We love fresh home grown cucumbers and what garden would be complete without them?! Cucumbers are great for eating right off the vine! I love to eat them as a snack with Ranch dressing as a dip! They also make a wonderful addition to salads. My next favorite way of using cucumbers is pickling them! We love Bread and Butter pickles and can quite a few of them! We also can dill and sweet pickles from our cucumber harvest. We do everything from slices to spears. The dill spears are especially good pickled with a few jalapenos to add a little spice to them!
Cucumbers are a prolific grower! A plant or two can keep you in fresh cucumbers all summer long unless of course you want more to pickle like we do! Keep this in mine when choosing how many plants you may like.
Home Grown Cucumbers: Tips for Growing and Planting
Types of Cucumbers:
Cucumbers can be separated into two different types, with several varieties of each kind. Personally, I haven’t found a variety I don’t like!
Slicing cucumbers: These cucumbers usually grow to be about 6-8 inches long and have a smooth, thick skin. They are most commonly used to slice and eat fresh or in salads.
Pickling cucumbers: This type of cucumber is only about 3-5 inches long when fully mature. Pickling cucumbers are just what their name implies. They are used for canning various types of pickles. They have a thin warty skin, with fewer seeds. The thin skin aids in helping the brine sink in when they are canned.
Vining vs Bush or Compact Cucumbers
If you have plenty of space, vining cucumbers can be grown and left to sprawl on the ground. They can also be trained to grow on a trellis or support of some kind. We use both methods in our home garden. From our experience, the cucumbers on the supports and trellises fare far better than the ones left to sprawl on the ground. The cucumbers grown on the trellis are easy to pick, produce longer and produce more fruit. They benefit from more sunlight and air circulation.
There are also several ‘bush’ or ‘compact’ varieties of cucumbers available. This type of cucumber works well when you have limited space and will work well in containers.
Starting, and planting, your Home Grown Cucumbers
Cucumbers can be started indoors and then transplanted outside, but we’ve rarely found the need for this. Cucumbers are quick sprouters and grow rapidly. Actually, direct planting is the, and our, preferred method for the strongest plants. Plant after all danger of frost has past. Cucumbers like warm and humid weather and lots of sunlight.
To plant your cucumbers, make sure you have fertile soil and good drainage. We till in a good helping of compost before planting. We also lay down a dark plastic mulch, or covering, over the soil around the cucumber plants. Once they start growing it is almost impossible to weed and the mulch will keep the weeds away. Plus, dark mulch, or plastic, will help to warm the soil and hold moisture in the hotter months.
We plant our cucumbers in hills 18-36 inches apart, but they can also be planted in rows. Keep in mine if they are of the vine type, they will require a lot of room. Bush varieties can be planted closer together. Plant 5 or 6 seeds per hill about 1 inch deep. Once the seedlings sprout and develop a third leaf, thin to the three strongest plants. Once cucumber plants start to blossom and fruit starts forming, they will benefit from a side dressing of compost or other organic fertilizer.
Tip: Don’t pull the seedlings out in the thinning process! This can disrupt the roots of the others! Instead, using a pair of scissors, simply snip the unwanted ones off at soil level.
Cucumbers really don’t need a lot in the way of care, other than water. You will need to give your cucumbers a steady moisture supply. Drip irrigation systems are wonderful for this. Not all of us can be so lucky and if this isn’t possible, then you will need to provide a deep watering of at least one inch of water once a week. Try to avoid shallow frequent waterings, as this will reduce overall yields. Periods of drought, and uneven watering, will also cause your cucumbers to be bitter! If you’ve ever tasted a bitter cucumber you know you don’t want this!
Pick your cucumbers when they are young and tender. This is when they taste the best. Slicing cucumber varieties will be about 6-8 inches long, while pickling types will be 3-5 inches long when ready to eat. Keep the cucumbers picked and don’t allow them to become overripe! This will signal to the plant that it is time to shut down because it has set seed. Keeping the cucumbers picked often will encourage more fruit to produce. For the best flavor, pick cucumbers from the garden early in the morning before the sun of the day hits them.
Storing Fresh Home Grown Cucumbers:
If you are like us and end up with an over abundance of cucumbers coming off at the same time, they can be safely stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Tip: A little trick that seems to help is rinsing the cucumbers in cold water. Blot dry and place in a plastic grocery bag. Store them in the refrigerator. We have found this to help extend the storage time for them.
One last thing! You don’t have to have a garden to enjoy fresh home grown cucumbers! You can plant one of the compact or bush varieties in a container. Or, you can think outside of the box and plant a cucumber plant or two in a flower bed! Use a compact variety, or provide a trellis for a vining variety, which will add a vertical feature to the flower garden. Cucumbers have bright yellow blooms that will brighten the flower bed and the fruit will add interest during the summer months. With flowers and edible fruit, it’s like having the best of both worlds!