable gardens require pollination. Your plant will bloom twice. The first blooms are male and will eventually fall off. Within weeks of the male flowers appearance the female blooms will appear. These have a swelling at the bottom that will become a cucumber. If your plants bloom but no fruit appears then there may be a lack of pollinators in your area. The honeybee population has dwindled but other bees and pollinators are just as effective. Pesticides may be one cause of the loss of pollinators, so good garden management practices are important.

Cucumbers will grow quickly. You will be ready to harvest your first cucumbers about 50 days after planting. Checking your vines daily will ensure that you pick the cucumbers before they get too ripe and bitter. The more you pick cucumbers, the more the plant will produce. It is best to usepruning shears to remove the fruit, as breaking them off could damage the vine. If you find that the leaves are yellowing, they may need more nitrogen. Algoflash Tomato formula is a good choice and helps with fruit production. For more information about pruning cucumbers, this video from Johnny’s Seeds is very informative.

Some cucumber varieties to try are:

  • Armenian Cucumbers – Light green, mild tasting. Best to harvest when 18” long.
  • Lemon Cucumber – Heirloom Variety. Round and yellow with thin skin and a mild, lemony taste.
  • Suyo Long Cucumber – Bitter-free, long, ribbed variety with sweet taste. Grows to 15” long. Likes heat.
  • For Pickling, try National Pickling and Boston Pickling varieties.