Raised Bed Garden Tips for Growing Cucumbers

Cucumbers are the second most grown vegetable in home gardens in the United States, according to the National Gardening Association’s fascinating Garden to Table report. It’s no wonder that just under half of the home gardens in American grow cucumbers, they’re cool, crisp and delicious. Cucumbers can be used in summer salads, your own pickle recipes and of course in at-home spa treatments!

Let’s talk about the best way to get your cucumber plant to produce an abundance of vegetables in your raised bed garden!

Here’s a quick summary of the tips and tricks that I’ve collected from my own experience as well as from experienced home gardeners.

  • Be sure to plant cucumber plants with beneficial Companion Plants and keep them away from inhibiting Enemy Plants
  • Always give cucumbers plenty of space, even in a raised bed garden
  • Plant cucumbers in nutrient rich soil to ensure a successful harvest
  • Train your cucumber on a trellis, place trellis at time of planting
  • Keep the soil around cucumber plants evenly moist and composted. Dry conditions can cause bitter and oddly shaped fruit
  • Harvest cucumbers once the bloom has fallen off

Cucumber Layout, Placement and Spacing

Cucumbers have a big appetite for nutrients and composted material, thus they must be well-placed so that they don’t compete with other nutrient-hungry plants.

As you plan your raised bed garden design keep the following layout, placement and spacing considerations in mind for a successful and abundant growing season!

Cucumber Companion Plants

Cucumbers grow well with a number of other vegetables, flowers and herbs. Many of the below companion plants actually serve to enhance cucumber flavor, encourage healthy growth and protect the plant from pests and blight.

Basil
Beans
Borage
Cabbages
Corn Repels cucumber beetles, ants and aphids
Dill Enhance cucumbers’ flavor
Lettuce
Marigold Edible flower that repels whitefly, nematodes and beetles
Nasturtiums
Onions
Peas
Radishes Repels cucumber beetles, ants and aphids
Tomatoes

Cucumber Enemy Plants

Unless listed above, keep cucumber plants away from aromatic herbs especially sage. Sage has a particularly negative effect on cucumbers, but all of the below plants will work against the health and productivity of cucumber plants.

Sage and other Herbs Impacts cucumbers’ flavor, inhibits plant growth and health
Potato Competes for nutrients and water, inhibits cucumber growth
Melons Both plants attract the same pests and mildew
Squash Both plants attract the same pests and mildew

Cucumber Plant Placement

Again, cucumbers are big time eaters and will take nutrients from the soil rapidly. They’ll reach off their neighbors plate at dinner and not think twice about it. So, be sure to plant cucumbers near shallow rooted plants so that they’re less likely to compete. Allowing cucumbers and all other nearby plants to get the nutrients they need makes for a low-maintenance raised bed garden.

In a raised bed garden, I recommend planning your cucumbers in one of the corner edges. This will either allow space for you to add a trellis or allow the cucumber more room to spill over the edge of the raised bed garden.

You may even consider placing your cucumber in a pot or container. Cucumbers do very well as potted plants. Planting cucumbers in a pot also allows you to control the amount of nutrients, water, compost and minerals in the soil as the season goes on.

Its important to know what types of seeds you have before planning your garden, hybridized seeds will require upwards of ten plants for efficient production because most of the seeds in these packets only produce female flowers. It might be worthwhile to plant your hybridized cucumber plants next to several cucumber friends to ensure at least one of those plants produces male flowers for efficient pollination.

Planting heirloom, non-GMO, organic and non-hybridized seeds eliminates the need to plant large numbers of cucumber plants in bunches. These non-hybridized seeds produce both male and female flowers that will pollinate each other with the help of wind and bees. In regards to cucumbers, it really does pay to stay organic. Otherwise, you’ll need to dedicate lot of garden space to get a batch of cucumbers.

Cucumber Spacing

If you do not put your cucumber plants in containers, space your cucumber plants approximately 3 feet apart. Do not plant a competing cucumber or other fruit bearing, water-sucking plant nearby. Cucumbers are avid, founding members of the “clean plate club” and will not share nutrients with one another.

In a raised bed garden, consider giving your cucumber at least a two square foot space to thrive in. Cucumbers plants need a lot of water to send to those big ol’ cucumbers and if you crowd them you’re going to struggle in the hot months to keep the soil moist for everybody.  Inconsistent moisture will lead to strange looking cucumbers with deflated, flat butt-ends. Flat butts haven’t been in style since the 80’s, folks.

I’m of the mindset that cucumbers are not good candidate for square foot gardening, they are large and simply need more soil space than one square foot. Cucumbers put on very large, wide leaves that could inappropriately shade other nearby plants. If you don’t plan out the appropriate amount of space, you’ll be setting up the cucumber and nearby plants for failure.

Cucumber Planting

You’ll be most successful with your cucumbers in a raised bed garden if you plant them in rich soil with lots of compost material. If the cucumber plant is able to get everything it needs from the soil without too much competition it is more able to defend itself against blight, pests, disease and drought.

Start cucumber seeds directly into your raised bed well after danger of frost, once the soil is between 60-70 degrees F. Cucumbers thrive in warm soil and do not like to be disturbed once established.  Because they do not like to be moved, if starting your seedlings indoors be sure plant your seeds only a few weeks before the soil reaches optimal temperature. Older cucumber plants do not like transplanting and they’ll show you their displeasure with wilted leaves. I learned this the hard way, myself!

Water generously after planting and transplanting. If transplanting, try to keep the wilted leaves off the soil if at all possible.

Cucumber Care

Cucumbers need a consistent and stead flow of water and composted material throughout the growing season. To keep the soil evenly moist, add mulch or nearly composted material near the base of the plant. This should be relatively easy to do in a raised bed garden, but you still want to watch the moisture levels carefully in the hottest months of the year lest your fruit be bitter tasting, misshapen and odd. No one wants to show off a bounty of half withered fruit…

Keeping your cucumber plant watered and fed will help deter pests, disease and continued healthy growth.

Cucumber Trellises

Cucumbers will thrive just fine spilling over into a mound. But, you’re more likely to get straight cucumbers if you train its tendrils to grow upwards on a trellis. You’ll also have healthier plants and more bountiful harvests if the leaves and fruit are not left to sit on the ground. Pest control and harvesting are made easier if your plant is on a support of some kind.

Be sure to set your support in place before you plant your seeds. Cucumbers do not like to be disturbed and have a way of growing very quickly, all of a sudden!

Soil Care

Cucumbers need lots of nutrients throughout the growing season and will require consistent applications of compost, mulch and compostable food scraps. You can throw food scraps directly at the base of your plant and allow them to disintegrate over time. Every time you water, you’ll be encouraging those nutrients and minerals back to the cucumbers roots.

Harvesting Cucumbers

Cucumbers are ready for harvesting once the blossom falls off the end of the fruit.

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