Before you plant this crisp, refreshing vegetable, consider how much space you can devote to growing cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) at home. The regular slicing varieties require about 15 square feet per plant. However, they can still be raised in smaller gardens by training vines onto a vertical trellis or wire fence. Cucumber plants may also be grown in containers and are very prolific.
Cucumbers are loaded with vitamin C and include many B vitamins. They also provide essential minerals like phosphorous, potassium, zinc, iron and magnesium.
Cucumbers require a planting site in full sun and even soil moisture. Mulch around plants to prevent soil from drying out between waterings. A straw mulch works best and will help keep them up and off the ground. Allow plenty of room for each plant, making sure that the soil is rich in organic matter and well drained.
How to Plant
Cucumbers need warm soil and do not tolerate frost. Wait for warm spring days and soil temperatures above 60˚F, usually about 2-3 weeks after the last frost date. It’s a good idea to start seeds indoors about 3 weeks before you plan to put them in the garden.
Keep trellised plants 15-25cm apart. When planted in hills and allowed to run, grow three plants to a 2-foot-wide hill with the hills spaced 6 feet apart. Apply an organic vegetable fertilizer in early spring, then provide supplemental light feedings (side-dressings or foliar spray) monthly throughout the gardening season.
Harvesting and Storage
Pick fruits as soon as they reach the size that you want, and pick carefully and often because cucumbers are difficult to spot among the leafy foliage. Keep a constant vigil so that they don’t become woody and tough. Harvest should occur 55 to 70 days after planting.
For best results storing cucumbers, wrap each one in dry paper towels, then place them all inside a plastic bag. Stick the entire batch (bag and all) in the produce drawer of your refrigerator. Voila!
Small fruits — 10-12cm — are great for pickling and will extend the harvest for months to come. Remember, your pickles will only be as good as the “cukes” you use — fresh and firm is best!
Insect & Disease Problems
Use row covers to get plants off to an early start and to protect them from insect pests. Plant coreopsis as a companion plant to attract cucumber beetles away from your crop. If the leaves turn brown and eventually shrivel and die, suspect anthracnose. This persistent fungal disease attacks all parts of the plant above ground.
Seed Saving Instructions
Cucumbers will cross-pollinate so isolate 1/4 mile from similar plants. Fruits for seed should ripen past edible stage and begin to soften and turn yellow. Cut lengthwise, scoop out seeds, wash, clean and dry. Seeds are dry when they break instead of bending.