Growing Cucumbers from Seed
by Rob Sproule
Cucumbers are a classic garden vegetable that are enjoying a surge in popularity in recent years thanks to their love of growing in containers and their tremendous health benefits. Besides being a great source of antioxidants and Vitamins A and C, they also help reduce blood pressure and can be used topically to treat sunburns.
Once you’ve tasted a cuke pulled out of your garden you will never want to buy them from the supermarket again. Luckily, they are easy to start indoors and each plant yields a lot of fruit.
From Seed to Seedling
Cucumbers are easy to grow indoors and started them 4-6 weeks before May 7 will give a convenient jump start to the season. Plant the seeds about a half inch deep in 3″ pots. I recommend only planting 1-2 seeds per pot as they grow quickly.
The best soil to use is high quality compost. Cukes are heavy feeders and love their nutrients. Make sure to moisten it well before planting to make sure the seed germinates.
The seeds prefer a temperature of 20-25 degrees C, but will germinate, albeit grudgingly, with slightly less.
When roots start appearing out the bottom (about 3-4 weeks), repot them into 6″ pots to size up before going outside. At some point you’ll need to provide a stake for support.
From Seeding to Harvest
The best place to grow cukes is in a container in the full sun. Their roots will stay warmer in pots and won’t get chilled by our cool spring soil. Raised beds are also ideal.
Give them as much sun as you can and make sure to provide them with something to climb on. A trellis can be as simple as bamboo stakes strung together with heavy gauge fishing line.
Cucumbers are picky about watering and if they dry out during fruit production (as often happens during a dry spell), you will discover cukes in some unusual and distorted shapes. Throw some mulch on the soil to help keep moisture around its shallow root system.
If possible, provide them with a self-watering container. This not only helps ensure that the roots don’t dry out during hot spells, it also keeps mildew down by not requiring you to water on the surface where moisture and mud can splash up on the leaves.
Harvest and Uses
If you’re pressed for space or want to try your hand at vertical gardening, you can grow cukes upside down like tomatoes. Just plant them in the underside of a bag and make sure they stay well watered.
It’s important to know when to harvest cukes in order to keep your vines producing. . For slicers (the kind you eat fresh from the garden), try to pick them before they are fully ripe. Snip it off (never yank) with about an inch of stem left on the fruit so it lasts longer.
Try to get them just as they are turning dark green and before they really start to bulge. If they turn yellow they are over-ripe and need to be composted.
If the cukes ripen, or over-ripen, on the vine it will send the “mission accomplished” signal to the plant and it will slow down or stop its production. Picking all cukes, even if you can’t eat them all, will keep your plants producing. Consider giving them away or trading with friends who might have other tasty treats that you don’t. Gardening becomes even more satisfying when you’re part of a community.
I’ve learned from experience that despite your lofty goals of using your cukes in salads, most of them will never make it into the house. They are so delicious right from the vine that it’s difficult not to eat them on the spot.