One of the joys of the summer garden is slicing up a cucumber straight off the vine and savoring that first crisp, cool bite. Well, it’s a joy when the cucumber tastes the way it should, with that sweet, refreshing flavor that alludes to a clear mountain spring. But sometimes, for no apparent reason, one will taste bitter.

How does that happen, and more importantly, what can you do about it? If you follow these tips to minimize a cucumber’s greatest enemy — stress — you’ll prevent bitterness, as well as most of the other problems that may have marred your cuke harvest in the past, such as pests and diseases.

Plants that are stressed are more likely to become bitter, but the degree of bitterness depends on the severity of the stress. Stress in a plant is most often caused by insufficient and uneven moisture, but temperature extremes and poor nutrition can also play a part. Minimize stress and maximize flavor by following these seven steps.

1. Keep Your Cucumbers Hydrated

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Provide plants with plenty of moisture, especially around the time the plant is flowering and fruiting. Any water stress during this period of rapid growth causes the levels of bitter-tasting compounds to rise. Cucumbers are vigorous growers and therefore need between 1 and 2 inches of water per week, depending on the weather and the characteristics of your soil. The key is to keep the soil slightly moist at all times. Water deeply about once or twice a week — and more often if you’re gardening in sandy soil.

2. Add Mulch to Your Cucumber Bed

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You can further reduce water stress by mulching plants. Mulch helps to conserve and moderate moisture levels while blocking out weeds. Wait until summer or after the soil has warmed above 70 degrees before applying organic mulches such as straw.

3. Regulate the Temperature

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Cucumbers like warm conditions, but growing cool and tasty cukes in the heat can sometimes be a challenge. In fact, high temperatures not only affect fruit quality, but they can also affect fruit set by causing the plant to produce a higher ratio of male flowers.

“Cucumbers are really sensitive to high heat,” says horticulturist Emily Gatch, greenhouse and pathology coordinator with New Mexico-based Seeds of Change. “It can be really hard on plants if temperatures are consistently in the mid-90s.” If you’re growing cucumbers in a hot climate, Gatch recommends providing plants with filtered afternoon shade to help cool things down, either by strategically planting taller crops at the southern end or by adding a shade cloth to block 40 to 50% of the sunlight.

4. Give Them Sunlight and Good Soil

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For the best-tasting fruit and optimum yields, grow plants in a sunny spot and in warm, fertile, and well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Raised beds are ideal. Cucumbers require a soil pH between 6 and 7. Wait to sow seeds or set out transplants until after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed to at least 60 degrees. An unexpected frost will kill plants, and the vines grow slowly and become stressed in cool conditions. You can start seeds indoors three to four weeks before your anticipated planting date outdoors. Be careful not to disturb roots when transplanting.

5. Fertilize Your Cucumber Plants

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Cucumbers thrive in light, friable soil. Several inches of organic matter worked into the soil prior to planting helps achieve that goal. Plants are heavy feeders, so be sure to feed the soil with rich compost or aged manure. After the vines develop runners and the first flowers appear, follow up with a side dressing of compost, aged manure, or fertilizer.

If the leaves are yellowish, the plants need more nitrogen. Make room. Giving plants the space they require is just one more ticket to a stress-free environment. Grow trellised plants 8 to 12 inches apart. Hills with one or two seedlings should be spaced about 3 feet apart, with rows 4 to 5 feet apart. Space bush varieties 3 feet apart in all directions.

6. Reduce the Weeds

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Keep your cucumber patch and the area around it free of weeds. Some types are hosts for bacterial wilt disease, which is spread by cucumber beetles. Intense feeding by these beetles can kill a plant, and they’re especially attracted to stressed plants — all the more reason to keep yours healthy and happy.

7. Use Row Covers

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Row covers, hotcaps (or plastic milk cartons with the caps removed), and plastic tunnels are great for getting plants off to an early start. And row covers not only help plants grow faster and flower sooner, they also protect plants from pests. Just be sure to remove any covering once plants start to flower.

Harvesting Your Cucumbers

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Depending on the variety, cucumbers are ready for harvest 50 to 70 days after planting. You can expect longer harvests of top-quality cukes on productive plants if you pick the fruits frequently and before they get too large.

The size at which you harvest depends on the variety grown. For optimum taste and texture, American slicers are generally best when harvested at 6 to 8 inches long; Middle Eastern types such as Amira should be picked at 4 to 6 inches; most picklers at 3 to 5 inches; and Asian varieties at 8 to 12 inches.

