Grow cucumbers where a long, warm growing season, minimum 65 days, can be assured. Cucumbers are a warm-season crop, very tender to frost and light freezing. Cucumbers are difficult to grow where there are foggy, damp summers, as the plants are subject to mildews.
When to Grow
Once started, the cucumber vine grows along quite rapidly, putting out hairy stems with large, attractive leaves. The vines produce tendrils and can be trained to climb readily. The male (pollen-bearing) flowers will appear on the plant first, but do not produce fruit. A week or so later the female flowers appear, and produce the oval, elongated cucumber. The modern gynoecious (all-female) varieties are popular because they start bearing as soon as the first flowers appear. Seed packets contain enough of the good male pollen carrier to assure proper fertilization of these newer varieties.
Cucumbers self regulate how many fruits they can carry at one time. In order to maximize production, harvest fruits as soon as they reach picking size. Pick daily, because under ideal conditions, cucumber fruits can double in size in just one day.
How to Grow
Where there is ample space and vines can sprawl, the simplest way is to plant cucumbers in hills, with several plants placed together in close proximity in a small mound of soil. Space hills 4 feet apart each way and plant about 8 seeds per hill. Thin to the 3 strongest plants when the seedlings are about 4 inches high. Since cucumbers grow rapidly once started, the ground should be prepared well in advance. Work a deep planting hole where each hill will be. Add a spade full of well-rotted manure, and a generous handful of 5-10-10 or bone meal and rock potash. Work in well and cover with soil before planting the seeds about an inch deep. The same soil preparation works well if the vines are to be trained on a support or grown in patio tubs.
How to Harvest
Cucumbers should be ready to harvest in approximately 50 - 70 days. Never work around wet cucumber vines, as they are susceptible to many diseases that spread when leaves are wet. Since more than 50 percent of the cucumber is water, the fruit must be picked when it is succulent and green (immature) for best taste. If the fruit starts to turn yellow, it is past its prime and the seeds will be dark and ripe (many varieties will taste bitter or pithy even before then turn yellow). Harvest cucumbers every 2-3 days (daily in hot weather), and promptly pick the fruits as they reach the desired size. If any mature cucumbers are left on the plants, production will stop, so harvest carefully and remove any badly shaped or mature fruits.
Depending on variety and size of the fruit, one cucumber plant will typically bear 10 - 20 fruits, which would total about 2 - 3 pounds of cucumbers. A pound of cucumbers yields about a pint of pickles, and six healthy plants of pickling varieties will produce enough cucumbers in one season to produce more than a dozen pints of pickles.