Find a sunny location to plant your cucumbers. Cucumbers are a tropical vegetable, and they crave a lot of direct sunlight. choose a spot where they won’t be too shaded from the afternoon sun. Cucumbers grow roots 36 to 48 inches deep, so don’t plant them near trees. Tree roots will compete with your cucumber plants for water and nutrition.
The size of your garden space will dictate how many plants you can have. You’ll want to space vining plants 36 to 60 inches apart. If you’re growing them vertically, allow 12 inches between trellises.
Cucumbers should be grown in a weed-free area. Weeds will drain nutrients and water from the soil, starving your cucumbers.
Cucumbers thrive in soil with a neutral to slightly alkaline pH. About 7.0 is perfect.
Use rich compost or aged manures to increase your soil fertility. Mix them into the soil to a depth of about 2 inches, then gently cut and work them into the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches.
Vine plants are far more common than bush plants. However, if you have limited space, a bush plant may be easier for you to work with. Bush cucumbers can be planted in containers.
Being tropical plants, cucumbers are exceedingly sensitive to cold temperatures. Wait until at least 2 weeks after the date of the last frost to plant your cucumbers. If you want an early crop, start your seeds indoors about 3 weeks before you plan to plant, then transplant the seedlings to your garden. In cooler climates, you can warm the soil a few degrees by covering it with black plastic.
Moisten the soil before seeding. Stick your finger in the soil to check its moisture level before planting. If you feel dry soil up to your first knuckle, water the soil before seeding using a gentle hose or watering can. Watering the soil before you plant your seeds reduces the risk that you could wash them away.
Cucumbers have fragile root systems. It’s much easier to seed the garden directly rather than trying to transplant seedlings. Drop 3 or 4 seeds together, planting at a depth of just under an inch, in a group every 18 to 36 inches. When the first true leaves appear, thin to the strongest single plant.
Add mulch once seedlings sprout up. Mulch helps prevent the return of weeds, which can deprive your cucumbers of nutrients. It also keeps the soil warm and moist.
The soil surrounding cucumber plants should be slightly moist at all times. Plan on giving your cucumbers at least 1 to 2 inches of water a week to fulfill their hydration needs.
Be especially vigilant as the plant flowers and begins to fruit. Stress from lack of water can result in bitter-tasting cucumbers. Water at the soil level. Wet leaves are at risk of developing powdery mildew. A drip irrigation system can regulate the water flow more constantly, while keeping the foliage dry.
Shade your cucumbers from excess heat. If you live in an area where summer temperatures routinely climb above 90 °F, your cucumbers will likely need some shade from the afternoon sun. Plant taller crops south of your cucumbers to provide some shade, or use a shade cloth that will block at least 40 percent of the sunlight.
Fertilize again once flowers begin to bud. If you fertilized your soil before seeding, wait until runners appear on the vines and the flowers begin to bud, then add a mild liquid fertilizer or organic feed such as compost or aged manure every 2 weeks.
Pick cucumbers often, at the optimal size for the variety you planted. Generally speaking, the more frequently you pick cucumbers, the more cucumbers the plant will grow. Check your plants every day and pick the cucumbers that are around optimal size for their variety.
Cucumber, Cucumis sativus
Pollination, insect; Life Cycle, annual; Isolation Distance, ½ mile
Cucumbers will cross readily with other cucumbers of the same species, so isolation by distance, time, or barrier is necessary. Let the fruits over-ripen on the vine, they will get huge and turn yellow. Leaving on until the vines are dying is a good way to get very mature seed. Pull the cukes and bring them inside to allow to ripen further in a dry, dark place. When the cucumbers begin to soften, scoop out the seeds and put into a jar filled with an equal amount of water to seed mass. Let the seeds ferment for about 3 days, then pour off the scum and any floating seeds that will not be viable. Rinse the remaining seeds in a colander, then allow to dry on screens or several sheets of newspaper for at least three weeks.
Based in Asheville, NC, Sow True Seed has a small, dedicated staff of dirt worshippers committed to providing high quality, open-pollinated seeds in support of sustainable food production and regenerative agriculture. Founded in 2008 by lifelong gardener and food activist Carol Koury, Sow True Seed was created to preserve our shared botanical heritage and grow a new era of ecological wisdom.
Sow True Seed supports independent, regional agricultural initiatives that foster a vibrant, sustainable economy, and true food sovereignty. They are committed to growing our awareness and actions to honor the heritage of their seeds, the diverse people and places that have contributed to our collective abundance.
Based in the glorious mountains of Western North Carolina – home to a temperate rainforest and one of the most biologically diverse areas of North America – Sow True prides themselves on working with farmers in the region who ensure the survival of heirloom varieties that would otherwise become extinct.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires that seed germination rates be tested at least once a year. A “sell by date” is also required on seed packets and cannot date more than a year from the last passing germination test. Sow True Seed tests the germination rates of all seed varieties twice a year via the North Carolina Department of Agriculture to ensure passing germination rates. The sell by date is not a “use by” date; most seed varieties, stored properly, can last up to three years. Sow True Seed stores all seed varieties in a climate controlled facility that averages 50° F and 50% humidity, which are ideal seed storing conditions. For the home gardener the best way to store seeds is in the refrigerator, in a zip top bag or Mason jar, with silica packets to absorb any moisture. We do not recommend storing seeds in the freezer.
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