As I mentioned on yesterday’s post (Tracy’s Mustard Pickle Recipe), cucumbers are always part of the Scott Family summer vegetable garden. Not only because we love cucumbers and pickles, but also because I’ve found growing cucumbers is very easy…and truth be told, I like easy when it comes to gardening. Now there have been some years when I’ve had a better harvest of cukes than others, but as long as you follow a few simple tips on how to grow cucumbers, it’s pretty difficult not to have more than you’ll know what to do with.
1. Feed & Water Your Cukes Well
Cucumbers like nutrient rich soil and a lot of water. So make sure when you plant them to add some organic material…and then later in the season give them a boost with a water-soluble fertilizer (e.g., 5-5-5 or 10-10-10). With their root system being close to the surface cukes also need a good deal of water…otherwise they’ll quickly dry out. You can help them along by adding a bit of mulch to help retain moisture, as well as giving them frequent and deep waterings – particularly when they get larger. It’s also suggested that if your cucumbers are bitter (i.e., less sweet) it’s because they aren’t getting enough water.
2. Give Them Something to Grow On
Cucumbers really want to travel…so unless you have a ton of space (or have a bushy variety) you’ll want to get them off the ground by training them up a trellis or some other structure. And “training” is really too strong of a word…just plant them near a trellis and they’ll find their way, all you might need to do is guide an errant vine or two here and there. Getting them off the ground will also make it easier for you to see and pick your cukes, as well as make them less susceptible to pests and disease.
3. Watch Out for Pests & Disease
As I mentioned above, growing them on a trellis or some other structure will go a long way in helping your cucumbers get up and away from pests and less susceptible to disease…it improves air circulation and reduces the chance of mildew. If you see that you have a problem with beetles…attack them quickly and aggressively or the beetles will win the battle. There are several ways to do this, but one of the safest and easiest ways is to spray them with a water/soap solution.
4. Pick Them Before They Get Too Big
If left on the vine your cucumbers will continue to grow and grow…to the point that their seeds are really too big to enjoy the rest of the fruit. So it’s better to pick them when they are smaller vs. larger…3-4” for those you’re going to pickle and 6-8” for those you’re going to slice. You can also tell if they’ve gotten too mature if you notice a yellow tinge towards the far end. The added benefit of picking them sooner and more often is doing so will increase fruit production. Lastly, picking them in the morning will likely result in a sweeter cuke…and we all like a sweeter cuke.
5. Eat Them within a Week or Pickle Them for a Longer Shelf-Life
You’ll want refrigerate your cukes in your vegetable crisper soon after picking them…and there they should last about a week. Unfortunately, because of their high water content they won’t last much longer than that. Unlike peppers and other veggies, you can’t freeze cucumbers to eat later…but you can pickle them. Now there are different ways to pickle your cukes (e.g., with salt vs. vinegar), with quite a bit of behind each approach…and there are a ton of new-fangled recipes for pickles – so don’t limit yourself to the same pickle recipes you’ve become accustomed to…be creative. To learn more about how to pickle your cukes click on this link to a post on Mother Earth News or the image to the right. If you’re looking for new pickle recipes…other than Tracy’s recipe for Mustard Pickles, you can find all kinds at this link on allrecipes.com.
There is so much more about growing cukes that I haven’t even begun to cover, but these 5 tips should go a pretty long way. If you have any other tips you’ve found to be helpful, please share…I know that I for one would love to hear about them.