To harvest, simply grasp the fruit and cut the stem with a pruning shears a quarter-inch above it.

If Your Cucumbers Taste Bitter

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Most cucumber plants contain compounds known as cucurbitacins (pronounced kyew-ker-bit-a-sins) that cause fruit to taste bitter. At low levels, you aren’t likely to detect them. But high levels of cucurbitacins produce extremely bitter fruit — so bitter that eating it would cause a riot in your stomach. Cucurbitacin levels increase when a plant is under stress. The concentration of these compounds varies from plant to plant, fruit to fruit, and even within the individual fruit itself. The ability to taste cucurbitacins also varies from person to person.

If the first slice tastes bitter, there’s no need to panic. “Bitterness concentrates in the stem end and skin and doesn’t penetrate the entire fruit,” says horticulturist Tracy K. Lee of W. Atlee Burpee & Co., in Warminster, Pennsylvania. “Simply peel the fruit and cut off the stem end by about an inch or two to reduce the bitterness.”

Our Favorite Varieties

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The good news: You can prevent bitterness altogether by selecting select bitter-free types that contain a certain gene that prevents cucurbitacins from forming. These long, very slender, seedless specimens are typically sold shrink-wrapped with plastic to protect their thin skins.

You might also see varieties marked as “burp-less.” What makes a cucumber “burp-less” is open to debate, but it typically contains fewer cucurbitacins. However, without that certain gene they can still produce more if growing conditions become unfavorable.

If you’re used to classic cucumber flavor, a regular slicer may be more to your liking. Try some of our favorite picks in your garden:

Holland Hothouse (64 days from planting to maturity): A Dutch greenhouse type that can be grown outdoors; these bitter-free and burp-less cukes have a cool and sweet taste. For straight fruits, trellis the vines.

Marketmore 97 (55 days): Developed at Cornell University, it’s a truly bitter-free slicer and very disease-resistant to boot.

Tyria (56 days): Another Dutch greenhouse type, producing lightly ribbed, dark green fruits up to 14 inches long. Harvest between 10 and 12 inches long for best flavor.

Amira (55 days): Middle Eastern type; sweeter flavor than most with a crunchy texture; thin-skinned fruits best harvested at 4 to 5 inches.

Cool Breeze (45 days): A French cornichon type (small cucumbers meant for pickling); smooth skins; sweet and crunchy flesh with great flavor; harvested when 4 to 5 inches long; sets fruit without pollination.

Diva (55 days): Smooth, thin, no-peel skin; distinctly tender, crisp, and delicately sweet; best picked at 4 to 5 inches.

Orient Express (64 days): Flavorful, Eastern type with thin-skinned, dark green fruits; vines very tolerant to disease.

Sweet Marketmore (62 days): Disease-resistant vines produce consistently in hot or cool weather; great flavor without the burp.

Tasty Green (65 days): Very tasty with sweet and juicy dark green, slender fruits; can be grown inside or out.

Armenian (60 days): This cucumber relative is also known as snake melon and does well in hot weather. Long, slender light green fruits are spineless and almost always curved, unless grown on a trellis and harvested when 12 inches long. The fruit is somewhat sweet, with a mild, slightly citrusy flavor.

Socrates (52 days): Does well in cooler conditions; can be grown indoors in locations that stay between 50 to 82 degrees; dark green, thin-skinned fruit are sweet, tender, and seedless.

Quick Guide to Growing Cucumbers

  • Plant cucumbers when average daily temperatures reach the mid-70s° F.
  • Space cucumbers 36 to 60 inches apart (12 inches apart for trellised plants) in an area with abundant sun and fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8.
  • Improve native soil by mixing in several inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter.
  • Cucumbers will grow quickly with little care. Be sure they receive an inch of water every week.
  • Make the most of your food growing efforts by regularly feeding plants with a water-soluble plant food.
  • When soil is warm, add a layer of straw mulch to keep fruit clean and help keep slugs and beetles away.
  • Harvest cucumbers when they are big enough to eat.

Soil, Planting, and Care

Cucumbers need warm, fertile soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8, although they will tolerate a bit more alkaline soil to 7.6. To improve the soil and help create the root environment needed for a big harvest, work several inches of aged compost-enriched Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose In-Ground Soil into the top few inches of your existing garden soil. (Compost or composted manure will work, too.) Plant seedlings 36 to 60 inches apart, depending on variety (check the stick tag). For vines trained on a trellis, space plants 1 foot apart.

