I was teaching a basic gardening class at my church recently and opened it up for questions at the end and one of the questions that I got was “What about growing cucumbers? I have not been able to get them to grow very well at all. Do you have any suggestions?”
I asked her a few questions which helped me figure out that she was simply planting them too early in the season. The trick with cucumbers is that they are HEAT LOVERS. As in, loves heat more than almost anything else in the garden. So don’t plant them too early. If the soil is too cold, they will not grow.
Side note from the class: I basically told a few stories about gardens I have grown in the past which you can read about here and then walked them through my “free gardening cheat sheet” to give them a one-page guide for growing most garden vegetables. You can get your copy here.
Most people are only familiar with the long green waxy cucumbers that you can buy at the grocery store. Some people have seen the small bumpy pickling type of cucumbers used for – guess what? – pickles.
But did you know that there are many other shapes, sizes, and colors than just those two?
There are ones shaped like lemons, ones that are white, and ones that grow longer than two feet in length.
So many varieties!
Most types of cucumbers are green though. And they all taste just like a cucumber.
There is even a variety called “Armenian Cucumber” that looks and tastes like a cucumber but is actually a melon. Who knew?!?
Growing cucumbers from seed is simple and they grow really well this way so feel free to skip the seedling versions at the garden center if you want. There really is not much difference between plants grown from seed and plants grown from a transplant when it comes to cucumbers. It doesn’t save you any time in the long run.
So it’s your choice if you want to buy seedlings or just a packet of seeds. Either way!
I usually get my seeds online these days because I prefer to buy heirloom seeds and sometimes some specialty varieties that you can’t find at regular stores.
Here are some great places that you can order cucumber seeds:
I HIGHLY recommend growing cucumbers on a vertical trellis. They stay off the ground – which means they stay clean and easier to spot while picking – and take up a lot less ground space. If you let them sprawl, they will take over the entire place.
Here is a link to an awesome tutorial for how to build a sturdy trellis for cucumbers, pole beans and pole peas from FrugalFamilyHome.com. DIY Garden Trellis. Or a trellis system like Patrick Dolan from OneYardRevolution makes in this video. I think I might make a couple of these myself!
One of the things you might encounter while growing cucumbers is a flavor of bitterness in your cucumbers. I used to think that bitterness had a lot to do with how much water they get but recently I learned that it actually has more to do with genetics than anything.
Some varieties have the bitterness gene, some do not. Which is super sad if the ones growing in your garden are bitter, huh?
Luckily, the bitterness goes away or at least gets masked when you turn them into pickles. So if you’ve got a bunch of bitter cucumbers, try making either my garlic pickles or fermented pickles.
Your other option is to give them away in huge bags to all of your neighbors.
Oh, wait, don’t do that. Not if you want them to still be your friend.
Unless you give them the cucumbers and the pickle recipe.
Or better yet, just the pickles.
Now that would be a winner!
Happy cucumber growing, everyone!