Not all cucumbers are the same: The popular vegetable is available as field cucumbers, salad cucumbers or pickling cucumbers. With the right care, the heat-loving plants provide abundant yields.
- Top articles
- Location and soil
- Sowing and planting
- Crop rotation and mixed cropping
- Diseases and pests
- Frequently asked questions
- Other articles
Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) are one of the most commonly grown vegetables. They belong to the cucurbit family (Cucurbitaceae) and their fruits are berries from a botanical point of view, as their seeds are embedded directly in the flesh of the fruit. Cucumbers have been cultivated for over 3000 years and originate from India. Since the 19. In the 21st century they are also grown in greenhouses in Germany.
In general, a distinction is made between outdoor and salad cucumbers. While cucumbers, also called snake cucumbers, are usually cultivated in greenhouses, pickling cucumbers and peel cucumbers are suitable for outdoor use, although there are also cucumber varieties for both types of use. Cucumbers are annual plants that initially lie on the ground, then grow upwards and, depending on the variety, can form shoots one to four meters long. While field and pickled cucumbers are cultivated in beds lying on the ground, salad cucumbers require a climbing frame.
Normally cucumbers are monoecious, female and male flowers grow on one plant. Modern, high-yielding varieties of cucumbers, on the other hand, only produce female flowers that bear fruit even without pollination. In these parthenocarpic ("virgin-fruited") varieties, a fruit develops from each flower. By the way: Many varieties of cucumbers are also offered in stores as grafted seedlings. Seedlings of the fig leaf pumpkin (Cucurbita ficifolia) serve as grafting rootstocks. Grafting snake cucumbers are more resistant to soil-borne fungal diseases and provide higher yields, because they are more vigorous.
Location and soil
Outdoor cucumbers require a warm, humid and wind-protected full-sun location in the bed. The soil should be humus and loose, warm up quickly in the spring and not tend to silt up.
Snake cucumbers and lettuce cucumbers also need a warm and preferably bright location. Due to their longer growing season and their high heat requirement, they are almost exclusively cultivated in greenhouses in this country. When growing cucumbers in a greenhouse, make sure they are not too shaded by other plants. In southern regions, greenhouses made of bare glass should be shaded against blazing midday sun, as the soft leaves burn very quickly, especially if the water supply is poor.
Sow and plant cucumbers
Cucumbers can be sown directly or pre-cultivated. Direct sowing in the cucumber bed is recommended for robust pickling cucumbers and small-fruited outdoor varieties and is possible from the end of April/beginning of May until the beginning of July. If you sow directly into the bed, you should always put three seeds into one planting hole. The distance to the next planting hole should be at least 30 centimeters.
In our practical video, we show you step by step what you should pay attention to when sowing cucumbers:
Cucumbers can be easily grown on a windowsill. We show you in this video how to sow cucumbers correctly.
Credit: MSG/Alexander Buggisch
You can pre-cultivate snake cucumbers in pots in a heated greenhouse as early as mid-March. The seedling cultivation of outdoor cucumbers in pots can be done both in the greenhouse and on the windowsill. However, this should only be done two to three weeks before planting out, otherwise the young plants will grow too large before they can be planted in the vegetable bed. For growing, place two to three seeds at a time in a pot at least eight centimeters in diameter, filled halay with growing soil. When pre-cultivating, a high germination temperature of at least 20 degrees Celsius leads to rapid germination success. Place the seedlings in a cooler place after germination. Only set the seedlings in the outdoor bed from mid-May onwards.
You can plant cucumber seedlings in the base bed of your heated greenhouse as early as the beginning of April. For greenhouses without heating, it is better to wait until the end of April. Plant the seedlings deep and lightly mound them to develop additional lateral roots. In the case of grafted cucumbers, however, the grafting point must be above ground. Ideally, cucumber seedlings should have only two, and pickles should have two to three well-developed foliage leaves. Large canning jars or glass bells placed over the young plants in the open provide the necessary warmth during the growing phase. Also, when planting out, be careful not to damage the roots. Planting distance in the greenhouse is 130 to 170 centimeters between rows and about 40 centimeters in the row. For outdoor cucumbers, a spacing of 100 x 40 centimeters is ideal.
