Growing Cucumbers from Seed
Cucumbers rank up with tomatoes when it comes to favorite vegetables to grow at home. And since growing cucumbers is so easy, no home garden (container or in-ground) should be without a vine or two. The plants are easy to grow and a couple of vines will keep a family eating fresh cucumbers all summer. Use these planting and growing tips to successfully grow your own crop from seeds.
Cucumbers prefer full sun and well-draining soil. They are heavy feeders and require constant soil moisture, so a location near a water source will make tending to them easier on you. Bear in mind when selecting a planting location (and containers) that most varieties of cucumbers grow on vines and those vines will need to be supported.
For in-ground planting add four inches of compost or well rotted cow manure to garden soil and till in to the depth of 6 inches, then lightly rake until soil level. When planting cucumbers into containers, start with a good quality potting soil mix, then add two cups of compost and one-fourth cup of slow release, granulated fertilizer and mix well. Use a balanced fertilizer, like 10-10-10.
Water the prepared soil well and allow to sit overnight before planting seeds.
When growing cucumbers, it’s important to note the several different varieties, to know which variety is best for your garden, think about the amount of available growing space and how you plan to eat the cucumbers. The bush growing variety will grow on small compact bushes, take up little space and will only need a short support system. Vine growing varieties will reach about six feet in length and need a strong support system to keep the cucumbers off the ground.
Will you be eating cucumbers fresh or pickling them? Straight eight cucumbers are good for eating fresh and pickling varieties will produce an abundance of small cucumbers.
How to Grow Cucumbers from Seed
Growing cucumbers from seed is very easy. Seeds can be started indoors in small containers of potting soil six weeks prior to the last predicted frost date. However, cucumber seeds germinate very quickly in warm soil and the vines grow rapidly, so starting seeds indoor weeks ahead of planting time offers only a few days head-start for the first ripe cucumber.
Wait until the temperatures has been above 75 for three consecutive days and all danger of frost has past before planting seeds. Form a soil hill 12 inches in diameter and 6 inches high for each plant desired. Space hills 12 inches apart in an in-ground garden or use containers that are at least 12 inches wide. Poke finger into the center of the soil hill to create a half-inch deep hole. Drop two cucumber seeds into the hole, fill hole with compost but do not press or firm soil. Gently water and keep seed hills moist, but not soggy, at all times.
When planting more than one hill of seeds, plant at two week intervals so you’ll have fresh cucumbers all summer.
After the seeds have germinated and grown into six inch tall plants (it’s fine if both seeds germinate, the prepared soil can feed two vines) it’s time to add mulch and a trellis. Add two inches of organic mulch, like hay or wood bark, to each hill, covering the entire soil surface. The mulch will prevent weed growth and retain soil moisture. Water vines frequently throughout the summer and feed the vines with a water soluble fertilizer once a month.
Install the support system at this time too. Cucumber vines produce tendrils and will attach themselves to whatever vertical trellis material you use. You can use almost anything to make a trellis, like wooden sticks, metal stakes, fencing, etc., as long as it’s sturdy enough to support the vine and developing cucumbers.
When to Harvest Cucumbers
Cucumbers begin to form on the vines in six weeks. Watch them closely after the first tiny cucumbers appear, they grow into full sized cucumber literally overnight. Harvest cucumbers between 2 – 6 inches long for the best flavor and smallest seeds.