How to Grow Cucumbers, No Green Thumb Required – Real Simple


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A garden pro shares their best advice.


Caylin Harris

April 09, 2021

There’s no garden staple that’s more versatile than the humble cucumber. It tastes great with a scoop of hummus, chopped into a salad, or pickled. The best news is that figuring out how to grow cucumbers is pretty easy, too. For all of you cucumber enthusiasts, here are some helpful tips and hints on how to grow cucumbers from Kelly Smith Trimble, gardening expert and author of Vegetable Gardening Wisdom.

Start With the Right Soil

Like any gardening project, make sure your soil is rich with nutrients before you start planting. Mix in an inch or two of organic compost to the top of the soil at the beginning of the season to get it primed for the seeds.

Direct Sow Those ‘Cucs

You could buy seedlings, but why bother? “Honestly, buying cucumber seedlings always seems like a waste of money to me,” says Trimble. “Direct sow them instead. Cucumbers are related to squash, pumpkins, and melons—all grow well from seed.” To plant, create a 6- to 8-inch mound of soil and put three seeds in a triangle shape. Cucumbers have a great germination rate. Just know that the plants can get quite large, so space them out according to the seed packet instructions. There are some fun varieties, too: try Space Master (which is a small plant) or an heirloom variety like lemon cucumbers.

Sunlight and Water

Cucumbers like warm temperatures and direct sunlight. Water your cucumbers so that they’re getting about 1 to 2 inches of water a week. If you’re not sure, stick your finger into the soil about an inch to see if it’s dry below the surface. Water early in the morning for maximum absorption. Trimble also mentioned that if cucumbers get a ton of water, they’ll balloon in size and taste watery, so be careful with how much water they get once they’re in the fruiting stage.

Do You Need to Trellis?

Cucumber plants are vines, so they’ll climb over anything and everything near them. Trimble says that while trellising is helpful, it’s not necessary. “They do make tent trellises, where the plant grows over this V-shaped tent,” she says. “The fruit hangs down and makes it easier to find and harvest. Plus, it keeps the fruit off the ground.”

Prevent Yellow Cucumbers

They’re pretty low drama, but when learning how to grow cucumbers, it’s important to understand the common problems you may run into, including yellow cucumbers. If you see that your cucumbers are yellowing instead of getting green, Trimble says it’s related to incomplete pollination. If you see this happening, you can help it along by using a soft bristle paintbrush to move pollen between the flowers, or you can companion plant veggies, flowers, and herbs nearby that attract pollinators.
A cucumber may also turn yellow if it’s overripe and left on the vine too long. To avoid this, check the plant frequently and harvest the cucumbers once they feel firm and have a medium to dark green color.

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