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If you’ve ever heard the expression cool as a cucumber, forget it! The truth is cucumbers and cool weather do not mix. Cucumbers are a tropical vegetable and thrive when the weather is warm and the water is plentiful. Plus, if you grow your own instead of buying them at the store you'll avoid chemical-based pesticides and fertilizers.
Head to your local hardware store and purchase a package of seeds, which costs less than $2. There are two types of cucumber varieties, pickling and slicing cucumbers. Pickling cucumbers are smaller and have a bumpier texture, while slicing cucumbers are darker in color and have a smoother texture. Choose the variety that you prefer!
Cucumbers love the hot summer weather and grow best when the soil temperature is right around 70 degrees. If you live in an area that has a short growing season, it’s best to start cucumber seedlings indoors during spring so you will be ready to plant them outside as soon as the weather becomes warmer. To learn how to start seedlings, read: Plant the Seed: A Potless Approach to Spring Gardening.
Before you plant your seeds, add compost to your garden bed. Cucumbers like soil that is rich in organic matter. Adding compost to the soil will help provide the seedlings with essential nutrients. You can purchase store-bought compost or store-bought composted manure for around $5 per 40-pound bag. If you’re interested in starting your own compost bin, read: Make a Compost Bin.
When you’re ready to plant, make sure you choose a sunny spot in your garden. Cucumbers need to have 6-8 hours of direct sunlight a day. Before you plant, it’s a good idea to turn your soil over at a depth of at least five inches. To learn how to turn over soil, watch the video: How to Turn Over Soil.
Plant your cucumber seedlings at least 2 ½ feet apart, spacing your rows about 5 feet apart. Note: Some plants can actually harm the health of your cucumber plants. Keep your cucumber plants as far away from tomatoes, sage, and other aromatic herbs as possible. These plants can impact the taste of your cucumbers and slow growth.
If you live in a particularly dry climate, consider adding mulch to your cucumber garden. Mulch helps your soil retain moisture and protects your cucumbers from pests commonly found in the soil. To learn more about how mulch can help your garden grow, read: Much Ado About Mulch.
Once planted, routinely water your cucumbers. They need to be kept consistently moist so that water reaches deep into the roots. In hot climates, this might require two watering sessions per day. Think about how much water a slice of cucumber contains when you eat it – they absorb a lot of water!
Your cucumbers should be ready to harvest about 60 days after planting. It’s always better to pick them early rather than late because they will become bitter as they grow bigger.