Growing Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus)

I love the holidays.  The kids come home.  We eat, we visit, and then I try to get them to help me in the garden.  Before they get here, my wife always reminds me that when company comes they are “company” and not “labor”.  She encourages me to leave the gardening alone and play host all weekend.  And, since I love my wife, I try.  I really do.  However, I rarely succeed.

My son in law Ramez is skeptical of the "little thing he can help with in the garden"

My son in law Ramez is skeptical of the “little thing he can help with in the garden”

This weekend I made it until about noon on Saturday.  By that time I had whined enough, that the kids (and even my wife) told me to go.  So, my son in law Ramez (Moose) put on his work shoes (that I keep here for him for just such opportunities) and we headed out.

Moose helped me move my cattle panel trellises from my “old garden” to the “new garden”.  I use cattle panels, supported by T-Posts, in place of tomato cages.  I also use them to grow vining crops like cucumbers.

This year, Sally and I are going to make pickles.  So, I am growing a bunch of cucumbers.  Moose and I set up two sixteen foot panels so I can grow a full 30’ foot row.  Since cucumbers are so productive, a 30’ row will give Sally and I more than enough pickles to meet our canning needs.

My daughter Jessie is planting "pickling" cucumbers along my cattle panel trellis

My daughter Jessie is planting “pickling” cucumbers along my cattle panel trellis

Growing – Cucumbers are cucurbits.  People often ask me how I know how/when to plant so many types of plants.  Well, I cheat.  Instead of trying to learn all of the traits of single plants, I learn the traits of plant families.  If you learn the cultivation requirements of some of the basic plant families (like Cucrbitaceae or Brassica), you know how and when to grow a whole lot of different plants that fall in those families.  Generally, all cucurbits can be planted and grown in the exact same way.

Blue cucumber seeds have been treated with an organic, sulfur based fungicide called thiram.  This protects against certain pests and makes sure the seeds do not rot in moist soil.

Blue cucumber seeds have been treated with an organic, sulfur based fungicide called thiram. This protects against certain pests and makes sure the seeds do not rot in moist soil.

Cucumbers can be planted about two weeks after the last frost date.  For me, that is usually around March 15.  Plant them in a sunny location that receives at least 8 hours of sun a day.  They are heavy feeders and they need good drainage.  Plant cucumbers about an inch deep in beds that are well worked with organic material.  As they grow, watch their leaves.  If they show signs of yellowing, side dress with a good aged manure.

Cucumbers produce lots of vines.  While you can let them run, the fruit quality and appearance will be better if they are trellised.  I have grown them on three legged trellises with a lot of success.  However, since I am going for production, I now grow exclusively on cattle panels.

Untreated "Muncher" cucumber seeds

Untreated “Muncher” cucumber seeds

Since cucumbers produce so many vines, they need a lot of water.  Plus, the fruit of a cucumber is 90% water.  If you do not give them enough water, they can become bitter.  At a minimum, they need 1” a week from a slow deep watering.  However, at flowering and fruiting, it is a good idea to up the amount of water to 1 ½” to 2” per week (especially in sandy soils).  Ideally, cucumbers should not be allowed to dry out.  The soil should stay moist throughout the growing season.  Also, mulch your vines heavily to get the most out of all of that water you are applying.  This mulch will save water and keep the roots cool.  Cool roots mean longer production.

8 thoughts on “Growing Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus)

  1. Thanks for the info. on cucumbers. Are gourds also cucurbits? I have been wanting to grow gourds. My daddy used to grow all kinds of gourds but I have not tried it – yet!

    • Hey Deb. Good to here from you. Gourds are most definately cucurbits. I grow them every year. I usually plant mine about May 1 but you could plant them now.

  2. Interesting post and blog. Now, about those cattle panels and tomatoes… We are just beginning to replace tired cages in anticipation of tomato growing season in NW Ohio. Can you tell me more about how you use cattle panels for tomatoes, please?

    • I use them two ways depending on whether they are determinate or indeterminate. For determinate tomatoes I simply place a panel behind the row. I then tie the stems and limbs to the panels as the plant matures. For indeterminate tomatoes I use two panels about 18″ apart. This works great for most of the branches. However, there are times when I want to support limbs that are between the panels. Then I can slide bamboo or other material between the metal squares on the panels to support limbs that grow between the panels. If you like cages, my friend Bill Adams book “The Texas Tomato Lovers Handbook” has instructions on how to build sturdy, collapsible cages out of cattle panels

  3. Where do u buy Blue Cucumbers?What is the name of the cucumbers u recommend for slicing,for salads?You say they r heavy feeders ,do u mean they need lots of fertilizer? When And how much do u fertilize them organically. What type of organic fertilizer do u recommend?Do u fertilize all your veg. the same, like using Medina growing green at planting time and then give Mediana Hasta grow every 3-3 wks. regardless of the veg. type.

    • I am not aware of “blue cucumbers”. If you are refering to the blue seeds in the post, they came from a bulk container at my local feedstore. They are blue because they are treated with a fungicide. When an article says a plant is a “heavy feeder” it does indeed mean that they need lots of nutrients in the soil. To provide those nutrients I grow in clay soil that I constantly amend with various finished composts. During the year, I side dress with either composted cow or chicken manure. The manures are slightly higher in nitrogen than composted palnt material. In our part of Texas, soils are typically nitrogen poor so this side dressing of manure helps provide the additional nitrogen that may be lacking. I do not fertilize all vegetables in the same way. Beans, peas, onions and potatoes typically do not require as many nutrients as melons, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. In fact too much nitrogen on some vegetables will actually decrease their production (potatoes) or decrease their quality.

  4. Pingback: Urban Gardening: Growing Your Cucumbers - The Urban Gardening Digest

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