Looking for a full guide on growing Cucumber Plants? The full process is covered from the soil to problems like why are my cucumber plants turning yellow?
When I first started growing cucumber plants I found myself constantly googling different things that would prop up during the process of growing cucumbers, this let to frustration so I wanted to put a full guide together on all the things I have learned.
I aim to keep adding to this cucumber plant guide when I discover something new in the growing process.
I will cover everything that I have discovered over the years of growing Cucumber Plants from what is the best soil to any problems that I have had like why are my cucumber plants turning yellow.
Best site to grow Cucumber plants
The first thing that we want to do is pick a section of your yard where you will grow your cucumber plant, as cucumber can be a little finicky in what they need so selecting the best spot is key.
Cucumber plants like sun, moisture, well-drained soil and evening shade, most people find it difficult to get all this but getting a spot that hits as many points as possible is key.
The most important aspect for cucumber plants is morning sun as this will dry the morning dew off the plant and minimize the risk of mildew. Planting on the east of your yard should get allow your cucumber plants to get the morning sun.
To give your plants some evening shade you could plant some tall sunflowers to the west this will allow the plants to get the morning sun but protect them from the evening sun.
The site you choose to grow cucumbers should not be next to potatoes or aromatic herbs as they can pass on pests and disease onto cucumbers.
That should cover the best spot we will cover the best soil below.
The best soil for cucumbers
Cucumber plants are susceptible to pests and disease the first thing you must do if you have grown anything in the section of the garden that you have chosen this year is to rotate the soil from year to year.
If the section of the garden you have selected has had a related plant to the cucumber-like melons, pumpkins, and squash grown in it then and should not plant in the same section before or after each other.
When you rotate the soil its recommends adding compost and manure to give a rich soil but you don’t want heavy soil, this should be carried out a few months before planting your plants.
Adding a worm casting compost that you can get from Amazon is a great addition to the soil that should give it a rich component.
We suggest that you test your soils PH with a PH tester and the perfect range is between 5.5 and 7. The higher the PH the better as the cucumber plant will be less susceptible to fungal disease.
If your soil doesn’t meat this then you should be able to find a product on the market that will take your PH up or down the get it within the range.
Your soil should be constantly moist but not soggy if you find it hard to get this then planting in raised beds can help with this, as you will be able to get soil that is free draining but can hold some moister.
Picking Resistant Varieties of Cucumber
As we have covered above that cucumber plants can be susceptible to pests and diseases, its best to pick a cucumber that is resistant to disease as you will be a step closer to success.
Below we will give you some popular verities that resistant to mosaic virus, downy mildew, and powdery mildew also resistant to bacterial wilt this is a disease that is spread by a cucumber beetle.
- Marketmore 76 (This verity is a perfect slicing cucumber)
- Marketmore 80 (This verity is a perfect slicing cucumber)
- Salad Bush (This verity is a perfect slicing cucumber, as it’s a dwarf its also good for containers)
- Regal (This verity is a perfect pickling cucumber)
If you choose to grow your cucumber plant from seed then when you come to buy your seeds look on the packet for the letters PM this will mean it’s a cucumber verity that is resident to powdery mildew.
When to sow Cucumbers
Direct sowing cucumber seeds in the ground are in most cases the best method as they tend to be more disease residences this way, you can start cucumbers indoors and replant when the time is right but they do tend to be a weaker plant.
You want to sow your seeds when the soil temperature is above 60 degrees you can get a soil thermometer if you want to make sure the soil is above this.
If you live in a colder climate then covering your soil with black plastic will help warm the soil up a lot faster.
Sow seeds 1inch deep and around 2-3 feet apart in a row if you put them to close you will be able to thin them out at a later date.
A tip that I learned and I had my best crop of cucumbers and that is to plant 1 radish seed with every cucumber seed you will not be growing the radish to eat you will let it flower then go to seed. The reason that you do this is that the radish keeps the cucumber beetles at bay.
If you have had problems when you have grown cucumbers before then my suggestion is to give each plant a little more room, this will allow the plants to dry out much better and this is in most cases what causes most of the problems.
My other tip to help to eradicate most pest problems is to sow the seeds late in the sowing window, for example, you have a verity that has a window of April till the first week of June so I would plant my cucumbers the first week of June. This will miss a large window and will avoid most of the pest damage.
