Cucumbers should be planted in a section of your garden that receives full sun and has evenly moist soil. If your garden space is limited, cucumbers will do just fine in full sun on a patio or deck in a 5 gallon or larger container.
• Choose a sunny location (6+ hours of sun) and dig a hole about two times as wide as your pot.
• Remove your plant from the pot by loosening the soil and tipping it out into your hand. Place your plant in the soil about as deep as it was in the pot.
• Refill the space around your plant with soil and press lightly to compact the dirt, keeping your plant firmly in the ground.
• Water immediately to settle the soil, and add more soil as needed, bringing it level to the rest of your garden.
Cucumbers do not need a lot of attention once established in the garden. Since cucumbers love heat, they can follow cool-season crops like spinach and lettuce. The use of mulch can speed up growth by conserving soil moisture, maintaining a high soil temperature. Mulch will also keep the weeds under control.
Since cucumbers have a shallow root system, a continuous water supply is necessary for the best quality fruits. Water deeply once a week, applying at least one inch of water. Frequent but shallow watering will reduce overall yields.
Feed them well. Cucumbers, along with squash, melons, and pumpkins, are heavy feeders. If compost was incorporated into the soil prior to planting, fertilizer will not be needed early in the season. Apply an all-purpose vegetable garden fertilizer when your plant begins to set fruit.
Think vertical! When planning the garden, consider growing cucumbers vertically on a trellis, fence, or other support. This makes the best use of garden space by containing the vines and keeping them from sprawling throughout the garden, as well as keeping the fruits clean and straight as they develop above the ground. Researchers have proven that growing cucumbers vertically dramatically increases yields because the vines receive better air circulation and more sunlight than vines on the ground.
Like most vegetables, cucumbers are tender and tastiest when harvested young before their seeds are fully developed. Slicing varieties are generally ready for harvest when about 6 to 8 in. (15-20 cm) long; pickling types at 3 to 5 in. (7-12 cm).
Don't allow the fruits to become overripe on the vine. Keep mature fruits picked to encourage further production. Harvest the fruits early in the morning before the sun hits them for the best flavor and texture.
About 30 to 40 days before the first expected frost in your zone, pinch off all the blossoms on the plants. This will encourage the plants to bring the remaining fruits on the vines to maturity before the frost kills them.
Unfortunately, cucumbers don't store well because of their high water content. The fruits will keep for up to a week in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator.
For the enormous surplus many of us have in midsummer, pickling is the only way to go. Get out your favorite pickling recipes (sweet, sour, sweet and sour) and put up as many as you can store. That way, you can enjoy homegrown cukes throughout the winter and quite possibly into next spring.
Cucumbers are at their best served raw, sliced or grated into salads, dressed with yogurt or sour cream, or simply eaten whole. Wash and trim the cukes, then cut into spears, slice, or grate just before final preparation.
There’s no need to peel homegrown cukes (taste and nutritional value suffer) unless the recipe requires peeling. On a hot summer day, there's nothing like a cold cucumber salad, whether it's German with sour cream, chopped chives, and a sprinkling of paprika or Oriental; with raisins, black olives, and chopped water chestnuts.
You can even cook cucumbers in a variety of ways if you're feeling adventurous in the kitchen! Try adding diced cukes to soup, or sauté slices in butter and serve with fresh dill or mint.
Although the cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is thought to have originated in northwest India where it has been cultivated for more than 3,000 years, the wild ancestors of the fruit have been a part of the human diet since almost the origin of man. Excavations near Thailand revealed cucumbers were eaten as early as 9750 BC. Pickling was certainly invented early as well. By the time of the Pharaohs, Egyptians ate brined cukes at nearly every meal. In the Bible, the Israelites in the wilderness complained to Moses that they missed the cucumbers they had enjoyed in Egypt.
Cucumbers reached Europe early in its history as well. They were much prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans. According to Pliny, Emperor Tiberius demanded fresh cucumbers daily on his dining table. Documents record Columbus brought the fruits to the New World and that cucumbers were popular with our early settlers. By the 18th century, cucumbers were commonly grown all over the globe.