In our practical video we show you how it’s done:
You want to plant cucumbers this year? In our practical video we show you what you need to pay attention to in the process.
Credits: Production/Cutting: Fabian Surber, Martin Sterz
You can also learn all about sowing in our podcast
In our podcast "Grunstadtmenschen our editors Nicole Edler and Folkert Siemens reveal their tips and tricks for successful sowing. Listen now!
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Crop rotation and mixed cropping
Cucumbers should not be grown on the same land again until four years later. Good precursors are cereals, legumes and celery. Furthermore, fast crops such as lettuce, arugula and radishes can still grow on the cucumber bed between the rows in order to make the best use of the cultivation area. After harvesting, the heat-loving vegetable usually claims the space for itself alone.
Care for cucumbers
Cucumbers are heavy growers and also have a high water requirement. Especially during fruiting and drought, it is important to water the vegetables regularly. It is best to water with lukewarm water early in the morning. This is how you also counteract the formation of bitter fruits. A mulch layer of straw keeps the soil loose and, in the case of outdoor cucumbers, the fruit clean. As a basic fertilizer in the preparation of the bed has proved rotten cow manure (of which about five liters per square meter) and mature compost. In addition, you can occasionally fertilize with horn meal or organic liquid fertilizer, such as comfrey liquid manure, during the main harvest season. For salad cucumbers in the greenhouse, a thin mulch layer of lawn clippings promotes growth.
In the greenhouse, cucumbers are guided upwards on strings
Generally, all cucumbers can be directed upwards. Above all, snake cucumbers in the greenhouse are usually suspended on strings that hang from a tightly stretched wire. For this purpose, the new shoots are wrapped around the string twice a week with increasing length. To prevent the young seedlings from being weakened by premature fruit growth, it is customary to cut off all side shoots after the first leaves appear, up to a height of about 80 centimeters. In the course of cultivation, the main shoot of the plant should also be cut so that it does not become too long. For outdoor cucumbers, the main shoot is usually cut off after the fifth or sixth leaf to stimulate the formation of side shoots. The pruning of outdoor cucumbers can be omitted, as well as the occasionally recommended breaking of flower buds.
By the way: if you cultivate the cucumber plants in a greenhouse or lead them up a climbing scaffold, it also makes sense to sap the cucumbers out.
Unlike snake cucumbers, you can grow outdoor cucumbers on the ground or on a trellis. A two-meter high wire mesh, a comparable trellis or sturdy wooden stakes are suitable for this purpose.
Nettle liquid manure diluted with water in a ratio of 1:10 has proven to be a free natural fertilizer for all cucumbers. Alternatively, the plants can be supplied with a commercial organic vegetable fertilizer from the beginning of June.
The first fruits of cucumbers can be harvested as early as eight to nine weeks after sowing. The more often you pick, the more abundant the cucumber plants will set new fruit. Snake cucumbers require up to three harvests per week, while pickles ripen almost daily. The freshly harvested fruit will keep for a good week in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator. They should be eaten while they are still firm. The water-rich fruits are not suitable for freezing. Instead, cucumbers can be perfectly preserved by boiling. You can also preserve outdoor cucumbers well by pickling them.
When harvesting outdoor cucumbers, there are a few important things to keep in mind. Above all, the right time to harvest is not so easy to determine. Editor Karina Nennstiel shows in this practical video, what it comes down to
Credits: MSG/CreativeUnit/Camera+Editing: Kevin Hartfiel
Recommended varieties of cucumbers
Cucumbers come in different sizes: ‘Eiffel’ and ‘Dominica’ are serpentine cucumbers up to 35 centimeters in length. Medium-long, up to 20 centimeters large fruits form ‘Paska’ and ‘Printo’. Crunchy snack cucumbers with a length of only ten centimeters are ‘Iznik’ or ‘Picolino’. These greenhouse-ready varieties are parthenocarpic F1 hybrids, mostly free of bitter substances, with high resistance to common diseases. A fruit can form from each flower in these varieties.