In areas where spring is long and cool, you can warm the soil 3 to 4 degrees by covering the hill or row with black plastic.If you do not plant in black plastic, then mulch with pine straw, wheat straw, chopped leaves, or your favorite organic mulch shortly after planting. If the weather is unseasonably cool, you can wait a while to mulch until the ground is warmed by the sun. Mulch is especially important to keep the fruit clean for bush types and vines not growing on a trellis. Straw mulch is also thought to be uncomfortable for slugs and creates an uneasy footing for cucumber beetles, helping to keep them at bay.

If you can, trellis your vines. This keeps the fruit clean and saves space. A 12- to 18-inch diameter cage made from 4- or 5-foot welded wire fencing or hog wire will support 2 or 3 vines. Wire is easy for the tendrils of climbing cucumbers to grab as the plant grows.

Cucumbers grow fast and don’t demand a lot of care. Just keep the soil consistently moist with an inch of water per week (more if temperatures sizzle and rain is scarce). Inadequate or inconsistent moisture causes oddly shaped or poor-tasting fruit. If possible, water your cucumbers with a soaker hose or drip irrigation to keep the foliage dry. This helps prevent leaf diseases that can ruin the plant.

For best results, high quality plant food is just as important as starting with great soil. You can fertilize with a water-soluble food, such as Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Plant Nutrition, applying it directly to soil around plant stems. Or, you can use a continuous-release fertilizer, like Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Plant Nutrition Granules, worked into the soil. Both plant foods feed both your plants and the beneficial microbes in the soil that help them thrive. Either way, be sure to follow label directions.

Ever had a grocery store cucumber that kind of tasted like cardboard? For a long time, I thought I disliked the bland flavor of cucumbers. They were just kind of boring, and I couldn’t really find anything exciting about them. When reading about Middle Eastern food culture, I found that cucumbers play a huge role in their cuisine. Most main courses were accompanied with a cucumber salad. I began to wonder, what was I missing about this crunchy vegetable? Here’s everything you need to know when it comes to how to grow cucumbers.

As it turns out, a fresh cucumber couldn’t taste more different from one that has traveled thousands of miles to sit on the grocery shelf. Growing cucumbers will not only produce the freshest, most flavorful cucumbers you can imagine, but they can be very lucrative, too.

Within two months, you’ll have more cucumbers than you know what to do with! They grow well in container garden settings or in raised beds.

So find a place with maximum sunshine and fertile soil, and get ready to grow the best cucumber plants with these tips.

1. Choose Your Variety

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Got the #veggie #garden planted the other day! Already had issues with critters eating my plants after 2 days! Got some of it taken care of…but we shall see how it goes. Hoping to get some good pickings this year! I have #tomato #pepper #cucumber #carrot #brusselsprouts and #groundcherry planted! Wish me luck ✨

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Cucumber varieties can be broken into two distinct camps: pickling cucumbers and slicing cucumbers. Types of cucumber has its own different varieties, though fresh cucumbers are most often slicing cucumbers.

Pickling types seem to reach their peak faster and are usually bumpy and rough while slicing varieties are smoother and have a better fresh flavor.

2. Start your Cucumbers Indoors

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Saturday nights in the nursery #tomatos #indoorstarts #efficiency #growratio

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If you want to harvest early, start your plants indoors a month before the last spring frost date. Cucumber seeds indoors will sprout with proper care, so be sure to provide air circulation and soil moisture to your small gardens.

Once you’ve passed the frost date, you’re in the clear to move the plants outdoors for the best homegrown crop yet.

3. Harvest Often

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Just a little cucumber harvest. There are at least six more that aren’t ready yet 😍 #organicurbangardening #growyourgreens #organicgardening #raisedbeds #cucumber #allthepickles #urbangardening #cucumberharvest

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The more you harvest, the more fruit your healthy plants in your vegetable garden will produce. As most vine crops are wont to do, the cucumber vines will spread throughout the garden so be sure to either erect a trellis (see below) if your garden isn’t wide.

So if you want lots of cucumbers, harvest as often as possible to keep your plants happy.

4. Don’t Let Them Get Too Big

Try to pick your cucumbers when they are of mature size. For slicing cucumber varieties, a mature fruit is around 6 to 8 inches. Pickling cucumbers mature fully around 3 to 4 inches.

Pickling styles are smaller fruits, which often can be helpful when using large mason jars that can hold multiple compact varieties at once. If the cucumbers get too large, they can get bitter-tasting or mushy and will turn yellow, no matter the bush varieties.

