Cucumbers are warm-weather vegetable plants, which are widely cultivated in the United States as a food crop. The edible fruit of the plant grows on a creeping vine and is sheltered by large, flat leaves. Cucumber plants produce fruit 50 to 70 days after planting, depending on the variety, and are easy to grow in home gardens in most temperate climates. Cucumbers are typically eaten fresh or pickled.
Select a garden site that receives full sun and has well-drained soil. Add a 3- to 4-inch layer or organic compost to the soil before planting, and four cups of balanced 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer per 100 square feet. Use a garden tiller to work the compost and fertilizer into the top 6 inches of the soil. Cucumbers are heavy feeders and need fertile soil rich in organic matter.
Sow cucumber seeds directly into the garden once all danger of frost has passed. The seeds will only germinate in warm soil with a temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Plant 4 to 6 seeds every 12 inches, about ½ inch deep. Allow approximately 4 feet in between rows for the plants to grow. Thin to one plant per 12 inches once the seedlings have formed two leaves.
Apply a 4- to 6-inch layer of organic mulch around the base of cucumber plants after the soil has warmed to at least 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Mulching is necessary to conserve moisture and prevent weed growth around plants. Use grass clippings, straw, newspaper or bark mulch for the best results.
Water cucumber plants thoroughly once per week. Cucumbers have shallow roots and need adequate moisture throughout their life cycle. Provide 1 to 2 inches of water on any week that doesn't receive at least 1 inch of rainfall. Inadequate water will cause stressed plants and bitter, misshapen fruit.
Fertilize cucumbers only after the plants develop runners, which are thin creeping stems that grow above the surface of the soil, but before they begin to flower. Use ¼ cup of high-nitrogen fertilizer, such as 34-0-0 NPK or similar, per 10 feet of row. Side-dress the plants by placing the fertilizer about 6 inches to the side of the row, and then irrigating into the soil.
Harvest cucumbers approximately 5 to 7 days after flowering, before the seeds become hard. Cucumbers are eaten immature, and become tough with age. Do not allow them to remain on the vine too long. Check the plants daily and keep the fruit picked to encourage further production.