Cucumbers Care At A Glance
- Warm season, annuals. Can be bush or vining plants.
- Require well-drained, organically rich soil in full sun with proper spacing.
- Plant stresses will affect yield & quality. Keep plants properly watered, fertilized, and disease-free.
- Water consistently, especially during heat & drought and mulch properly.
Follow similar planting instructions for other cucurbits such as squash, pumpkins, or melons.
- Once the soil has warmed sufficiently and frost has passed, mound soil into hills 8 in. tall and 10 to 12 in. apart.
- In pre-moistened soil plant 4-6 seeds per hill, ensuring good seed-to-soil contact.
- When seedlings have 2-3 sets of true leaves, thin by cutting the stems to leave 2-3 plants per hill.
- Support can be installed at this point for vining varieties.
- Mulch plants and water consistently at the soil level to avoid wetting the foliage.
Get a jump on planting season by starting seeds indoors in plantable pots.
- Sow 1-2 seeds, 1/2 inch deep in 2-3 inches in peat pots with sterile, pre-moistened seed starting mix or hydrated Jiffy-7® Extra Deep pellets.
- Water lightly and cover pots with plastic wrap to help keep the medium moist.
- Provide bottom heat of 75°-85°F. Seeds will germinate in about a week with optimal conditions.
- At germination, remove from bottom heat, and place seedlings in bright light and slightly cooler temperature.
- Once seedlings have produced 3 sets of true leaves, plants should be hardened off for 7-10 days and then transplanted into the garden when daytime highs are warm enough.
Determinate: More compact habit, with more concentrated fruit set potential than indeterminates. Requires less fertilization.
Indeterminate: Vining growth habit. Fruit condition and quality benefit from plants grown with support.
Beit-Alpha: Mid. Eastern & Armenian type cucumbers. Popular due to propensity for gynoecious & parthenocarpic fruits.
English or European: Primarily bred for commercial greenhouse growers. Long, dark green furrowed fruits with thin skin, have undeveloped seeds and are burpless. Often found individually wrapped in protective plastic in produce aisles. Fruits can grow to nearly 2 ft. long without losing flavor or their crisp texture.
Cucumber varieties can have different pollination processes that affect how fruits are formed. These different pollination traits are worth considering when choosing cultivars for your garden, as some may perform better in different situations.
- Male and female cucurbit flowers look similar. However, female flowers are typically larger and will have tiny, immature fruits beneath each bloom. Male flowers form first, days or weeks before female flowers appear.
- Pollination of cucumbers can be affected by high temperatures and other stresses. Excessive heat, drought, rain, and pesticide applications can negatively affect the amount of pollen and its quality or viability, which can lead to low or no fruit set. Growing conditions and care are critical.
- Cucumber pollen forms in a sticky mass and must be transferred by pollinators (bees mostly). In their absence, this should be done by hand, or by applications of Blossom Set Spray, which is a natural plant hormone.
Monoecious: Both male & female flowers are produced on the same plant, with a longer producing period.
Gynoecious: Gynoecious plants produce a higher percentage of female flowers, but pollination is still required. These types produce a lot of fruit in a shorter, more concentrated period. Each packet contains a blend of 90% gynoecious & 10% monoecious seeds.
NOTE: Gardeners should plant the entire packet of seeds, not just a select few seeds to ensure enough male blooms are produced for proper pollination.
Parthenocarpic: Plants produce flowers that set fruit with no pollination. Fruits will be virtually seedless because of this. Parthenocarpy trait is prized by greenhouse or indoor hydroponic growers. Since cross-pollination can yield fruits with seeds, parthenocarpic varieties should be isolated from others if necessary.
Cucumber plants, like other garden vegetables, perform best with regular, consistent water applied at the root zone. Follow the 1 inch of water per week, per plant rule, and maintain 2-3 in. of mulch or compost around the base of cucumber plants to help stabilize soil temperatures, maintain moisture, and suppress weeds.
NOTE: The main cause of bitter-tasting cucumbers is plant stress caused by heat and/or drought.
Cucumbers prefer loose, well-drained soils rich in organic matter with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Proper nutrient absorption is dependent on the proper pH. Cucumbers require soils with low nitrogen levels and higher phosphorus and potassium for proper fruit set and development. Utilize vegetable-specific, naturally derived water-soluble fertilizer with a formula of 4-6-8 or granulated, slow-release organic food with a 3-5-3 formula for best results.
NOTE: Overfertilization results in excessive growth, stimulates male flower production, and can limit fruit set.
No Fruits: Several issues can cause a lack of fruit.
- Know the pollination type of cucumber cultivar you plant and what to expect.
- Lack of proper pollination (See Pollination Patterns above)
- All female flowers with no male flowers for pollen yields no fruits.
- High temperatures cause sterile pollen.
- Plant stress due to lack of water, disease, or insect pressures.
- Other environmental stresses or conditions affect pollen transfer.
- Plants only produce male flowers due to nutritional issues, weather, watering, or other stresses.
Bitter Tasting Cucumbers: Plant stress causes bitter-tasting cucumbers. Avoid stress-causing factors.
- Heat or temperature fluctuations.
- Drought or inconsistent watering. li>
- Nutrient imbalances.
- Shady growing conditions.
Cross-pollination has no influence on flavor. This is an old gardening myth or wives' tale. Cross-pollination between two different cucumber varieties will only affect the seeds produced. Cucumbers cannot cross with other cucurbits like melons, squash, or pumpkins.
While different varieties can have variable flavors, the seed itself has no effect on fruit flavor. The flavor is dictated by growing conditions and environmental factors, as with other fruits and veggies.
Misshapen Fruits: Plant stress due to weather conditions such as heat, fluctuating temps, drought, or excess moisture.
Pollination issues that are caused by similar environmental or cultural factors.
- Healthy, viable pollen is temperature dependent. And the transfer is pollinator-dependent.
- When pollen transfer is not fully completed, it leads to aborted fruits or misshapen fruits.
Choosing a cucumber variety that is well suited with applicable disease resistance to your specific region is critical. Many modern cultivars are listed as non-bitter, burpless, or have the word "sweet" in their name, which are all indications that those cultivars have been bred or selected to produce reliably bitter-free fruits when they are grown in optimal conditions.