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Cucumber

Where to plant: Full sun to partial shade - The more sun, the better they will produce

Because cucumbers are vining, you will need a trellis on a fence or stand-alone panel

When to plant: 

Indoors - 4-6 weeks before your average last frost date

Outdoors - 1-2 weeks after your average last frost date

How to plant:

Indoors: Use shallow seedling trays with coco coir or sterilized potting soil. You will need grow lights that need to be raised as the seedlings grow. Cucumbers grow fast, so you will need to repot as they outgrow the seedling tray. It’s a good idea to use peat/biodegradable pots to make planting outdoors easier.

Outdoors: Plant seeds 1” apart and 1/2” deep. Make sure to have your trellis in place once you plant, since the young plants will have tendrils that will grasp as they grow.

Cucumbers, like most plants, need well-draining soil. They need to be kept well watered for proper fruit development, but over-watering can lead to more problems, such as Powdery Mildew, Root Rot, Yellowing Leaves, or Uneven Fruit Development. 

Powdery Mildew - This is a fungus that can quickly overtake your plants AND can remain in your soil, which re-infects future plants that are grown in the same area. Powdery mildew can be avoided by watering less, checking your soil drainage, and watering at the base of your plant, rather than overhead. If you do develop powdery mildew, you can make or buy an anti-fungal spray to treat it early.

Yellow Leaves/Uneven Development/Root Rot - Over-watering leads to fewer soil nutrients, less oxygen in the soil, and fewer spaces between soil particles for roots to spread. Yellowing or curling leaves is your first indication of a problem, and if over-watering continues, it will stunt your fruit production, and may even lead to root rot, which will kill the plant. Check the top 1” of soil for moisture before watering, and keep up a regular watering schedule when no rainfall occurs. Ideally, you should water about 1-2 times per week, depending on your climate. Mulch will help to retain soil moisture, prevent the spread of fungus from the soil, and provide nutrients and oxygen.

Cucumber flowers:

Cucumber flowers come in male and female flowers, like other squash varieties. Male flowers appear first and will be just a normal flower. Female flowers will have a tiny cucumber at the flower base. If you don’t have a lot of pollinators available, or it’s raining, you can remove male flowers and paint the female flowers with the pollen. 

As the cucumber develops, the flower will eventually fall off the end - if there are nutrient problems or watering issues, blossom-end rot or weirdly shaped fruit can occur. Blossom-end rot will make the fruit unusable, and the affected fruit should be removed before disease sets in.

When to harvest cucumbers:

Harvesting depends partly on your variety and also on your intended use. For example, pickling cucumbers need to be fairly small in order to fit into a pickle jar whole, but need to be large enough to be viable. Once the flower falls off, the cucumber can be harvested, or can grow bigger. If the cucumber gets too large or starts to change color, seeds will harden and are not considered “as good” for eating. Softer seeds that can be eaten are preferred. Harvest often to promote steady fruit production.