Cucumbers need a steady supply of water to produce large, high-quality fruits. Water stress causes fruit to shrivel and become bitter.
Monitor cucumbers for pests and diseases. Cucumber beetles and slugs can damage plants, while powdery mildew can leave blighting spots on leaves.
Mulch cucumber seedlings with straw or compost to keep weeds out of the garden and help regulate soil temperature. Also mulch around mature plants to keep them off the ground and prevent disease.
Cucumbers are high-performance vegetables, but they need plenty of attention to thrive. Their success is closely tied to soil, fertilizer and irrigation. They also need pollination and protection from pests and diseases, such as bacterial wilt and powdery mildew.
Cuke plants need warm, rich soil to grow vigorously and produce large fruit. Amend heavy, clay or sandy soils by working in several inches of aged compost or rotted manure.
When planting seeds outside, lightly harden them off before sowing to acclimate them to outdoor conditions. Sow cucumber seeds 36 to 60 inches apart, depending on the cultivar (check stick tags for specifics).
For best results with transplanted seedlings, plant them in low mounds spaced 18 to 24 inches apart if growing in rows, or in loose groups spaced 1 foot apart if training cucumber vines on a trellis. After planting, water thoroughly until soil reaches saturation. Water more frequently if weather is hot and dry.
Cucumbers need plenty of water to develop vigorous roots and produce fruit. The amount of water they need depends on the weather and how well drained your soil is. Cucumbers need to be watered frequently, but deeply. They will wilt if the soil is too dry, but they can also wilt from overwatering.
Using a mulch helps conserve moisture and keeps weeds down. Mulch can also help protect cucumber plants from cucumber beetles and other insects.
Cucumbers benefit from a regular application of fertilizer. Apply compost or worm castings at full strength or use a liquid vegetable food to provide your cucumber plants with essential nutrients. Fertilize cucumber plants every ten to fourteen days for best results. When a cucumber plant is deficient in nutrients, it will produce less foliage and slower-growing fruit. In addition, a weak cucumber plant will be more susceptible to disease and pests. Remove male flowers from outdoor cucumbers, which do not produce fruit, but be sure to keep female flowers – they need to be pollinated.
Like other vigorous plants, cucumbers can quickly outgrow their spaces if they aren’t given plenty of steady nourishment. Organic fertilizer, which contains no harmful chemicals or pollutants, can help keep the soil healthy and encourage a steady flow of nutrients to cucumbers.
A general-purpose granular fertilizer should be mixed into the planting hole at planting time, followed by liquid fertilizer each week until harvest. It’s best to avoid high-potency fertilizers, as these can encourage too much foliage growth and can also damage or injure young plants.
Mulching is another key to growing cucumbers, as it helps keep weeds under control and regulates soil temperature. If the seeds or transplants were direct sown, mulch with compost or worm castings as soon as they’ve established some leaves. Regularly check the soil for moisture, as it needs to be moist to grow, but not wet. Harvesting cucumbers regularly encourages fruit production. Consult the seed packets for specific harvesting information, as the fruits will be ready at different times.
Cucumber flowers need to be pollinated in order to produce fruit. This can be done naturally by insects, or you can hand-pollinate the plants yourself using a q-tip or small bristle paintbrush. To hand-pollinate, gently remove the petals from a male flower and use the q-tip or brush to transfer pollen from its anther to the stigma of a female flower. Repeat this process with each male and female flower. Then, look for a few of the cucumbers to start setting – this is an indication that the plant has been successfully pollinated.
Some greenhouse varieties (such as ‘Bella’) are self-pollinating and don’t require any help from outside. However, if you’re growing a field or pickling variety, be sure to remove any male flowers that may appear on the vines. If there is a lack of pollination, deformed or misshapen fruit and a lower seed count in the mature cucumbers can occur.