Nothing is more frustrating and carefully planting, feeding, and caring for your cucumber plants only to be rewarded with a few scrawny, thumb-sized, bitter cucumbers.
Cucumbers can be a picky plant, so caring for them at the right time and in the right spot is critical. Here is everything you need to know to guarantee successful cucumbers this year.
The When: Cucumbers are a warm-season vegetable and are extremely sensitive to cold, which means they need to be planted at least two weeks after the last spring frost or when the soil reaches at least 65 degrees. If you’d like to start early, keep them inside with a bottom heat of 70 degrees. If your first planting is too early, go ahead and try again in the heat of the summer. Hot soil can create nice cucumbers in as little as six weeks.
The Who: While you want to avoid most pests, bees can actually be very helpful to cucumber plants. Try spraying the leaves with sugar water to attract more bees, which can set more fruit.
The What: There are several varieties of cucumbers available, but three of the most popular and successful varieties are Sweet Success, Straight Eight, and County Fair. Start with one of these varieties to give you a good start, especially if it’s your first attempt at cucumbers, or if you have had trouble in the past.
The Where: Because cucumbers climb, they can be planted just about anywhere, even in small spaces. They enjoy full sun and neutral soil that is moist, but not soggy. Give them a trellis to avoid the plant sitting on soggy ground, which can ruin the cucumbers.
The How: Prepare the soil with organic matter before planting. If you’re planting seeds in the ground, cover with netting to keep pests out. Keep plants 18 inches apart by thinning them as needed. Water consistently, the water is what gives cucumbers their fresh flavor. Not enough water creates bitter fruit. Fertilize once at planting and then again one week after, and then every three weeks with liquid food.
Why aren’t my plants working? Even if you did everything right, there’s still a chance your plant won’t produce fruit. This is because cucumber plants require both male and female flowers to bloom in order to produce fruit. If your plant looks healthy, but isn’t producing fruit, it could be that all of the blooms were male. This is common in new plants, so be patient, and give it time. Some plants may take several seasons to create fruit.