I love growing my own cucumbers. Cucumbers are a perfect addition to any salad, or simply eaten all by themselves. My favorite cucumber dish actually comes from my dad, and I must admit, I have no idea where he got it or where the “recipe” is derived from. You simply slice up a cucumber, and mix in some vinegar and mayo. There really is no recipe for it, as I mix the the vinegar and mayo together in portions until it gets to a flavor that I like. But enough about eating cucumbers, lets talk about how you can grow cucumbers.
Cucumbers can be grown as bush or indeterminates (vining). Bush cucumber varieties are nice because they are “controllable”, grow well in small raised beds or containers, and are very good producers. Indeterminate cucumber varieties are those that grow on a vine. You can still “control” where these cucumber varieties grow with the use of a trellis or some other structure that the cucumber vines’ tendrils can grab on to, and they are prolific producers. I grew straight 8’s one year and produced nearly 250 pounds of cucumbers from about a half dozen plants. Your results may vary of course.
I grow my cucumbers directly from cucumber seeds. I don’t feel that getting established plants are necessary as my growing season is plenty long for me and cucumbers are very easy to grow from seeds. I like to start my cucumber seeds indoors about 2 weeks prior to the final frost in my area. Once the fear of frost has subsided, I will move my cucumber plants to their final growing place in my garden that receives a full day’s worth of sun and where I have conditioned my soil with plenty of vermicompost that I harvest from my worm tower.
I like to grow indeterminate cucumbers and use a homemade trellis. This allows me to grow far more cucumbers in less space as I grow them vertically where my space is literally, “sky is the limit.”
Cucumbers are heavy feeders, so even though I have conditioned my soil with quality compost, I still need to constantly feed them throughout the season. Use a good organic fertilizer such as manure tea or fish emulsion every two weeks for best results.
When planting your cucumbers, if you are growing indeterminates up a trellis, space out your plants every 12 to 16 inches. If you are not using a trellis, you will need a good 3 feet. Then again if you are not using a trellis, go with the bush varieties. You can save on space that way as they get by on as little as 12 inches of space. That would be 1 square per plant if you are a square foot gardener.
Give your cucumber plants a nice steady and even dose of water throughout the season, and as mentioned before, cucumbers will produce best in a full day’s worth of sun.
Cucumbers are ready to harvest when they are at a size that meet the needs for which they are being produced. For example, if you are going to following a gherkin pickle recipe, you will want to harvest your cucumbers when they are very small. Most of the time you will pick your cucumbers when they are 10 to 12 inches in length. Any larger than that and they will be too “seedy”. Of course if you are looking to save the seeds to grow the same variety the following season, you will want to simply let the cucumber continue to grow to produce the seeds.
As a side note, avoid rotating with other cucumber family members.