Cucumbers are well-known for giving gardeners issues. After a few failed seasons due to powdery mildew, yellowed leaves, or no production, you may be ready to give up. They are touted as being easy to care for, but they aren’t exactly a plant that you can ignore. However, if given the proper conditions, they are fast and prolific growers.
Are you growing cucumbers or ready to give it another try? Here are 13 mistakes to avoid when growing cucumbers.
1. Picking the Wrong Variety
When choosing a variety of cucumbers, be mindful of the space you plan to grow them in. Unless you have a large garden plot, you will probably want a bush variety. If you choose a vining cucumber, you will need to give your cucumber plants something to climb. You can also grow cucumbers in containers if you’re tight on space.
Look for strains that are disease-resistant, especially if you live in an area that has a problem with pests. Salad bush and spacemaster are two popular disease-resistant bush varieties to keep in mind.
Cucumbers love the sun, so if you’re in a cooler climate, consider a variety that is more tolerant to cool weather. Lucky strike is a pickling cucumber that is both resistant to some diseases and tolerates cooler summers.
2. Planting Too Early
Cucumbers are picky about getting cold, and a frost or sudden drop in temperatures can kill them. When sowing seeds outdoors, or transplanting seedlings, wait until the chance of frost has passed. If you have a short growing season, you may want to start seeds inside or in a greenhouse.
3. Planting in the Shade
Cucumbers need lots of sun to grow. Planting them under a tree or in a shaded area is a mistake. If they are not provided with adequate sunlight, then the plant’s growth and harvest will be stunted. A shaded area will also increase the chances of disease and pests so, find a spot where they will receive at least eight hours of direct sunlight a day.
4. Improper Spacing
Cucumbers need lots of space to grow, especially vine varieties. When sowing seeds outdoors, or transplanting seedlings, be sure to allow for adequate space between plants. This includes companion crops and other plants.
Check your particular variety for proper spacing as it can range between 12 to 72 inches. Planting too close together may lead to lower production if the plants choke each other out. The crowded leaves will also increase the likelihood of disease and pests.
5. Using Poor Soil
Before planting your seeds or seedlings, it’s important to ensure proper soil quality. You can do this by checking the pH of your soil. Cucumbers thrive in pH soil, around 6.0. If the soil is too acidic, the plant will have trouble producing.
To fix this issue, and as a preventative measure, add compost, or nutrient-rich soil to the garden bed. Cucumbers also like loose soil, so give the bed a good till before planting. Coconut coir or peat moss is always a good idea to mix into your bed, especially if you have issues with drainage or dense soil.
6. Under or Over Watering
Once seedlings are established, watering challenges is usually the biggest issue. Cucumbers are 96 percent water, so it’s no surprise that they need lots of it. Whatever you do, do not let the soil dry out. Underwatering or inconsistent watering is a common issue for gardeners.
On the other hand, overwatering can be an issue for any plant. Water deeply every few days or once a week depending on the weather, but don’t let the plants sit in pooling water. Overwatering can cause stem rot, killing the plant. It can also lead to disease and a higher probability of pests.
7. Getting the Leaves Wet
When watering, try not to get the leaves wet. Wet leaves will increase the chance of disease. Instead. try using a narrow-necked can, watering around the base of the plant to avoid splashing the foliage. You can also set up a self-watering system or drip irrigation.
8. Under or Over Fertilizing
If you are having problems with cucumbers forming, or poorly producing, then the issue may be under fertilizing. Cucumbers require nutrient-dense soil and regular fertilizer throughout their growing season. You can use a tomato-type fertilizer or one that isn’t too high in nitrogen or potassium.
Since they do require regular fertilizing it is also possible to over-fertilize. Overfertilizing can lead to powdery mildew. Don’t fertilize more often than every two weeks, and try to plan around the weather. Fertilizing right before a heatwave can lead to heat damage.
9. Forgetting to Weed
Cucumbers are not a plant that you want to forget to weed around. Just like improper spacing, weeds can choke the plants out. Too many weeds around your cucumber plants can lead to disease, especially powdery mildew. Proper airflow is critical for healthy plants.
10. Ignoring Insects or Disease
As a gardener, you should never ignore insects or diseases, but some plants are more resilient to them than others. Cucumbers are not those plants.
Insects, like cucumber beetles, wreak havoc in the garden, and can cause bacterial wilt. Getting rid of them when you first see them is imperative.
Diseases, such as downy mildew, and gummy blight stem are also common. Pick a variety that is disease-resistant and keep an eye out for the first signs of unhealthy plants. Fungicides can be used if needed or you can make your own insecticide.
11. Leaving Cucumbers on the Vine Too Long
It’s best to pick cucumbers as soon as they are ready to harvest as this will encourage new fruit to grow.
If you leave cucumbers on the vine too long then they will become bitter and fruit production will decrease, taking away from the crisp crunch you know and love. They are a fast-producing plant so watch carefully as they are nearing harvest.
12. Pulling Cucumbers When Harvesting
Cucumber vines are delicate and easily damaged. When harvesting, cut them from the stem, do not pull them. Pulling the cucumber to break it from the vine can damage the plant or crop. This could lead to a significant reduction or stop in production.
13. Not Pulling the Plants at the End of the Season
At the end of the season, you should clean out your gardens. This helps to reduce the chance of diseases being carried over to the following year. This is especially true for cucumbers which are susceptible to a host of diseases. This step is always a good precaution.
Join The Cucumber Club
Growing cucumbers can be a lot of fun and the care is relatively easy. However, if you’ve made any of these 13 mistakes, you may have experienced disappointment in a ruined crop. Hopefully, this article will help you avoid any mistakes when growing cucumbers in the future.
Have you made any of these mistakes when growing cucumbers? Tell us about it in the comments!