The beloved cucumber! A staple in the summer garden, this savory fruit is beloved for more than one reason. Cukes are made up of over 90% water and contain some vital vitamins and nutrients we need.
Its excellent blend of fiber and water are great for digestion and regulation of blood sugar. Not to mention its versatility! Toss diced cucumbers on a salad, pickle them for a fresh tangy taste, or simply eat with a sprinkle of sea salt on a nice summer day!
If you have ever had a fresh cucumber from the garden, you know the taste stands distinct from its counterpart in your local grocery store. So how do you yield cucumbers that are flavorful and healthy? The good news is, they are pretty easy to care for and will produce abundantly when the right steps are taken. The following are five tips for your best cucumbers yet!
Always grow cucumbers upwards
For a fresh taste with a large, long shape, the slicing variety is perfect. Since cucumbers require space to grow, go vertical! Vining cucumbers that grow vertically yield the best crops because of an increase in airflow, which reduces chances of powdery mildew and allows for cleaner growth with more sunlight contact.
Varieties like “Dasher II” and “Diva” yield slicing cucumbers that are thick and over 8 inches long. For these types, a sturdy trellis is your best friend! Buy a trellis, or make your own with concrete reinforcing wire that is at least 3 feet above the ground. When seedlings are planted on a trellis, they can be 1.5 feet apart to best utilize space.
Use the best soil for the best cucumbers
Knowing the right quality of soil and how to best prepare your garden is half the battle. For full growth potential, start your seedlings about 3 weeks before transporting them to the ground. Place your cucumber seeds into biodegradable starter pots in a warm environment, like on top of a water heater or a heat mat.
Temperature is very important. Germination in soil under 70 degrees is largely susceptible to frost damage. The soil should be neutral or somewhat alkaline with a 7.0 pH level. Be sure that the soil is moist with good compost, and loose for good drainage.
Cucumbers love sunshine and water
Cucumber plants grow strong and beautiful with consistent water and sun. Choose a spot in your garden that gets lots of sun, at least six hours a day. The trellis will prove really helpful in making sure that your plants get direct sunlight. Set your trellis up east to west, so there’s minimal sunlight competition and those cukes can bathe in that heat and sun.
Watering for consistently moist soil is crucial! Inconsistent and uneven moisture compromises the taste and size of the fruit. A soaker hose is the champion option here, as it gets the water closest to the soil, preventing leaf diseases that can damage the plant.
Feed your cucumbers well
Beautiful cucumber plants require delicious food. (Did you ever think you would have so much in common with a cucumber?) Cucumbers love to eat and if possible, always plant them in soil that has been amended with compost.
If you are growing them in containers, use a good organic potting soil and add a bit of compost or vermicompost into the mix. Feed cucumbers monthly with fish emulsion or composted tea. Feed container cukes more frequently giving them a diluted dose of fish emulsion or ¼ strength composted tea.
Know when to harvest
Knowing when to harvest is a game changer for tasty, plump cucumbers that also keep the plant in a condition for continued yielding. Over-ripened cucumbers on the vine may cause the plant to shut down, and the cucumbers to become shriveled and bitter. Pick your fruit at 6-8 inches long, early in the morning, for cucumbers that are tender and full of flavor. This means at peak harvest time, you will be picking cucumbers every other day!
Cucumbers are a versatile and relatively easy crop for summer fun. Allow trial and error to be a part of the process. With these tips in mind, you will have baskets of plump cucumbers to give family and friends in no time!
Ready to enjoy a delicious harvest of cucumbers?