A rule of thumb is to start planting two weeks after your last frost, sow a line every three weeks for 8 weeks after your last frost date. This way even if you lose some early plants then you should have plants that will be ok also the added advantage to this is you will be able to harvest at different times and not get a glut of cucumbers all at once.
Once you sow your seeds it best practice to protect them from pests, I use berry baskets this will stop any pest digging up the seeds you can also use a straw to cover them this will also act as a protection to the cucumber from lying on the floor in you are not going to grow them vertically.
How to support cucumber plants
Cucumber plants are natural climbing plants so you need to supply them with a support system, you don’t need anything special placing stakes into the ground and then applying trellis netting will do the job even some string attached to your stakes will do the job.
I recommend setting any cucumber support early on (Before sowing seed would be great) as you don’t want to be set up when you have new plants growing and then causing damage to the new growth.
Growing cucumbers vertically will give good air circulation around the plants to minimize disease, also when you come to harvest your cucumbers they will be much easier to pick.
Sorry about the poor image but this is the type of thing that you will need to give good ventilation to the cucumbers you should be able to see the string that I have that gives support to my cucumbers above.
Caring for cucumbers during the growing stage
Mulch for cucumber plants
The base of cucumber the reason for this is that the cucumber is very sensitive to weeds; weeds can cause crowding and reduce the airflow also some weeds can carry the cucumber beetle so mulch will help prevent weed growth.
Interplant companion cucumber crops
This will help reduce weed growth I use radish I let this flower and seed I don’t eat them but you could if you wish. Some other companion cucumber crops are Sweet corn, beans, peas, and lettuce and should all work but my personal choice is the radish (Maybe it’s time to test something else this year).
Thin out cucumber seedlings
When your seedlings reach around 4inch you should thin out the plants so that you have around 1 foot between them, make the gap no smaller if you were going to do anything make the gap bigger this will give your cucumbers more ventilation.
Why are my cucumber plants turning yellow?
A very common question and I am asked is why are my cucumber plants turning yellow? Or even Why do cucumbers leaves turn yellow if you have read the pest/dieseHow do I get my cucumbers to produce more fruit?s section and it’s not Cucumber Beetles then the problem may be a nitrogen deficiency.
A nitrogen deficiency is easily overcome if dealt with early but left untreated can destroy the entire plant.
A 6-10-10 fertilizer as soon as you notice the issue and have ruled out cucumber beetles if this solves the problem I recommend adding ammonium nitrate 33-0-0 fertilizer after the flower bloom and then three weeks after.
Avoid adding too much fertilizer when trying to solve the problem as this can harmfull effect stumping the plant’s growth and stop the production of cucumbers.
How much water do cucumber plants need?
It is the main thing that you will have to deal with when it comes to growing cucumber plants as cucumbers are 90% water, cucumber plants need around 1inch of water per week and much more on hot days.
How often should I water cucumbers?
To tell if your cucumber needs watering then place your finger into the soil and when your finger is dry past the first join you will need to water your cucumbers. You need to make sure you keep your cucumbers well-watered as inconsistent watering can lead to a bitter cucumber.
When should I water my cucumber plants?
Thisis always something people ask the best time is to water your cucumber plants in the morning and try to avoid getting the leaves wet as best as you can, this is due to cucumber leaves being susceptible to fungal growth but watering in the morning will allow the sun to try the leaves if you do get them wet.
Fertilizer for cucumbers
This is not a must but you can use a liquid fertilizer you want one that is low nitrogen/high potassium and phosphorus formula, the recommended application is one week after bloom and then every 3 weeks apply the fertilizer around the base of the plant again try your best to keep the fertilizer off the leaves. Don’t over-fertilize as this can stunt the growth of your cucumbers.
How do I get my cucumbers to produce more fruit?
Thisis something people also ask I don’t know if this works but I do it every year and the theory behind it is solid, spray your vines or cucumber support with sugar water to attract bees to set more fruit. I can’t for sure say this works, the reason for that is that I have not done this, it costs practically zero so why not just do it.
Can flowers help cucumbers?
Yes, well that was easy but just like applying sugar water to your vines to attract bees also flowers can do the same thing you want cucumber companion flowers not to cause other issues and the two best are sunflowers and dill. Have flower beds that attract bees and you shouldn’t have any problems getting an abundance of cucumbers.
Cucumber pests and diseases
Some people don’t like using chemicals on something they are going to eat and I am the same so below we will give you some common pests/diseases and some practical tips to prevent and clear them.
- Squash bugs – the biggest risk to seedling planting late in the planting window will help along with mulch.
