On this page are step by step instructions for growing cucumbers in a short growing season and rainy climate. We are located in the mountains of central Pennsylvania where the last frost date is June 1st and there is about one week with days in the 90s. Our process for starting cucumbers has been continuously improved over the years and we are very happy with the results.
On this page are step by step instructions for:Planting Bed Preparation Fertilizing Pests Harvesting
See above how these cucumber plants are on "high ground"? Larger mounds keep the plant out of the puddles that form in the hollows between the mounds.
We don't start growing cucumbers from seed indoors because the plants don't like to be transplanted. They just sit out in the garden, not growing, for so long that a seed planted out in the garden at the same time will often overtake the transplant.
Growing cucumbers horizontally uses about 7 sq. ft of garden space (one mound). One mound planted with a productive variety, such as Vertina, can produce 80 or more cucumbers over the summer. As they spread out, the vines send down new roots dramatically increasing their access to water and nutrients. This improves the output of a single cucumber plant grown on a mound over one grown on a trellis.
Growers trellis cucumbers when space is an issue. If you plan to use a trellis, still mound the soil were the seeds are going to be planted so the soil warms up faster and drains properly.
The steps below are for growing cucumbers horizontally on the ground.
Optional: Mulch in between mounds with black plastic, newspaper or straw (not hay). Ask yourself, are you sure you can keep up with the weeds? Do you have a tiller you can use weekly? Some up front effort into weed blocking mulch can save a ton of time later. If you have a big garden you can space the mounds wide enough for a mower.
Note about straw: Straw has to be really thick to be an effective mulch. It works better if used with a solid barrier like newspaper or plastic. When used alone, lay it down at least 6 inches thick.
Soil Temperature: 60 - 90˚F
Optimum Weather: warm & dry.
Evenly distribute the seeds over the flat top of the mound. Then push them in with your finger. Otherwise you can lose track of were they all are.
Planting depth: 1/2 - 1 inch.
Seeds: Large & easy to handle
Qty: 6 - 12 seeds/mound. We vary the number depending on germination rate and age of seeds.
Water lightly if the soil is already damp. Water thoroughly if the soil is dry.
Keep slightly damp, and not soaked until established. Keep an eye on them when they are small. Young cucumber plants wilt readily when they need water. The idea is to prevent wilting while not over watering. Repeated or prolonged wilting will stress the plants and reduce output.
Rotted manure: If you have access to this, it makes an amazing garden. It doesn't burn the plants, improves the soil, releases nutrients over time and still provides the kick your plants need to be productive.
Rapid release liquid fertilizer: This is great for providing rapid results. There are lots of application systems. We like the containers that you attach to your hose and then just spray like you are watering your garden. If you know your soil is low in nutrients, spray on the mounds and young plants. Use during the growing season if you think the plants are starting to slow down. If you buy the kind you have to mix yourself, follow dilution instructions carefully so you don't burn the plants.
Well 2012 was interesting. We were hit with a stink bug invasion. They were on everything.. except the cucumber plants. Actually we had no pests on the cucumbers at all and we didn't spray.
In 2010 we lost our entire cucumber crop to critters. We think woodchucks were the biggest culprit but there were deer tracks too. Animals such as deer, rabbits and woodchucks love cucumber plants and eat everything, flowers, leaves, stems and cucumbers. They'll walk past your corn, tomatoes and peppers to munch cucumber plants.
Pick to Maintain Production: Picking the cucumbers triggers the plant to bloom and produce more. Large maturing fruit can signal the plant to slow production. Growing cucumbers and maturing seeds take energy so pick large fruit off the plant even if you aren't going to eat it.
Storing: If you need your cucumbers to last longer, rub them with vegetable oil after washing. Then refrigerate. Cucumbers have thin skins that easily allow moisture through. As they dry out they feel softer and the skins start to wrinkle. This is especially helpful if you are trying to get enough to do a batch of pickles. Just wash the oil off before you pickle them.
Collecting Seeds: One caveat... if you want to collect seeds for next year, you can let a few fruit mature for that purpose. Let them get quite large prior to picking. The larger cucumbers have larger more mature seeds which germinate more successfully.
If you are growing cucumbers that are hybrids, they will not come true to type, but that doesn't mean its not worthwhile. Some of our favorite vegetables were "surprise" seeds from the previous year.
Twist the stem or cut with a knife or pruners to remove.
Pick every 2-7 days as a general guideline. The frequency depends on the size of your garden and productivity of your plants. They produce continuously from July until frost.
Smaller is Better: The best cucumber is a small cucumber. They taste better and have smaller seeds. Pickling cucumbers are usually picked at 2-4 inches. Slicing and burpless can be harvested when longer.