5. Keep Them Warm

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#sunset🌅 in the greenhouse. #mtl #lufafarms #urbanfarming #cucumberplant

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Cucumbers like warm weather and plenty of sunlight. Look for a spot that meets these conditions, and add compost to your soil to give them plenty of nutrients and get them off to a good start.

You can use organic fertilizer to encourage the transition from indoor cucumber plans to outside, though a warm soil temperature matters the most when the time comes to plant cucumbers.

6. Build a Trellis

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Cucumbers like to vine so you can trellis them to lift the fruit off of the soil, making your garden neat and pretty. If you have an old tomato cage around, you can use it or make your own trellis.

Lifting the vines off the ground promotes better airflow around the plant to prevent diseases like powdery mildew and bacterial wilt.

7. Avoid Bitter Cucumbers

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🍀 มะระปลอดสารพิษ #มะระ #ChinesseBitterGourd #BitterCucumber

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If your cucumber is bitter, it may be experiencing heat stress or uneven watering due to alternating periods of drought and overwatering.

You can cut out the section of the plant that is producing bitter cucumbers, move the plant to an area with more even temperature, or you can work hard to water evenly and regularly.

8. Consider Your Climate

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Cucumbers love the heat and humidity, and they need even watering to prevent them from becoming bitter.

Look at the seeds or starts and make sure they are well adapted to your climate. Most seed packets companies have resources to help you find your growing zone.

Fun Facts

1. If you thought you could only make gazpacho with tomatoes, think again! Cucumbers make a delicious and refreshing chilled soup in the summertime.

2. Russia has an official Cucumber Day to celebrate the vegetable! The town of Suzdal celebrates the first cultivation of the cucumber from 500 years ago. It takes place every year in July, culminating in a cucumber-eating contest.

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Cucumber festival, Suzdal #suzdal #cucumberfestival #слегкимпаром

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3. The viral sensation “cats afraid of cucumbers” created a hilarious number of videos where cat owners pranked their cat by placing a cucumber behind them while they ate. Apparently, cucumbers are a stealthy predator.

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@ftgtjhc @peaceminusone @xxxibgdrgn @__youngbae__ oppa DON’T TRY THIS TO YOUR CAT! #catscucumber © to catzebox

A post shared by 뇽토리•DOUBLE B•NAMSONG•TODAE (@vi.to_get_her.gd) on Jan 14, 2016 at 9:28am PST

4. Spas are well known for putting cucumbers over your eyes, but do you know why? As it turns out, cucumbers contain ascorbic and caffeic acid, which soothes skin irritations and reduces swelling.

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A little spa day R & R is just the fix you need! Book your next treatment today! www.BurkeWilliamsSpa.com 🌸 📷: @rosegoldkitty

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5. Cucumbers are high in vitamins B and electrolytes and have high water content. They are said to cure hangovers if you eat a few slices before going to bed.

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by Matt Gibson

There are two distinctly different kinds of cucumber: the vining style, and the bush style cucumber. The vining type of cucumber plant is perfect for vertical gardening, as these plants will grow upward naturally when they’re provided with a vertical support. Gardeners have a lot of options when it comes to providing support for plants like cucumbers that need it. You can go with a traditional style trellis, or you can create your own support method and let your creativity lead the way. You might decide to just plant your cucumbers next to a tomato cage or some garden netting, or you could even repurpose a rickety old ladder that had been collecting dust in your shed and turn it into a neat looking and super inventive support system for your vertical cucumber garden.

However you decide to get vertical in your garden, the benefits will be the same. First things first—you are going to save a ton of space in the garden. Traditional gardening can take up a lot of room, and managing and keeping up with a sprawling, spread-out garden that covers lots of ground can literally be a pain (as in a pain in the neck and the back).

Vertical gardening not only clears away the clutter, opening up lots of ground space for more plants, but you’ll find you’re able to harvest the fruits of your labor without stooping down low to do so. These vining cucumbers are not the only element of the garden that is easier to spot with vertical gardening. The extended vertical growth of this type of gardening also makes it easier to spot and destroy weeds as well as insects and pests.

Cucumber plants that are allowed to spread out across the ground can be more susceptible to damage from bugs and overexposure to water. Powdery mildew disease can become an issue quickly when soil conditions are moist and air conditions are humid, especially if your cucumber plants are planted close together. Raising the plants off the ground and going vertical with them both reduces moisture levels and increases the flow of air around your plants, creating an environment where fungus is less likely to appear—and one it cannot survive in permanently.

