Cucumber plants are warm-season vegetables that enjoy heat and require lots of space to grow. Many different varieties of cucumbers are available, including slicing and "burpless" cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, as well as varieties that grow bushy or compact and those that are vines. Some newer cucumber plant varieties are dwarf kinds that train on climbing supports but stay compact, specially designed for smaller garden areas or container growing. Many new hybrid cucumber cultivars are also high-yielding and disease-resistant.
Water your cucumber plants deeply to soak the soil around the roots once or twice every week in the absence of 1 to 2 inches of rain. When the cucumbers begin to set and grow, increase the watering frequency to three times per week to supplement rainfall.
Spread sheets of black plastic around your cucumber plants during the spring to keep the soil moist, retain moisture and control weeds. Remove the black plastic in June and replace it with a 3-inch-thick layer of organic mulch for the summer months.
Side-dress your cucumber plants with a high-nitrogen vegetable fertilizer when they begin to vine, spreading the fertilizer granules along the rows and watering them into the soil. Follow the dosage instructions on the label.
Provide a climbing support for your cucumber plants, such as a trellis or a wire cage. A climbing support will keep the cucumber fruits off the ground and save space in your garden.
Harvest the cucumbers before they're fully mature, when the seeds are still hard, and when the skin is uniformly green and firm. Pick the "burpless" varieties when the cucumbers are up to 10 inches long and 1 to 1 ½ inches in diameter, the slicing cucumber varieties when they're about 6 to 8 inches long or the pickling varieties when they're much smaller, usually 2 to 6 inches long.