Are you ready to start a cucumber garden but not sure you know how to do it properly? It’s easier than you think, especially when you have a few simple garden hacks up your sleeve.
Discover some of our favorite tips, including how far apart to plant cucumbers, tricks for managing weeds, how to make watering more manageable, and more. Get ready to learn just how simple it can be to have a thriving cucumber garden.
1. Picking Your Cucumber Seeds
One of the many perks of growing your own food is that you can plant exactly what you want.
Maybe you’re ready to explore other cucumber varieties — perhaps those you can’t easily find in your local supermarket. Keep these tips in mind when you’re deciding what will make it into your veggie patch.
Most types of cucumbers you plant in your yard will either be bush cucumbers or vining cucumbers. Unlike vining cucumbers, bush varieties don’t require trellising. Both can work even if you have limited space.
Think about whether you’d like an heirloom variety or a hybrid. Hybrids can be more disease resistant, but you’ll only get one growing season out of them. Alternatively, you can plant heirlooms year after year if you learn how to properly harvest the seeds from your cucumber crop.
You’re probably the most familiar with slicing cucumbers as they’re what’s typically sold in stores, but don’t use them if you’d like to try making your own pickles. Instead, track down pickling cucumbers. These small cucumbers will give you the satisfying crunch you’re used to.
When choosing seeds, look for companies that are transparent about where their seeds come from. Back to the Roots organic seeds are always grown domestically in the United States and 100% organic, giving you peace of mind.
2. Deciding When to Plant Your Cucumbers
One thing you’ll want to be extra mindful of when planting cucumbers is soil temperature. Temperatures that are too chilly could interfere with the germination process.
Don’t plant a single cucumber seed until the danger of frost has passed. An online search will help you determine the last frost date for your region. Once you have that date, you’ve got the green light to get your garden ready to grow cucumbers.
Because maintaining proper soil temperature is critical, think about using row covers until you know temperatures will be consistently warm. You can also stake down black plastic sheeting to create a greenhouse effect. As long as there’s enough air circulation underneath, your plants will be safe from surprise cold spells.
For more tips and tricks, check out our guide on when to plant cucumbers.
3. How Far Apart To Plant Cucumbers
Deciding how far apart to plant cucumbers really depends on the type of cukes you choose to grow in your garden. A good starting point is spacing them between two and three feet apart, but consult your seed packet as some might require more space.
It’s better to give cucumber plants a little more room than not enough. If they’re too crowded, growing plants could prevent others from enjoying the full sun they need.
Even with their space requirements, cucumbers are still a good choice for small gardens. Instead of worrying about spacing in a garden bed, give container gardening a try. Choose good-sized pots so your cucumbers have plenty of room to grow. And don’t forget a trellis if you’re growing a vining variety.
Psst: Save some fallen branches from yard cleanups. Invite kids to help you put together natural trellises for your cucumber vines. Use twine to secure everything, and you’re all set.
4. Support Plant Pollination
For the best chance of a successful garden, do your best to support plant pollination. Cucumbers have two different kinds of flowers: male flowers and female flowers.
Female flowers can produce fruit, but they’re likely to have fewer seeds than usual. On the other hand, male flowers will only set fruit if pollinators help carry pollen from one type of flower to the other.
We usually think of bees and butterflies when we think of plant pollination. Still, other helpful insects are lending a hand. Wasps, flies, moths, and even mosquitoes are all plant pollinators you might miss in your garden if you’re not looking.
5. Protect Your Plants from Pests and Diseases
You won’t be the only one looking forward to munching on those fresh cucumbers. Watch out for competition from aphids and cucumber beetles. These beetles have voracious appetites and will eat through stems, fruits, and leaves.
Be diligent about using insecticidal soap or other earth-friendly means of pest control. Aside from eating through your garden, pests can pass diseases from unhealthy plants to healthy ones. When bugs move around in your yard, they can shed spores, depositing them right into your veggie patch. If your plants die half way through the season, you’ll have to wait for the next growing season to plant more cucumbers.
Use an organic fungicide (or try a homemade version) to knock out powdery mildew, and if any of your plants show signs of bacterial wilt, pull them out so it doesn’t spread in your garden.
Psst: Don’t plant cucumbers near watermelons. The same bugs that love to chow down on melons will be all too eager to pull up a chair and crunch on your cucumbers. On the flip side, some plants can help repel unwanted bugs and even improve soil quality.
6. Be Smart About Weed Control and Soil Quality
Soil quality is a huge factor in how successful your garden will be. We recommend buying the best quality organic potting soil you can find. The right soil will contain organic matter such as humus, alfalfa meal, beneficial bacteria, and more. It’ll also provide improved water drainage and nutrient absorption.
Another reason to look for organic soil? It’s free from pesticides and chemicals, which is essential if you’re growing your own food.
Keep this in mind with weed control, and opt for safe and chemical-free methods. You don’t want to compromise fertile soil with weed killer. Here are a couple of great alternatives:
- Mulch is a fantastic way to cut down on weeds. It can help with pests and protect plants from cooler temperatures too. Opt for organic mulches instead of plastic mulch. Grass clippings, crushed leaves, straw, and wood chips are all eco-friendly choices.
- Use this handy tip for extra protection against weeds — try spreading a thin layer of newspaper in your garden beds before mulching. You can expect to see fewer weeds making upkeep a little easier. If you have clay soil with poor drainage, go ahead and skip this as you could wind up suffocating your plant’s root structure.
7. Clever Watering Hacks
Plan to water your cucumber plants with about an inch of water a week to maintain proper soil moisture. Be sure not to let the soil get too soggy.
If you need a little help making sure your plants get enough water each week, try one of these gardening hacks to make the job easier:
- Make a quick DIY drip irrigation system for your veggie patch with plastic soda bottles and an old sock. Find a spot in your garden (or a few depending on how much material you have) to bury the bottle, leaving the neck exposed above ground. Before you bury it, puncture holes around the sides and shove the sock inside. Fill it with water, screw on the cap, and you’re set. The sock will absorb water and slowly disperse it into the soil. Done and done.
- You can use a similar setup in container gardens too. Upcycle your wine bottles to create a watering system for your cucumber plants. Simply fill up the wine bottle, quickly turn it upside down and jam it into the soil. Your plants will absorb the water they need while saving you from worrying about underwatering.
Give Your Garden Some TLC and Watch It Thrive
After you’ve learned how far apart to plant cucumbers, the real fun begins. It doesn’t take much to have a bountiful cucumber garden. When you employ a few creative tricks for keeping weeds at bay, making watering a cinch, and creating natural trellises for your cucumber plants, tending a garden can be fun and easy. Even better, you can use the same garden hacks for other plants and veggies. For more ideas on how to improve your garden, continue browsing the Back to the Roots blog.