There are two different classifications of cucumber fruits: slicing cucumbers and pickling cucumbers. Slicing cucumbers are grown to be eaten fresh, are commonly found in supermarkets, and you’ll most often find them used in salads, on sandwiches, and to enliven other fresh, healthy fare. These pretty, dark-green vegetables are typically six to nine inches in length. The skin usually appears glossy when you buy these cucumbers in the store, as slicing cucumbers are often waxed after harvest to increase their shelf life.

Pickling cucumbers are available in an array of different varieties, but these types are not commonly found in supermarkets. Instead, they are usually sold at farmers’ markets and in specialty stores. These varieties are usually just called pickle or pickling cucumbers instead of being referred to by their official cultivar names. Pickling cucumbers are usually going to be smaller and shorter than the slicing cucumbers that you would find in a supermarket. Probably the best-known pickling cucumber is the gherkin, known for its small, squatty appearance and bumpy skin.

Special varieties of pickling cucumbers are only available seasonally, but you can find common slicing cucumbers, as well as Armenian and Japanese cucumbers, year-round. Here are a few of the most commonly cultivated cucumbers that you can choose from.

Kirby Cucumbers:
Kirbies are well known because of the popular brand of pickles that carries the same name. A large majority of the Kirby cucumbers that are grown are turned into dill pickles and sold commercially, but these special cucumbers are also harvested and sold fresh. Kirby cucumbers have become a popular choice for chefs around the world, who prefer to use them due to their thin skin, crispy texture, and tiny seeds as well as their tendency to be left unwaxed after they’re harvested.

Hothouse Cucumbers (English):
The hothouse cucumber, also known as the English cucumber (or European cucumber), is massive. Though slender, the fruits of a hothouse cucumber can grow up to two feet in length. Hothouse cucumbers are also seedless, which makes them easy for those with sensitive stomachs to digest. These cucumbers are milder than field-grown varieties, but they tend to be more expensive to purchase simply because they are grown in hothouses instead of outdoors.

Japanese Cucumbers (Kyuri):
These small culinary favorites are both slender and short, with dark green, bumpy skin. They have a crisp, juicy, well balanced taste with a sweet finish. Both the skin and the seeds of Kyuri cucumbers are edible.

Armenian Cucumbers (Snake Cucumber, Snake Melon):
The Armenian cucumber is a slicing cucumber with a mild flavor. The fruit turns yellow and releases a somewhat pungent odor similar to that of the muskmelon, a plant to which it is closely related. You may recall seeing Armenian cucumbers at the supermarket. You’ll know them by their thin dark green skin, which is marked with pale green longitudinal furrows.

Lemon Cucumbers:
Lemon cucumbers are fully ripe when they have grown to nearly the size of a lemon. This variety’s crispy texture and delicate, citrusy flavor has made it a favorite in culinary circles. Its lemon-colored skin starts out a pale yellow and matures with the cucumbers to a golden-yellow hue when they’re ripe.

Persian Cucumbers (Sfran):
Crunchy and watery, the Persian cucumber is commonly grown to eat fresh. Similar to the common slicing cucumber in its flavor and complexity, the Persian cucumber is shorter, fatter, and more compact.

Providing Support for Your Cucumber Plants

As mentioned above, there are a lot of different options for gardeners to choose from when they’re deciding how to provide vertical support for cucumber plants. The most important thing is that your support system is tall enough—and that it’s sturdy enough to not topple over as the plants grow larger. In most cases, for growing cucumbers, a trellis or ladder that’s at least five or six feet tall should suffice. If you’re worried about your climbing cucumber varieties not choosing to climb up your support system of choice, try the A-frame trellis design, which will allow the plants to crawl up and down the structure with ease.

Growing Conditions for Cucumbers

Location
Cucumbers love warm and sunny locations with minimal high-speed wind exposure.

Temperature
The optimal temperature range for growing cucumbers is between 65 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Soil
A loose, deep soil that offers plenty of drainage is preferred. For growing cucumbers, you should also strive for soil with a neutral pH level and lots of organic matter.

Watering
Due to the high water content of the cucumber fruit, regular and deep watering is essential for gardening success. When you’re watering, try to keep the plants’ leaves dry to avoid fungal diseases.

Mulching
Using a light layer of mulch around the base of the cucumber plants will improve the soil’s ability to maintain the appropriate moisture level for them.

