Knowledge from Olle Garden Bed: How to Plant and Support Cucumber Plants
Growing Conditions and Requirements for Cucumbers
Cucumbers thrive best when both the air and soil in the garden beds are warm. They do well when outdoor temperatures range between 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and the soil temperature in the garden beds is at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit. It is important to ensure that the garden beds are in a sunny location to absorb and retain heat effectively. Cucumbers may grow slower or may not grow at all when temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit or rise above 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures exceeding 95 degrees may cause flower drop and hinder fruiting. To protect cucumber plants in garden beds from extreme heat, you can use shade cloth or place the garden beds in a partially shaded area. Additionally, applying mulch around the cucumber plants in the garden beds can help regulate soil temperature and retain moisture. It's essential to keep in mind that cucumbers are not frost-tolerant, so avoid planting them in garden beds too early in the spring when frost is still a risk.
Most cucumbers require ample sunlight, ideally receiving 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily. However, in very hot climates where temperatures often surpass 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer, they can benefit from partial shade, especially during the afternoon.
Cucumbers thrive in soil that is rich in organic matter, loose, and well-draining. To achieve the best results, amend the soil with a few inches of well-rotted compost and/or worm castings before planting. Loosen heavy clay with sand or potting soil.
Regular deep watering is essential for successful cucumber cultivation! Cucumber plants prefer consistently moist soil and regular watering. Irregular watering (fluctuating between very wet and dry) can cause plant stress, lead to dry fruits, and result in bitter-tasting cucumbers. Mulching several inches around the plant's base helps to maintain even moisture. However, avoid overwatering, as soggy soil or standing water can lead to root rot.
The water needs and frequency may vary based on your climate, soil, and rainfall. In areas with little or no rain during summer, a drip irrigation system on our raised beds is used twice a week for an hour each time to ensure the plants are well-hydrated.
Cucumber Types and Varieties
Cucumbers are generally divided into three categories: slicing cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, and seedless or thin-skinned cucumbers.
Slicing cucumbers are the most common type found in grocery stores and are used for fresh consumption (although they can also be pickled). They typically measure around 6 to 10 inches in length, have medium-thick skin, slight bumps, and contain a moderate amount of seeds. Some excellent slicing cucumber varieties include Marketmore, Paraiso, and Green 18. Some hybrid slicing cucumbers have thinner skin, like my personal favorite, Manny!
Pickling cucumbers are shorter and thicker (around 3 to 4 inches long) with bumpy skin. Their compact size makes them perfect for canning pickles! Pickling cucumbers also tend to be more crisp, making them great for pickles and relishes. Popular pickling cucumber varieties include Homemade Pickles, Calypso, National Pickling, and Bush Pickle.
Seedless or thin-skinned cucumbers, often referred to as English, Asian, or "burpless" cucumbers, are similar to slicing cucumbers but have exceptionally thin and tender skin. This makes them ideal for fresh eating and easier to digest, earning them the nickname "burpless." Seedless cucumber varieties often grow longer (up to 12 inches or more) but maintain a slimmer profile, so they typically have fewer seeds than traditional slicing cucumbers. I enjoy growing seedless cucumbers like Tasty Green, Telegraph, and Kalunga.
Other cucumber varieties include lemon cucumbers, cucamelons, bush cucumbers, white cucumbers, Armenian cucumbers, and more.
Designing a Garden Bed for Cucumbers
Considering the different growth habits of cucumber varieties, it's important to design a suitable garden bed and provide appropriate support. There are two main cucumber types to consider: bush cucumbers and vining cucumbers.
Bush cucumbers are more compact and do not spread and climb like vining cucumbers. They have shorter stems, usually growing within a height of 1.5 to 2.5 feet. Due to their concentrated growth habit, bush cucumber plants can be spaced relatively close together, about 1 to 1.5 feet apart. This helps to save space and allows for a tight arrangement of cucumber plants, maximizing yield.
For bush cucumbers, a simple and effective support method is to use small garden cages or plant trellises placed around the plants. These cages or trellises provide support for the plants and prevent them from sprawling on the ground. Choose sturdy and durable garden cages or trellises, and be sure to adjust and secure them as the plants grow to ensure stability.
The growth habit of vining cucumbers is entirely different from that of bush cucumbers. They spread and vine extensively, requiring more space to grow. Typically, the spreading range of vining cucumber plants is between 6 to 8 feet, so it is necessary to space the plants slightly apart when planting, about 2 to 3 feet, to avoid interference and overcrowding.
As vining cucumbers need more space to grow, it is advisable to provide climbing support structures, such as cucumber trellises, horizontal beams, or vine frames, in the garden bed. These structures can be set up along the edges of the garden bed or on both sides of the bed, allowing cucumber plants to climb and grow upward. When setting up the support structures, ensure they are sturdy enough to bear the weight of the plants.
The spreading nature of vining cucumbers can also be utilized for vertical gardening, where the vines climb on upright supports, saving floor space and providing better ventilation and sunlight exposure.
Regardless of whether you are planting bush cucumbers or vining cucumbers, closely monitor the plants' growth and prune unnecessary branches and leaves promptly to maintain plant health and proper air circulation.
When planting cucumbers in a garden bed, selecting appropriate spacing and support structures based on the cucumber type (bush or vining) is crucial. By understanding cucumber's growth habits, planning the garden bed layout wisely, and providing stable support, you can maximize cucumber yield and enjoy crisp, juicy cucumbers throughout the summer.