‘Gergana’ is an almost smooth-skinned, slender cucumber for outdoor use. If you grow the plants in advance, the cucumbers ‘Johanna’, ‘Hoffmans Giganta’ or ‘Chinese Snakes’ are also suitable for growing outdoors in mild regions and in sunny-warm locations. ‘Qualitas’ is a high-yielding and vigorous-growing cucumber that is also suitable for both outdoor and greenhouse use. La Diva’ is just as happy outdoors as it is in the greenhouse. Their fruits are seedless and completely bitter-free.
A new variety for the greenhouse is ‘Helena’ with long smooth fruits and dark green color. It forms only sporadic male flowers. Conquerer’ is an old variety with large fruits. Field cucumbers can be prepared well as mustard cucumbers and boiled down. Marketmore’ is suitable for this with its dark green, smooth fruits.
The ‘Thick-fleshed Yellow’ can grow up to two kilograms when fully grown. Seed-proof Pickling cucumbers are among others ‘Vorgebirgstraube’ and ‘Vert Petit de Paris’. ‘Picklebush’ can be harvested as a classic pickling cucumber or, at about 15 inches long, as a small land cucumber. There are also round-fruited cucumbers such as ‘Limona’ with yellow fruits or ‘White Apple Cucumber’ with white, apple-shaped fruits.
Diseases and pests
Downy mildew (Pseudoperonospora cubensis) is most common, especially on cool nights with increased dew formation. Infestation can be recognized by yellow demarcated spots on the upper side of the leaf, which gradually turn brown before the leaf dies off. As a preventive measure, water the plants only in the lower area and apply field horsetail liquid manure every two weeks. In addition, it can help to let the plants grow on a trellis so that they can dry off better. Limp leaves are a sign of cucumber wilt.
Powdery mildew occurs mainly in greenhouses after drought: A patchy, white fungal lawn forms on the surface of the leaves, which eventually causes the leaves to die off. Wider plant spacing at planting reduces the risk of infestation. Likewise, resistant varieties can be selected from the outset. For example, the cucumber ‘Bella’ or the pickling cucumber ‘Excelsior’ are suitable for this purpose. Spider mites often occur in the greenhouse. They can be controlled here very well with beneficial insects such as predatory mites, predatory bugs or net-winged insects. Feeding damage on the root neck of young plants is characteristic of millipedes.
Frequently asked questions
Where do cucumbers come from?
Cucumbers originated in India and have been cultivated since the 19th century. Cucumbers were also cultivated in Germany in the nineteenth century.
Where to grow cucumbers?
Cucumbers need a warm and preferably bright location. They lie on the ground first, before they grow upwards. Depending on the variety, they form shoots up to four meters long. Depending on the variety, a climbing frame may be needed.
When to sow cucumbers?
Some varieties can be sown as early as March in a heated greenhouse. Direct sowing is possible between the end of April and the beginning of July.
When to plant cucumbers?
From mid-May onwards, young plants can be planted in the vegetable bed in the open.
When can cucumbers be grown in the greenhouse??
Depending on the variety, cucumber seedlings can be planted in a heated greenhouse as early as April. In unheated greenhouses you should wait until the end of April.
How much water do cucumbers need?
Cucumbers need a lot of water to grow. A single cucumber plant requires nearly twelve liters of water throughout the growing season.
When to harvest cucumbers?
Cucumbers can be harvested about eight to nine weeks after sowing.
What is the best way to store cucumbers?
Cucumbers can be stored for about one to two weeks at high humidity and a temperature of between ten and twelve degrees Celsius.
Why do some cucumbers taste bitter?
Some cucumbers contain bitter substances. But even cucumbers free of bitter substances can sometimes taste bitter. Possible causes include too much nutrients, too cold watering or a prolonged dry period.