Fertilizer
When you’re planting cucumbers, add an all-purpose, slow-release fertilizer to the soil. Once the plants begin to flower, side dress them with aged manure, then apply a balanced liquid fertilizer.

Whether to Grow Cucumbers in Containers

If you are using containers, you will want to select large ones that are more than 12 inches both in depth and width. It is also important to consider the type of cucumber that you will be growing when you’re selecting the containers for them. Some varieties require more room than others to flourish. Vining cucumber varieties grow tall and send out long roots for support, so a deep container is crucial. Bushier varieties of the cucumber plant are short and therefore will require less depth in their containers and less vertical support.

Videos About Growing Cucumbers Vertically?

This invaluable resource will give you the knowledge you need to properly prune your cucumber plants when growing them vertically using a trellis:

This video comes with five helpful tips for growing cucumbers in containers using a vertical support trellis:

Check out this DIY how-to guide to learn about three different ways to grow cucumbers vertically and save space:

Want to Learn More About Growing Cucumbers Vertically?

Balcony Garden Web covers Growing Cucumbers Vertically | How to Grow Cucumbers in Small Gardens
DIY Network covers Growing Cucumbers Vertically
SFGate Homeguides covers Growing Cucumbers Vertically
Sproutabl covers Growing Cucumbers Vertically: A New Way to Grow Produce

Reasons For White Cucumbers: Why Cucumber Fruit Turns White

Many cucumber seeds on the market today are bred to produce white fruit. They often have the word “white” or “pearl” in their name, and the cucumbers are very similar to green varieties in flavor and texture. If you have planted green varieties and get white cucumbers instead, however, then it’s time to look for problems.

Reasons for White Cucumbers

One reason that cucumber fruit turns white is a fungal disease called powdery mildew. This problem begins on the upper surface of the fruit, and the cucumbers may look as though they have been dusted with flour. As it spreads, the entire fruit may become covered with the mold. Powdery mildew usually occurs when the humidity is high and air circulation is poor.

Treat powdery mildew by making the environment around the cucumber plant less hospitable to the disease. Thin plants so that they are spaced at a proper distance, allowing air to circulate around them. Use a soaker hose to apply water directly to the soil and avoid getting water on the plant.

Two common cucumber plant problems that cause white fruit are blanching and excessive moisture. Blanching occurs when the fruit is completely covered by leaves. Cucumbers need sunlight to develop and maintain their green color. You may be able to position the fruit so that it receives enough light. If not, snip out a large leaf or two to let the sunlight in.

Excessive moisture results in white cucumbers because water leaches nutrients from the soil. Without the nutrients needed for proper development, cucumbers turn pale or white. Correct the problem by feeding the plants with a fertilizer high in phosphorus and watering only when necessary.

Your cucumber plants can trick you into watering them too often. Water evaporates rapidly from the large, flat leaves on hot, sunny days, causing them to wilt. There may be plenty of moisture in the soil, but the roots can’t absorb it as fast as it is evaporating. To determine if the plants need watering, wait until the end of the day when the sunlight and temperatures are less intense. If the leaves revive on their own, the plant doesn’t need watering. Otherwise, it’s time to water.

Is it Safe to Eat White Cucumber?

It’s best not to eat diseased white cucumbers. Those that are white because of blanching or too much rain are safe to eat, although nutrient deficiencies may result in a significant loss of flavor.

Tips For Growing Cucumbers

Cucumbers are great for pickling, tossing in salads, or eating straight off the vine.

Types of Cucumbers

There are two main types of cucumbers: slicing and pickling. Each type comes in several different varieties. The slicing types are long and usually grow to about 6 or 8 inches (15-20 cm.) in length while the pickling types are shorter, reaching around 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10 cm.) once mature.

There are now many bush or compact varieties of cucumbers available that are ideal for growing in limited space.

Starting Cucumbers

Cucumbers can be started indoors from seed, either purchased or saved and harvested from previous plants, in peat pots or small flats and transplanted to the garden a couple weeks thereafter but only when all danger of frost has passed. Before you move them to the garden, however, harden the plants off in a protected location to lessen any stress that may occur during transplanting. During cool periods, cucumbers can be covered with plant protectors as well.

Where to Plant Cucumbers

Cucumbers like warm, humid weather; loose, organic soil; and plenty of sunlight. They grow well in most areas of the United States and do especially well in southern regions.

