Growing Cucumbers

Growing tasty, garden-fresh cucumbers is easy. They require little care and there are many bush and vining varieties to choose from.

Cucumbers are a popular and versatile garden vegetable. They are relatively easy to grow, and there are many different varieties to choose from. Cucumbers are delicious eaten alone, and they are a tasty addition to tossed salads, main dishes, and appetizers.

According to the website "B's Cucumber Pages - A Brief History of Cucumbers", written by Barbara A. Cohen, cucumbers are thought to have originated in India approximately 3,000 years ago. History suggests they eventually made their way to Italy, Greece, and China, and it is believed that the Romans were responsible for bringing the cucumber to other European countries. By the middle of the sixteenth century cucumbers were being cultivated in North America. The same article says cucumber varieties that are available today are much different from the first types. The cucumbers we purchase and grow today were first cultivated sometime during the early 1900's.

Bush cucumbers typically reach a height of two to four feet, and vining varieties can reach nine feet, according to the book "Burpee: Complete Gardener", published by Macmillan in 1995. If space is limited the bush variety is the best option because they require two-thirds less space than vining cucumbers. The bush variety grows nicely in containers and produces abundant crops. The same book describes bush cucumbers as being straight, narrow, and capable of reaching lengths up to eleven inches. Pickling cucumbers, whether the bush or vining type, are thicker, shorter, and lighter in color.

"Burpee: Complete Gardener" suggests a few specific varieties of cucumbers available. An unusually long variety is the Armenian or snake cucumber. These thin-skinned, mild tasting cucumbers can reach a surprising length of three feet. A bright yellow variety that is easy to see on the vine is the lemon cucumber. They have been given this name because they resemble a lemon, but much unlike the lemon they are deliciously sweet. Oriental cucumbers are rough textured and curved. These tasty cucumbers are often pickled or tossed into salads. Many people prefer a "burpless" cucumber. These mild cucumbers have a delicate skin, and they are better tolerated by those who have trouble digesting cucumbers.

All varieties of cucumbers prefer full sun and rich, well-draining soil, according to "Burpee: Complete Gardener". It recommends planting vining varieties in rows that have three to four feet between them. Seeds should be planted one inch below the surface of the soil. When the seedlings become large enough to move, they should be separated and planted twelve inches apart. They can also be planted on mounds of soil that are two to three feet apart with two or three plants on each mound. The same article suggests planting bush cucumbers a foot apart in rows that have two to three feet between them.

"Burpee: Complete Gardener" says cucumbers are not deeply rooted plants, and it recommends mixing mulch into the soil to help evenly distribute much needed moisture. Also, watering on a regular basis will help the cucumbers to continually grow. Without the proper moisture, growth will stop.

However, production and growth will resume when irrigation becomes sufficient.

Cucumbers may be harvested at any time before reaching the recommended size for their specific variety, according to "Burpee: Complete Gardener". It recommends harvesting cucumbers at least every second day to promote continual production.

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