Growing cucumbers is and remains a long-running favorite among amateur gardeners. Tips for growing, caring for and harvesting cucumbers can be found here.
Growing cucumbers ( Cucumis sativus ) is not particularly difficult in your own garden. With the right cultivation and care, the needs for the whole family can easily be covered over the summer. In the warm season, the green fruit is refreshing with its high water content. The cucumber can be put in for the winter and can therefore be kept for months. The healthy cucumber vegetable originally comes from India and has been known in Europe for centuries. Despite its exotic origin, the cucumber also thrives in this country in cooler temperatures. We have summarized for you what you need to consider for the successful cultivation of cucumbers.
The annual cucumber plant, unlike its relatives cucurbits (such as zucchini, pumpkins), is relatively cold-tolerant. Nevertheless, it does not tolerate frost either. In order for cucumber cultivation to go smoothly, a few notes on location, cultivation and care should be observed.
Because cucumbers are relatively cold-tolerant, you can even sow them directly in the garden in some places [Photo: Svekrova Olga / Shutterstock.com]
The right location
Although the cucumber is more cold-tolerant than pumpkins or melons, for example, the following motto applies outdoors: the sunnier, the better! The location should ideally be warm and sheltered from the wind. In the greenhouse, on the other hand, it can get a little too hot when growing cucumbers, so you should pay attention to a little shade there. Well-aerated, humus-rich and lighter soils with a certain proportion of sand are very suitable for growing cucumbers. However, too high a proportion of sand can also let too much water through and thus quickly lead to a lack of water in the cucumber plants. Soils that are too heavy, in turn, have a negative effect on growth.
Their ancestors come from India – accordingly the cucumber plant loves it sunny [Photo: Vitalii Stock / Shutterstock.com]
Most types of cucumber are climbing plants that can be climbed. We recommend a trellis that is approx. 50 cm away from the plant. The plants must first reach a certain size so that they can develop tendrils and grow up on the framework. Alternatively, the whole thing also works with a string, on which the cucumber plant can then snake upwards. The effort is worth it, because the plants produce a higher yield and longer cucumbers. Another important point when choosing the location: cucumbers are not self-compatible, so a break from cultivation of 4 years must be observed! This also applies to other cucurbitaceae such as pumpkin, zucchini and melon.
As climbing plants, cucumbers can produce shoots several meters long [Photo: druvo / Shutterstock.com]
When choosing the right location, the following guidelines should be observed:
- sunny, warm and sheltered place
- loose, airy and humus soil (not too heavy and not too much sand)
- provide a climbing aid (trellis or string)
- 4 year break after cucumbers and other cucurbits
Cucumber varieties: something for everyone
Even if you don't think so with the green vegetables – the selection of cucumber varieties is bigger than you think! A basic distinction is made between cucumbers (max. 40-60cm), pickled cucumbers (up to 15cm) and peeled cucumbers (up to 40cm). There are a number of types of cucumber, depending on the intended use and cultivation location (outdoors or in a greenhouse). You can find a larger selection in our overview of cucumber varieties.
- Bella (F1): cucumber; Variety without bitter substances and good yields; well suited for growing in the greenhouse.
- Chinese slang: cucumber; Outdoor cultivation is recommended; tiny core and lots of pulp.
- Eiffel (F1): Resistant variety with 30-35 cm long fruits; ideal for cultivation in the greenhouse; good taste.
- Delicacy: Well-tried variety (10-15 cm); suitable for pickling and fresh consumption.
- Foothill grapes: very robust and rapidly growing pickling cucumber; high yields and aromatic taste.
- Excelsior (F1): newly bred F1 hybrid; extremely productive; subtle spines on the cucumber fruits; crisp fruits with excellent taste; high quality.
- Corentine (F1): Forms only female flowers; very productive; outstanding aroma without bitter substances; good resistance to powdery mildew, mosaic virus and cucumber scabies.
- Fatum: Well-tried cucumber variety with lush fruits (40-50 cm long; 8-12 cm thick); it is better to peel the harvest before consumption, as the peel is quite tough.