When planting cucumbers, choose a site that has adequate drainage and fertile soil. Good soil will have plenty of organic matter, such as compost. Adding compost to the soil will help get your cucumbers off to a good start, and applying an organic fertilizer, such as manure, will help give the plants nutrients during growth. When you begin preparing the soil, remove any rocks, sticks or other debris and then mix ample amounts of organic matter and fertilizer into the soil.

Cucumbers may be planted in hills or rows about 1 inch (2.5 cm.) deep and thinned as needed. Since cucumbers are a vine crop, they usually require a lot of space. In large gardens, cucumber vines may spread throughout rows; within smaller gardens, cucumbers may be trained for climbing on a fence or trellis. Training cucumbers on a fence or trellis will reduce space and lift the fruit off the soil. This method also can provide your garden with a neater appearance. The bush or compact varieties are quite suitable for growing in small spaces or even in containers.

Cucumbers

Cucumis sativus

Used the world over, either fresh, pickled or as an ingredient in many a dish, Cucumbers have a lovely place in the Summer garden. Although they need a fair amount of love and tenderness they reward the grower with beautiful fruit. Home grown cucumbers are usually a bit knobbly and may not be as perfect as the shop bought, but they make up for that in their taste and texture.

Planting Schedule

Warm Areas: July to March
Temperate Areas: September to January
Cool to Cold Areas: October to December

Location
Cucumber’s can be a bit fussy about position. In cool zones, they love nothing more than a spot in full sun. However, in areas with hot summers, a little tenderness and shade will encourage your cucumbers. You can actually grow cucumbers in about 30% – 50 % shade in places where the air is warm. A simple shade covering, temporary or something more permanent will protect the plants from the harsh sun as well as reducing the risk of scarring the fruit, (it might have the added benefit of protecting your plants from pests too).

Another thing to consider with cucumbers is that they are essentially vines and they need to climb. Pick a position that provides them with the right amount of sun and also gives them a bit of support. Fences and trellis do fine as do wire supports. Alternatively you can use sweet corn as a “living stake” for cucumbers. It makes the most of the space in your patch and is a sustainable solution for staking. This works best where there is good airflow ; and these two are excellent companions.

Soil
Good soil preparation is vitally important. Cucumbers need a friable (loose), well drained soil, full of organic matter, especially compost. Plant in a mound about 40cm across, with two cucumbers to each mound. This acts to improve drainage. Add a good straw mulch to help keep the roots cool, stop the soil drying out and prevent the fruit come into contact with the ground, helping to prevent fungal diseases, (more on that later).

Feeding
Being a fruiting plant, cucumbers require a reasonably high level of feeding, especially when it comes to fruiting. This means that they will pretty much take in whatever food is available and this is where you need to be a bit careful. A good amount of compost is the best starting point. Anything stronger than this can encourage a lot of healthy leaf growth but does not encourage fruiting. Give cucumbers a feed at planting time with either watered down worm wee or a seaweed based liquid feed. Feed again when you see the first little fruits appear (they look like tiny gherkin).

What about the Water?
Cucumbers present a convincing argument for drip-irrigation and rainwater tanks – they are thirsty! Installing drip irrigation in your produce patch should always be considered, but it’s almost a necessity with cucumbers. Drippers on top of the soil, under a nice 5cm – 7cm layer of mulch and directed around the base of your plants is perfect. Its puts the water exactly where it’s needed… the roots!

Cucumbers don’t respond well to other methods of watering as they are susceptible to fungal diseases if their foliage is wet. Don’t let them dry out either or you may end up with bitter or dry fruit. If you must hand water cucumbers, make sure you do it first thing in the morning ensuring that you are aiming mainly at the root zone of the plant avoiding the foliage.

Harvesting
The variety of cucumber you chose will determine when it’s ready to pick and a number of varieties that have multiple uses. If you want gherkins, pick the long, green cucumbers when they are about 5cm – 10cm in length. Alternatively, these can be left on the plant and picked when they are 15cm – 20cm for tasty “salad” cucumbers. Same deal for Lebanese cucumbers. The round apple shaped cucumbers are best picked when they are about tennis ball size. Cucumbers generally take about 8 – 10 weeks to ripen, stretching out to 12 – 14 weeks for apple cucumbers. Make sure you monitor your vines regularly; it’s better to harvest when cucumbers are under-ripe, rather than over-ripe.

When harvesting its best not to pull the fruit off the vine. Pulling them off can snap the vine in half and seriously jeopardise the rest of your crop. Cut the cucumbers off with a sharp pair of clean scissors or secateurs, making sure you leave a bit of stem attached to the fruit.

