Cucumber plants grow quickly and impressively from seed. The first time you dig a little hole and drop that big cucumber seed in, expect to be shocked when fast comes the day that a mighty cucumber sprout emerges triumphantly from the dirt. From there, your cucumber plants will just seem to lap the other veggies that you also start from seed, appearing as green giants among their spindly little sproutling friends.
Choose a spot in your garden where your cucumbers will have a minimum of 6 hours of full sun per day, and plenty of water to quench these thirsty plants. (Cucumber fruits are mostly made up of water, so it makes sense that they’d require a lot of water to grow.)
To help retain moisture in the soil, work a good amount of compost into your garden beds prior to planting these and other vegetables. If you do not have access to compost, purchase some organic, composted soil from a local grower such as Cierech’s in Pohatcong, NJ.
Cucumber seeds started indoors
Cucumber plants do not care to have their roots disturbed. So if you prefer to start your plants indoors, plant your cucumber seeds in individual peat pots, about 2 or 3 weeks before moving to the garden. The young plants can then be put directly into the ground once the danger of frost is past. (In this part of NJ, plant your cucumber plants in the garden on or about May 15).
If you’ve never used peat pots before, the trick is to simply peel away the bottom layer of the pot, exposing the plant’s roots, then dig a hole in your garden bed that’s deep enough to cover the peat pot. Lower your cucumber pot into the hole, fill with soil, pat down and water. The peat pot is biodegradable and will dissipate into the earth with a few waterings.
Cucumber seeds sown directly outdoors
Most people prefer to sow their cucumber plants directly into the garden. If you’re one of these people: wait until the soil heats up to approximately 70 degrees (so, around May 15 in these parts of NJ). Prepare your garden beds as per usual, then plant 2 seeds per hole, dug ½ inch deep. Again, be sure that you wait until the last danger of frost is past.
Cucumber plant spacing:
Cucumber plants should be spaced approximately 18 to 36 inches apart (check the seed packet for confirmation of this number – it will vary, depending on the type of cucumber you plant). Once you see the two little cucumber plants growing close together, snip away the “lesser” plant so that the better one has room to thrive. I believe they call this “thinning”.
According to long-time organic gardener Maria G., “I have been gardening without using chemicals for many years, and until only recently, had had little success with cucumbers. However, once I tried growing the “Cool Breeze” variety of disease-resistant cucumber, I was able to enjoy an ample harvest.”
Other excellent choices for growing cucumbers organically: Calypso, Picoling. You may also try any short-vined variety, particularly if growing your cucumbers in a small garden bed or container/patio garden.
A cool cucumber tip from Burpee.com:
“…consider growing vining cucumber varieties like ‘Sweet Success’ and ‘Tasty Green’ vertically on a trellis, fence, or other support. This makes the best use of garden space by containing the vines and keeping them from sprawling throughout the garden, as well as keeping the fruits clean and straight as they develop above the ground. Researchers have proven that growing cucumbers vertically dramatically increases yields because the vines receive better air circulation and more sunlight than vines on the ground.”
Once your cucumbers begin to ripen, pick them daily. Cucumbers are ready for picking when approximately 6-8 inches long. Pickling varieties grow about 3-5 inches. Harvest early in the morning for best flavor and texture. If your cucumbers seem “super seedy,” next time try picking them when they’re a little less ripe.
Keep cucumber plants well watered, especially through the scorching summer heat. If you find that at some point during mid-summer, you have “cucumbers coming out of your ears,” set up a veggie stand for the neighbors to stop by and enjoy, or get to pickling those babies!
Happy cucumber planting!