When growing cucumbers, there are basically two ways of growing the plants: direct sowing or preculture in a pot.
In the case of direct sowing, sowing can only be started from mid-May, as under no circumstances should you plant before the ice saints. With this form of sowing, the seed spot in the bed should be piled up about 20 cm beforehand. The seeds are then sown 3 to 4 cm deep and at a distance of 30 to 50 cm. A larger row spacing of 1 to 1.5 m should also be observed, as cucumber plants can become very spreading.
The unbranched tendrils of the cucumber arise in the leaf axils [Photo: irina_raduga / Shutterstock.com]
As a preculture
The preculture on the windowsill or in the cold frame is a sensible alternative, as the harvest can be expected earlier. In the preculture, sowing should be done at the end of April at the earliest, because the young plants must not be too big when planting out in the field in May. For indoor cultivation, the pot is only half filled with soil and 2 to 3 seeds are sown approx. 1 to 2 cm deep. At 20 ° C the seeds germinate after a few days. As soon as the largest and strongest seedling looks beyond the edge of the pot, the other seedlings are removed and the pot is filled up to the top with soil so that the leaves continue to look out. This technique enables the young cucumber plant to develop adventitious roots. These are roots that arise on the shoot above the actual root. These provide more stability and increase the absorption of nutrients.
If you prefer cucumbers indoors in the warm, the first harvest can be so early [Photo: Lili-OK / Shutterstock.com]
When the ice saints are over, the early young plants can be planted in the bed as with direct sowing. Before final planting, it is worth hardening the young plants by putting them outdoors for several hours a day. In the bed, it is also advisable to protect the cucumber plants with fleece at the beginning. A protection made of fleece should only be used in cold temperatures and not permanently, so that the air underneath does not build up too much. Some types of cucumber also produce their fruits without pollination, but the fleece should be removed at the latest when the flowers form. Another useful method of support at the beginning is to lay black foil under the plant. Both materials help to keep the delicate plants warm in the event of late cold snaps.
The cucumber blossom attracts many insects [Photo: irina_raduga / Shutterstock.com]
These tips will help out when planting cucumbers outdoors:
- Direct sowing from mid-May, pile up soil 20 cm and sow 3-4 cm deep (distance 30-50 cm and row distance 1-1.5 m).
- Preculture from the end of April; 2 to 3 seeds in a half-full pot at 20 ° C; when the strongest seedling grows over the edge, fill the pot with soil.
- Use fleece or black foil as protection against the cold.
If these tips are followed when planting cucumbers, the young plants will have a good start to summer.
* in cooperation with Floragard
Care when growing cucumbers
Cucumbers are usually very healthy. But so that the cucumber plants stay healthy and produce a high yield, there are some care instructions to consider.
Properly pour cucumbers
Cucumbers are largely made up of water. It is therefore not surprising that their water requirements are also very high. The soil should always be kept moist, a layer of mulch around the plant also prevents excessive evaporation. Nevertheless, it should be ensured that no waterlogging occurs – cucumber plants do not like that at all.
With the use of drip irrigation, the foliage is guaranteed to stay dry [Photo: Vadym Zaitsev / Shutterstock.com]
To prevent fungal infections, water should not be poured over the leaves, but only directly into the soil. A note when watering is particularly important: The water should never be too cold! It is best to use only heated water from the rain barrel. The reason for this is that the cucumbers can later (also due to severe drought) become bitter.
Fertilize cucumbers properly
In order to provide enough nutrients to get started, it is advisable to work compost into the soil before planting out the cucumbers. A primarily organic organic fertilizer such as our Plantura organic tomato fertilizer with long-term effects is just as suitable. Cucumbers usually do not need a lot of fertilization, as long as the location is sensible. The plant does not tolerate too much nitrogen well, so mineral fertilizers should be avoided. In addition, loading the floor can be avoided.
