Cucumbers come in many shapes and sizes, from the heirloom lemon cuke to the long, crunchy Japanese cucumber. All varieties are easy to grow in a summer vegetable garden. Cucumbers can be grown even in a planter box on an apartment balcony. Although they can be purchased at a garden supply store, many more choices of interesting cucumber seedling varieties are available in seed catalogs. Plant cucumber seeds directly into the garden or start them in pots and transplant them within one month. Both methods are equally successful.
Starting in Pots
Start the seeds in early spring, before the final spring frost, if they are kept in a protected area.
Fill pots with a standard potting soil. Water them until the water runs out the pot's drainage hole.
Make one hole about 3/4 of an inch deep with a pencil or screwdriver in the center of each small pot. Drop one seed into each hole. Cover the seeds with potting soil. Water until the water runs out the pot's drainage hole.
Place the pots in a sunny location where they will not be exposed to cold temperatures. The soil must remain warm to ensure proper germination and strong growth.
Transplant the young cucumber plants to the garden when they are 3 to 4 inches tall. Choose a sunny area, perhaps next to a fence, where the cukes can climb. Mix 1 gallon of organic compost for every 5 feet of garden row into the planting area.
Plant young plants at least 1 foot apart in rows that are 5 to 6 feet apart. Thin out weaker plants if there are too many or if the area begins to get crowded.
Water the cucumbers from below, using a hose that is placed on the soil's surface. Water the area slowly for at least 15 minutes, until the soil is saturated.
Starting In the Garden
Prepare the planting area in a sunny garden spot several weeks before planting the seeds. Dig in about 1 gallon of organic compost for every 5 feet of garden row. Start the cucumber patch before the final spring frost, but be sure to wait until the soil has warmed up before putting seeds in the ground.
Make rows 5 to 6 feet apart or build hills, which are circular, elevated areas surrounded by a moat, that allow for flooding of the plants while keeping the leaves and cucumbers dry.
Make holes about ¾ inch deep and 6 to 8 inches apart along the row or in a hill. Insert one seed into each hole and cover with additional soil.
Water the area until the soil is saturated. Keep it moist until after the seeds sprout, which can happen as quickly as one week after you plant them. Water the seeds once a week after they germinate, completely soaking the soil.
Thin the cucumber seedlings to about 1 foot apart when they begin to form vines and tendrils. Select the strongest looking plants and send the others to a compost pile.
About this Author
Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.