The Great Cucumber Growing Challenge

This 10-step plan will help you become a master at cucumber growing in just one season.

| June/July 2007

Cucumbers are easy to grow, but coaxing your version of a perfect crop from the garden takes strategy and organization. The exuberant vines are prone to producing all at once, so planting dates must be carefully planned, and you will need a way to preserve the cukes you don’t eat fresh. Most gardeners must defend their plants from yellow and black cucumber beetles, and when the fruits are ready, it’s best to gather them every day.

In the kitchen, you’ll need to courageously match cucumbers’ cool, crisp flavors with bolder herbs and spices, and the end of the season should find you with plenty of homegrown pickles and a nice stash of saved seeds.

Think you can do it? Sure you can! We’ve divided the features of a fantastic cucumber season into 10 steps, and outlined the surest routes to success within each one.

Step 1: Try Various Types

You can stick with old favorites or try something new, which is easy when it comes to cucumbers. The main point is to diversify in terms of cucumber size, shape, color, growth habit and flavor. A word to the wise: pickling cucumber varieties can do double duty in salads and sandwiches, but slicing varieties often make second-rate pickles.

Step 2: Match Supply to Demand

You want to grow enough cucumbers, but not too many. With most varieties, you will need at least three plants of each variety to ensure good cross-pollination and fruit set. And, because cucumbers decline after they’ve made their main crop, you will probably want to do multiple plantings, several weeks apart. Here’s your cheat sheet on the numbers:

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