Wait for soil to warm up to plant cukes

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Home gardeners who want to grow cucumbers should wait to plant them until late spring, when the soil warms up to about 70 degrees.

Most places in Oregon don't get soil that warm until late May or even into June. To speed up the soil warming process, use season extenders such as row covers (e.g. Remay), cloches, plastic sheeting, or cold frames.

Cucumbers, a warm season crop, are members of the same family as squash, pumpkins, muskmelons and gourds. Ranging in size from tiny gherkins, to 20-inch serpent-like fruits, most cucumbers grow on vines. Thus, they require quite a bit of space in the garden. If you have only a small vegetable patch, try growing cucumbers up a trellis, or plant one of the bush varieties. Some people also have successfully grown cukes in hanging baskets or other containers on their patios.

The two most well known categories of cucumbers are the long slicing varieties and the small blunt-end pickling varieties. Other types available to home gardeners include the round, savory lemon cucumbers and several foreign imports, including favorites from Japan, Armenia and France. "Burpless" cucumbers originate from Europe, and are seedless, slicing varieties.

Cucumbers require 50 to 70 days of warm weather to reach harvest. They grow best in a sunny site, with warm, fertile soil containing large amounts of compost. Start cucumber seeds indoors or plant them directly into the garden after danger from frost has passed and the soil has warmed.

Space young cuke plants about 12 to 24 inches apart in rows 30 inches apart. When direct seeding, start by planting six to eight seeds per foot, an inch deep in rows 30 inches apart. Thin to eight to 12 inches between plants. Some gardeners prefer rows 30 inches apart, which still allows for walking between rows.

Placing row covers or hot caps over young cuke plants will help keep them warm enough to get off to a robust start.

With shallow roots, cucumbers need frequent watering. Keep weeds pulled.

The Oregon State University Extension Service recommends the following varieties of cucumbers for home gardeners in Oregon:

  • (Pickling) SMR 58, Pioneer, Bush Pickle, County Fair, Clinton, Cool Breeze, Regal.
  • (Slicing) Burpee Hybrid, Marketmore 86 & 97, Poinsett, Raider, Dasher II, Slicemaster, Intimidator, Tasty Green, Greensleeves, Orient Express, Amira, Genuine, Slicemore, Ultrapak, Tasty Jade.
  • (Novelty) Armenian, Lemon.

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