The crisp, refreshing taste of cucumbers -- as well as their versatility -- make them a must-have for the kitchen and the garden.
The cucumber is a warm-weather vegetable and very sensitive to frost. It will grow anywhere in the United States, however, because it has a very short growing season -- only 55 to 65 days from planting to harvest -- and most areas can provide it with at least that much sunshine. Cucumbers respond to a rich, well-worked, well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. Sow seeds directly in the garden two to three weeks after the average date of last frost.
To grow transplants indoors, sow seeds three to four weeks prior to planting in the garden. Plant cucumbers in inverted hills, leaving the three strongest plants per hill. Cucumbers need plenty of water to keep them growing fast; don't let the soil dry out. In hot weather the leaves may wilt during the day even when soil moisture is high because the plant is using water faster than its roots can supply it. This is normal; just be sure the plant is receiving regular and sufficient water. Mulch to avoid compaction caused by heavy watering.
Harvest promptly; mature cucumbers left on the vine suppress the production of more flowers. Pick the cucumbers when they're immature -- the size will depend on the variety. When the seeds start to mature, the vines will stop producing.
Types of Cucumbers
There are many varieties of cucumbers available to the home gardener. The following are just a few of the good varieties.
- Early Pride Hybrid, harvest at 55 days, grows straight, green fruit that is 8 1/2 inches long.
- Cherokee, harvest at 55 days, is smooth-skinned and good for pickling.
- Straight Eight, harvest at 58 days, is an All America Selection.
- Bush Champion, harvest at 55 days, has productive, compact vines producing 11-inch fruit; it's a good variety for containers.
- Sweet Success, harvest at 58 days, is an All America Selection that is thin-skinned and seedless and produces 14-inch fruit.
- Tasty Green Hybrid, harvest at 62 days, produces 10-inch fruit and is a burpless variety.
- Eureka, harvest at 57 days, is resistant to most cucumber diseases.
- Cool Breeze, harvest at 45 days, is early, disease resistant, and seedless.