Behind tomatoes and peppers, cucumbers are one of the most popular plants that are put in home gardens. Their quick growing nature, coupled with a bountiful harvest make them well loved and highly favored by gardeners.
With many varieties to choose from, related to the end use of the fruit, you're sure to find the variety best suited for your taste and needs. If you follow these 6 great tips for growing cucumbers you're sure to be rewarded with a plethora of cukes come time for harvest!
1. Start with loose, nutrient-rich soil
Cucumbers are heavy feeders and require plenty of nutrients because of their fast, prolific growth. Before planting mix decomposed manure or finished compost into the top few inches of soil to add organic matter. This will add nutrition for the plants but will also make the soil lighter and looser, encouraging good root growth. After the vines begin to flower topdress plants with more compost, aged manure, or a high-quality fertilizer.
2. Mulch around plants
Mulching around the base of your garden plants is one of the best things you can do for your garden, regardless of the types of plants you're growing. Adding 2-4" of mulch to help prevent weeds, to retain soil moisture, and to help regular soil temperature. It also keeps the cucumbers from coming directly in contact with the soil. Homestead and Gardens has a great breakdown of the different types of mulches, and what is best suited for different applications.
3. Keep soil consistently wet
Not only do cukes need a lot of water for growth (aim to water your plants 1" of water a week, more if you are in a really hot, dry environment), they need consistent water as well. Strive to keep the soil in the root zone moist -- but not saturated -- at all times. If possible apply water by using a soaker hose or drip irrigation to keep moisture off the foliage.
4. Trellis the vines
Installing trellises in the garden for your cucumbers is great in that it uses space more efficiently, but it also makes picking fruit easier, and it allows for increased air circulation through the vines. Get Busy Gardening has awesome instructions on how to build your own arched trellis for cucumbers.
5. Avoid the heat
Like many other food-bearing plants, cucumbers like the warmth of summer. But they're not a fan of temps consistently over 90 degrees. High temps will affect the fruit quality and can inhibit fruit set as the heat will produce a disproportionate amount of male flowers compared to female. If you are in an area with high temps you can add shade cloth to block sunlight and keep plants cooler.
6. Harvest fruit quickly
When you start to see cucumbers developing on the vines, keep a close eye on them. They will grow quickly. When they reach the appropriate size for the variety planted, harvest them as soon as possible. This will keep the fruit from becoming bitter and will encourage the plant to continue producing more.