top of page

GROW IN ABUNDANCE: How To Successfully Grow Cucumbers

By Sommer Cartier, for Let’s Talk Plants! July 2024.

(Don't miss BUT WAIT! MORE FROM THE ARCHIVES: Got Cucurbitoids? By Richard Frost, at the end of this article.)

Photo credit; Sommer Cartier.

How To Successfully Grow Cucumbers

Cucumbers are a favorite among home gardeners due to their crisp texture and refreshing flavor. Whether your goal is to grow slicing cucumbers for salads or pickling cucumbers for preservation, achieving a bountiful harvest requires proper planning and attentive care. Below are some helpful tips for growing a successful crop of cucumbers this summer.

Photo credit: Sommer Cartier.

Selecting the Right Variety

Selecting the variety of cucumber that fits your culinary preferences is the first important step. Cucumbers are generally categorized into two varieties, slicing and pickling. Slicing cucumbers, such as Marketmore and Sweet Burpless, are ideal for fresh eating, maybe in a salad or dipped in hummus. Pickling varieties, like Boston Pickling and National Pickling, are perfect for preserving. Additionally, there are bush varieties that are great for container gardening and trellised types that save space and promote better air circulation.

Timing and Planting

Cucumbers are warm season crops and grow best when soil temperatures consistently reach at least 60°F. Cucumbers are part of the cucurbits family and do best when roots are not disturbed. For this reason, planting from seed is recommended. For direct seeding, plant cucumber seeds about 1 inch deep and 12-18 inches apart. If you opt to go with transplants, make sure there is minimal root disturbance when transplanting.

Soil Preparation

Cucumbers thrive in well-drained, fertile soil rich in organic matter. A soil pH of 6.0-7.0 is ideal. Before planting, amend the soil with plenty of compost or well-rotted manure which will provide essential nutrients and improve moisture retention.


Consistent moisture is crucial for cucumber growth, especially during flowering and fruit development. Cucumbers need about 1 inch of water per week. Make sure to water deeply and regularly, focusing on the base of the plants to avoid wetting the foliage. Wet foliage acts as a landing pad for various fungal diseases.


Cucumbers are heavy feeders and benefit from regular fertilization. Incorporate a balanced fertilizer or compost into the soil at the time of planting. During the growing season, continue applying fertilizer, per the directions on the back of the package. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers, as they can promote excessive leaf growth at the expense of fruit production.

Supporting Structures

Growing cucumbers on a trellis or other support structure is highly recommended. Trellises not only save garden space but also improve air circulation around the plants, reducing the risk of diseases such as white powdery mildew. Training cucumbers to climb, rather than sprawling out across the soil, will reduce incidents of pests and soil-borne fruit and foliar diseases.

Pest and Disease Management

Regularly monitor for pests and diseases to increase your chances of cultivating a healthy crop of cucumbers. Avoid providing a habitat for pests by removing weeds and extra plant debris around your garden. Prioritize healthy soil by adding plenty of organic matter and implementing a regular feeding regimen. Healthy soil will help ensure your plants are strong and capable of withstanding pests. When able, remove pests mechanically, either by picking them by hand or using the hose to spray them off. As a last resort, use insecticidal soap to control pest populations.

For diseases such as powdery mildew and bacterial wilt, practice crop rotation, avoid overhead watering, and ensure good air circulation around the plants. Additionally, be sure to sanitize your cutting shears between uses to avoid spreading diseases.


Cucumbers require pollination to set fruit. Encourage pollinators by planting lots of herbs, borage, African Blue Basil and other pollinator plants nearby.


For the best results and flavor, pick cucumbers when the skins are still tender. If left on the vine too long, cucumbers can develop a bitter taste, so it's important to pick them when young. Regular harvesting encourages more fruit production and prevents overripe cucumbers, which can inhibit continuous production of fruit.

By following these guidelines, you can create an optimal environment for your cucumber plants, leading to a successful and bountiful harvest. With attention to detail and consistent care, your cucumber garden will thrive and provide you with delicious, homegrown produce all season long.


Sommer Cartier

Master of Arts, International Development and Social Change

Clark University



By Richard Frost, originally published in Let’s Talk Plants! July 2010, No. 190.

WiX stock photo.

What a fun word! Cucurbitoid refers to gourds and other members of the plant family Cucurbitaceae, which contains gourds, melons, pumpkins, watermelons, and cucumbers. In addition to these familiar annuals there are also some perennial vines, shrubs, and the exotic Cucumber Tree, Dendrosicyos socotranus. Among all these edible plants and flavors there has to be at least one you’d like to grow at home.

I’m sure it must have crossed Tom Lehrer’s mind to write some crazy melodious song about all these related vegetables. “There’s … honeydew and crenshaw and sultan and casaba; sugar pie, acorn, butternut, and ambrosia; …”. Every time I start working with the melons in my garden, I can just hear him singing it!

The cucurbitoids all utilize high levels of potassium to produce outstanding crops. If you want to achieve this organically, then either apply wood ash to the garden bed the previous fall or apply Sul-Po Mag during the growing season while keeping a watchful eye on the soil pH. A more prudent approach is to use a water-soluble mineral formula like 20-5-30 or 15-20-25 if you are getting a late start. For hydroponics, the standard cucurbitoid formula is Urea-Free 8-16-36.

The cucurbitoids will all play host to powdery mildew. This is easily controlled by mixing one tablespoon of sodium-free baking powder (potassium bicarbonate) in a gallon of water and misting the leaves about every other week. Mist, but do not wash the plants with it. The solution will kill the mildew instantly, but it may take several days to fall off the plant.

Many cucurbitoids can develop long vines. The longer the vine, the more difficult it is for nutrients to travel from the roots to the fruit. Try to keep the vines to five feet in length. My approach is to confine each plant (or pair of plants) to a 4 foot by 3 foot area and edge it with a trimmer.

The flowers of all these plants are edible and popular to put in salads or to garnish side dishes. Keep in mind the fruits develop from the flowers, so that the more flowers you pick the less fruit you will have.

In the muskmelon group my favorite variety to grow and recommend is Ambrosia. It can be an outstanding performer even next to the coast. The Crenshaw and Sakata’s Sweet varieties are also delicious. In the watermelon group, the Crimson Sweet is the best I’ve ever tasted, but it requires more days of heat than we typically get on the coast. If you are making dill pickles, I recommend an English cucumber variety such as Longfellow; otherwise, there are a plethora of cucumbers to choose from.

Strictly speaking, the term “squash” refers to cooked cucurbitoids and not to a group of plants. For example, if you put grated uncooked pumpkin in your salad it is a “melon” but steamed cucumber is a squash. As you may recall, the “squashes” we commonly eat (including “Italian squash”) were unknown in the Eastern Hemisphere until Native Americans introduced them to Europeans at that famous first Thanksgiving dinner. An interesting squash to try this year is Naples Long – basically a butternut shaped and flavored pumpkin. For container gardens the round “Eight Ball” Zucchini is a real treat.


WiX stock photo of a person (Richard is that you?) covered in cucumber slices.

Richard Frost is a self-proclaimed certified edible gardening nut.


Os comentários foram desativados.
bottom of page