How to Grow Cucumbers in a Backyard Garden

How to Grow Cucumbers

Whether you're growing them to make pickles or to slice fresh into salads, cucumbers are a must-grow in the warm season garden. Nothing beats a crisp, fresh cucumber with a little salt and pepper on a warm summer day! Below we'll provide some helpful tips to ensure a bountiful harvest of cucumbers in your backyard garden.

Cucumber Plants or Seed?

While you will often find cucumber plants for sale at your local nursery or big box store, we've found that it's much better to direct seed them into your garden. Cucumber transplants can have a decent amount of "transplant shock" and don't always survive the transition. Many of the commercial cucumber farmers transplant them, but we've found it's much easier for the backyard gardener to plant seeds in the ground.

Planting Cucumber Seeds

Choosing a Cucumber Variety

Cucumbers come in many different shapes and sizes. Pickling cucumbers are generally short, stocky and ideal for making pickles. Slicing cucumbers are longer and generally used for slicing and eating raw in salads. Slicing cucumbers can also be used for making pickles, but most gardeners prefer the smaller cucumbers for pickles.

You'll also find some specialty cucumbers like the "Lemon Cucumber." This heirloom variety is light yellow and round. If you've never tried these, they are really neat and very tasty!

Except for "parthenocarpic" types which don't need pollination to produce fruit, all other cucumber varieties will require pollination of the female flower to produce fruits. The female flower is easily identified because it is much larger than the male flower and has a tiny cucumber at the base of it.

But don't worry, you don't need to do this pollination yourself. The bees will do it for you! And if you live in an area with limited bee activity, you can also choose a parthenocarpic variety that doesn't require pollination.

Cucumber Seedling in Fertile Garden Soil

Planting Cucumbers

Cucumber seeds should be planted in the spring once the risk of frost has passed in your area. If you live in a climate with hot and humid summers, planting as early  as possible will be an advantage. Once temperatures get into the 90s and humidity peaks, cucumbers can be susceptible to a wide range of plant diseases. These diseases, which include powdery and downy mildew, can reduce production and inevitably cripple the plants.

Before planting cucumber seeds, add a 1-2 cups of Coop Gro per 10' of planting area and lightly mix into the soil. Plant cucumber seeds 1/2" deep in a well-drained spot in your backyard garden.

Since cucumbers are typically grown vertically, they can be planted closer than something like squash. Plant seeds 6-8" apart for best results. If you plant them too close, you'll eventually have an unruly jungle that's difficult to harvest.

Grow Them Vertically!

Cucumbers can be grown on the ground without any trellis, but the fruits will be a higher quality when grown vertically off the ground. There are a wide range of options for a viable cucumber trellis. Some gardeners prefer to use fence panels, while others opt for trellis netting like the commercial growers use.

Growing them vertically saves space in your backyard garden, allowing you to harvest more cucumbers from a given area. As the cucumber vines grow, you may  have to occasionally "train" them to the trellis to get them on the right track. But once they find the trellis, they're usually good to go!

Cucumbers Growing Vertically on Trellis

Keep Feeding Them!

As is the case with other flowering "vegetables" like tomatoes, peppers, and squash, cucumbers will benefit from frequent applications of Coop Gro. This will ensure the plants are strong, healthy, and continually flowering as temperatures warm into summer.

Every couple weeks, sprinkle more Coop Gro along the row at the base of the plants. Use your hand or a small garden hoe to lightly mix it into the first couple inches of soil, being careful not to damage the plants. If you're not getting rainfall on a consistent basis, water the soil where the fertilizer was applied.

Get Your Buckets Ready!

Once cucumbers start producing, they'll need picking every few days. If you don't pick them at the right size, they'll get too large and spongy. Smaller cucumbers will be more crisp and the best for making pickles. Pick them regularly and you'll be rewarded!

Ripe Pickling Cucumber in Garden
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