Behind tomatoes and peppers, cucumbers are one of the most popular plants in home gardens. Their quick-growing nature and a bountiful harvest make them well loved and highly favored by gardeners. With so many varieties to choose from, you're sure to find a few that suit your taste and needs.
Follow these six great tips for growing cucumbers to be rewarded with an abundance of cukes come harvest time.
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. This organic matter will add nutrition and make the soil lighter and looser, encouraging good root growth. After the vines begin to flower, topdress the plants with more compost, aged manure or a high-quality fertilizer.
2. Mulch around the base of the plants
Mulching is one of the best things you can do for your garden, regardless of what you're growing. Adding 2 to 4 inches of mulch helps prevent weeds, retain soil moisture, and regulate soil temperature. It also keeps the cucumbers from coming directly into contact with the soil. Homestead and Gardens breaks down the various types of mulch and their applications.
3. Keep soil consistently wet
Water your plants consistently 1 inch per week (more if you are in a hot, dry climate). Strive to keep the soil in the root zone moist, but not saturated, at all times. If possible, use a soaker hose or drip irrigation to keep moisture off the foliage.
4. Trellis the vines
Trellises help use garden space efficiently, make picking fruit easy, and allow air circulation through the vines. Get Busy Gardening has instructions for building your own arched trellis for cucumbers.
5. Avoid the heat
Like many other food-bearing plants, cucumbers like the warmth of summer — but not temps consistently over 90 degrees. High temps affect fruit quality and can inhibit fruit set, because heat produces a disproportionate amount of male flowers. If you are in an area with high temps, add shade cloth to block sunlight and keep plants cooler.
6. Harvest fruit quickly
Keep a close eye on cucumbers developing on the vines; they grow quickly. When they reach the appropriate size for their variety, harvest them as soon as possible. This keeps the fruit from becoming bitter and encourages the plant to continue producing.