- Aphids – A real pain for lots of vegetable growers but can be easy to deal with
- Powdery mildew – This can be caused by wet leaves (important to water at ground level)
- Cucumber Beetles – These can attack your vines and cause disease.
With the four main pests/diseases, the best solution is prevention and that is what I will hopefully help with below.
Are more common on your second year of growing so prevention is key, burn or compost any old vines that are in the cucumber family as squash bugs will breed in them over winter, avoid deep mulch for the squash bug to live in.
If you see tiny brown eggs under the cucumber leaves then this is the sign of squash bugs picking them off and placing them into soapy water is best practice.
Catching them at this egg stage is critical as they are much harder to clear when the turn into adults as the eggs hatch every 10 days it’s worth checking for eggs once per week.
Squash bugs inject a toxin into the plant and you will see your plant turning yellow then brown and eventually black and die, this will stop the nutrients to your plant and you will have a bad crop or no crop at all so prevention and quick action is best.
Are very easy to identify if you see little tiny bugs under your leaves then these are more than likely to be aphids.
Aphids can multiply very quickly and many generations can happen in one season so it’s important to act quickly when you first see them as they tend to move very slowly aphid control is pretty easy to deal with.
Aphids feed on plant juices so they attack the leaves a sure-fire sign you have aphids is curled up leaves.
To clear aphids to try spraying them with cold water this normally knocks them off and they won’t be able to find their way back onto your plant in most cases. If you have a large aphid invasion then dusting them with flour as it constipates the aphids.
If the water or flour doesn’t shift them then rubbing mild dish soap and water mixture onto them will clear them but make it a mild solution.
Remember if you are going to be wetting the leaves do so in the morning so that the sun can dry off the leaves thought out the day.
Have a white fungus on your cucumber plant then this is more than likely powdery mildew.
Powdery mildew takes away the nutrients from the plant and will cause you to have fewer cucumbers and a weaker plant that is susceptible to other diseases.
If any leaves show signs of powdery mildew remove and put in the bin do not compost the leaves that are affected.
You should spray your plant with a fungicide, if you want an organic option then ime-sulfur and neem oil work well. A home remedy for powdery mildew is spraying the plant with a mix of 1 teaspoon baking soda in 1 quart of water make sure you cover the whole plant as it will only work on what it comes into contact with.
To prevent Powdery mildew select a verity that is resistant to it like Marketmore 76, Marketmore 80, Salad Bush and Regal and always try avoiding wetting the leaves and water at ground level.
If you see holes and wilting cucumber leaves turning yellow then this is a sign of cucumber beetles.
They can cause untold damage and ruin a year’s crop as they also feed on the flowers that produce the crop.
Look out for little beetles that have yellow and black stripes or yellow and black spots these are both cucumber beetle and both need dealing with before destroying your crop.
To clear them you will need to knock them off and then pick them up with card as they are very hard to pick up with your hands, a tip is to wear gloves covered in petroleum jelly as this will make it much easier to catch. This one may sound silly but a handheld hover is best to tackle a large area and is very effective.
Cucumber beetles love seedlings so cover them with row covers to give them protection.
As always prevention is best and tilling your garden in late fall will expose the cucumber beetles that are hiding in the ground to the winder cold and in turn, reduce their population the following year.
Crop rotation is also good practice as your new plants will not be exposed to the overwintering population.
Planting late in the planting season is always good to practice especially if you have had a problem the previous year, they will hopefully have come out of hiding and be gone looking for another plant by the time you plant your cucumbers.
Now comes the time after all the care to reap the rewards with your harvest, normally harvest will happen late summer into early spring if you follow the planting in stages then you should be getting a consent harvest.
Regular harvesting will lead to better cucumbers and you will want to harvest slicing cucumbers when they are around 6inch in length and pickling cucumbers when they are 3inch in length.
Don’t let the cucumbers get too large or they will become bitter taste, cucumbers are best picked when their seeds are soft and best eaten when they are young.
Don’t let the cucumber turn yellow they are best picked when they are a uniform green color.
Use a sharp knife or a sharp pair of Pruning Shears and cut above the cucumber try to avoid pulling on the plant at this can damage the vine.
Best ways to store cucumbers
As cucumbers are 90% water the best practice for storing cucumbers is to wrap them in cling wrap to retain the moisture.
They should last up to 10 days in the refrigerator when in cling wrap, but they are best picked and eaten as soon as possible.