When caring for cucumber cultivation, a few points should be observed so that the harvest becomes profitable:
- Pour a lot
- Avoid waterlogging and do not wet leaves with water
- Use only preheated water (otherwise cucumbers can become bitter)
- Fertilize little
- Prepare the soil with compost before planting out
Tip : Just like tomatoes, cucumbers can also be skimmed, which can help counteract diseases, for example.
Diseases and pests in cucumbers
Cucumber plants are not considered particularly demanding. Nevertheless, improper care can lead to damage from diseases and pests. A common problem that is not caused by a fungus or animals is the shedding of young fruit. This happens through the excessive attachment of fruits, which the plant itself cannot optimally take care of. This is where removing some of the fruit deposits helps to leave enough energy for the existing fruit.
Another problem that occurs very often is caused by the infestation of powdery mildew and downy mildew. Powdery mildew can be recognized by a white coating on the leaves, downy mildew by golden-brown spots on the top and white coating on the underside. Angular leaf spot disease is also a relatively common disease. The bacterial infection can be recognized by the angular and brown spots on the leaf. These tips will help prevent such diseases in cucumber plants:
- No too high humidity
- Do not wet leaves when watering
- Don't hold stock too tight
- Note crop rotation
- No excessive nitrogen fertilization
- Choose healthy and resistant varieties
This leaf of a cucumber shows clear signs of fungal attack [Photo: Lertwit Sasipreyajun / Shutterstock.com]
Picking and storing cucumbers
Even before most types of vegetables are ripe, the cucumber is ready to be harvested. The following tips range from the harvesting process to the ideal storage of the cucumbers.
Harvesting cucumbers properly
Cucumbers are very fast growing vegetables, so they can be harvested outdoors as early as July. It goes even earlier in the greenhouse: it is even possible there from the end of May! Just two weeks after flowering, the healthy cucumbers can be used in the kitchen. The following applies: Salad and pickled cucumbers are harvested when they are still unripe (deep green color), peeled cucumbers can ripen a little longer. In order not to miss the right harvest time, you should pay attention to these signs:
The prickly pickled cucumbers are harvested small and long before they are actually ripe [Photo: New Africa / Shutterstock.com]
- Smooth shell
- Even green
- No yellow color (overripe)
To harvest the cucumbers, the fruit is cut off directly on the stem with a knife. It should be harvested regularly so that the plant continues to produce fruit. In addition, new flower approaches should be cut from August – this way the plant has enough energy for the cucumbers that are already growing.
If pickles and cucumbers turn yellow, they are too ripe for consumption [Photo: rudnitskaya_anna / Shutterstock.com]
Store cucumbers properly
How and how long cucumbers can be stored depends entirely on the variety. While cucumbers are best eaten fresh, pickled cucumbers are typically canned in jars.
Pickles usually don't last long. The temperature is decisive for the storage time. Ideally, this is around 10 to 13 ° C – so neither the refrigerator nor room temperature are ideal. Cucumbers originally come from warmer areas, which becomes apparent when they are stored. Cucumbers should therefore only be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. Otherwise, they can get muddy and blotchy.
Cucumbers do not keep long in the refrigerator and should be processed soon [Photo: atdigit / Shutterstock.com]
Since most of the green vegetables are made up of water, they definitely don't belong in the freezer! Direct storage with apples or tomatoes should also be avoided. The reason for this is the so-called ethylene, a gas that stimulates ripening. The gas is produced by the fruit and causes cucumbers to overripe quickly.
As the name suggests, pickling cucumbers are perfect for storing in a mason jar. This means that cucumbers can be eaten for many months and through the winter. When canning, the cucumbers are usually pickled with vinegar, garlic, onions, dill, bay leaves and mustard seeds. It is crucial for the shelf life whether the cucumbers and the other ingredients have been heated beforehand. This is the only way to store healthy vegetables for longer. You can find detailed instructions for storing and pickling cucumbers here.
For a particularly rich cucumber harvest, take a look at this article: We give you 10 tips for the best cucumbers from your own garden.