Pests and the Rest
Cucumbers, like many vines, are susceptible to fungal infections. Prevention is much better than a cure so; clean straw mulch, drip irrigation, good air movement, a trellis or support and root level or early morning watering should deter fungal spores.

Another issues faced by the cucumber is lack of bee activity to pollinate the flowers. Encourage bees into your patch by planting a diverse selection of flowering companion plants, edible and non-edible. This will hopefully reduce the use of unnecessary pesticides in the garden that often wipe out the good guys as well as the bad. You can hand pollinate your cucumbers if you are concerned; simply pick a male flower (one without a small fruit forming at the base) and touch it lightly onto the centre stem of the female flower.

Final Tip
Give your cucumbers a little pinch! “Pinching out” is a term that just means removing wee bits of the plants to encourage better growth and fruiting. Pinch out growing tips when they have formed about five to seven leaves; also pinch out the laterals (side shoots) that have produced a number of leaves (about eight to ten) but no female flowers ( the ones with the miniature cucumber where the petals start).

Photos
Photos taken by Elaine Shaulle (SGA) and Mary Trigger (SGA)

7 Tips for Growing Amazing Cucumbers

Growing cucumbers is one of the easiest things to do in small, backyard gardens. Cucumbers are a forgiving crop that is great for beginning gardeners.

Not sure which variety of cucumber to grow? Check out my favorite cucumber varieties and give one of them a try this year!

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Tips and Tricks to Growing Cucumbers in Your Garden

Direct Sow Cucumber Seeds in the Ground

Cucumbers do best when directly sown in the ground. Wait until all danger of frost has passed before planting your seeds. You can start your seeds indoors if you want to get a jump start on your crops, but you then run the risk of transplant shock.

When growing cucumbers, prepare a well drained location with very fertile soil. Dig in some organic matter at planting time for an extra boost.

Plant your cucumber seeds about 1/2 inch down into the soil.

Related: Common Outdoor Seed Sowing Problems and How to Fix Them

Grow Cucumbers in Full Sun

Cucumbers thrive in full sun, so don’t grow them in the shade or in the shade of taller crops. Grow them vertically to get them even more sun exposure!

Don’t Crowd Your Cucumber Plants

Space is a must when growing cucumbers! Crowding your plants can cause diseases and your plants will not produce as well.

Cucumber vines are known to sprawl all over the place, so ample space between plants will make harvesting a lot easier!

You can also try growing some bush varieties of cucumber to save on space.

? Check out my Yearly Garden Planner to help you plan your best garden yet! It has planting guide, planning sheets, and more to help you plan your garden and keep track of things like pests and harvest so you can better your garden each and every year!

Grow Cucumbers Vertically on a Trellis

The easiest way to grow cucumbers is to grow them up a trellis. Growing cucumbers vertically not only saves you space but makes harvesting a breeze.

Trellises don’t have to be fancy- twine wrapped between t-posts or a tee-pee made of bamboo poles is enough!

Related Reading: 5 Ways to Trellis Your Cucumbers

Take Measures to Prevent the Cucumber Beetle

One of the main problems you will face when growing cucumbers is the cucumber beetle. This little yellow striped beetle can cause a lot of problems in your plants- such as spreading diseases like bacterial wilt.

Taking precautions such as growing disease resistant varieties, mulching, and delayed planting can help you combat this garden pest. Read all about how to control the cucumber beetle naturally to prevent them in your organic garden.

Read my article on the best cucumber companion plants for ideas on what to plant along with your cucumbers to prevent beetles and other pests.

Water Cucumbers Regularly

The main complaint gardeners have when growing cucumber? Bitterness.

The good news is that most cucumber bitterness can be controlled. Bitterness in cucumbers is caused by stress- usually water stress.

Make sure to water deeply at least once a week, even more often in very hot and dry climates. Keeping your cucumbers sufficiently hydrated will help you get amazing tasting cucumbers without a trace of bitterness!

Harvest Cucumbers Early and Often

Want more cucumbers? Harvesting the fruits early and often will encourage the cucumber vines to keep on flowering and producing!

And if you are overrun with cucumbers? Preserve them! Here are 10 delicious ways to preserve cucumbers!

You May Also Like:

Everything You Need to Know About Growing Tomatoes

Common Outdoor Seed Sowing Problems

11 Vegetables You Can Plant Before the Last Frost

How to Grow Green Beans from Seed

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