Want to Learn About Fertilizing and Watering Cucumbers?

watered cucumber

You've come to the right place.  Most experienced vegetable gardeners know that watering cucumbers is the key to high quality fruit production. Cucumbers have a very high water content. It's impossible for the plants to produce lots of cucumbers if they are starved for water.  In addition, the plants use moisture in the soil to absorb nutrients.  So, if the plants aren't getting enough water, they probably aren't getting enough nutrients, either.  Cucumber plants love moist soil, but they can fail if they sit in soggy soil for extended periods of time.

Watering Cucumbers

Large Cucumber Plant

A cucumber plant requires about an inch of water every week to maintain fruit production. If no rain falls in your area, it's up to you to give your cucumber plants the water they crave. When watering cucumbers, focus your efforts at the base of the main stem. Try to avoid watering the foliage as this may cause diseases to develop. It's usually a good idea to water in the morning hours. That way, the afternoon sun will evaporate any unused water. A soaker hose or drip irrigation system is ideal, but a simple watering can or jug will also do the job nicely. Make sure to water slowly so that the soil around the base of the plant is not eroded away.

To determine if your cucumber plants need water, use your fingers and dig down a few inches into the soil next to your plants.  You want the soil at this depth to be moist, but not wet.  Take a handful of dirt and squeeze it in your palm.  You want it to be wet enough to hold together briefly before falling apart.  If the soil is really dry and crumbly, you should definitely water.  If the soil is soggy, wait a few days and check again.

In our own garden, we apply a layer of mulch once the seedlings are a few inches tall.  Materials that make good mulch include grass clippings, chopped up leaves or straw.  If this mulch is applied correctly, it will serve 2 purposes - keeping the soil moist and preventing the growth of weeds.  We like to lay down a 2-3 inch thick layer of mulch in our cucumber patch.

Fertilizing Cucumbers

cucumber seedling

After the cucumber plants have produced blossoms, it may be beneficial to apply a balanced, all purpose fertilizer. An all-purpose water soluble fertilizer will work fine. You can also use a balanced granular fertilizer. When choosing a granular fertilizer, pay attention to the three number code on the bag. Look for 10-10-10 or 12-12-12. These numbers indicate the percentage of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium that are contained in that particular bag, respectively. The nitrogen will help the plant foliage grow as much as possible. The phosphate and potassium will help with fruit production. Apply the fertilizer according to the manufacturer's directions. Most are applied at a rate of 1 1/2 pounds per 100 square feet. Scatter the granules on the ground around the base of the plant. Avoid letting the granules touch the plant itself, as it may burn or have other adverse effects. Water the fertilizer in well after applying.

You can also use a water-soluble product like Miracle Gro. Just mix it according to the manufacturer's instructions and apply it when the blossoms first appear. If you are lucky enough to have your plants survive long enough, you can fertilize them again about a month after the first fruits are produced.

In our own garden, we add fertilizer before we even plant.  We till the area really good about a week before we want to plant.  We then scatter a balanced granular fertilizer at a rate of approximately 1 pint per 100 square feet.  We also scatter pulverized lime over the area because our soil is a bit acidic and lacks calcium.  After we apply the additives, we till them in and then water them in, so they can start breaking down.  About a week after that, we till again, create our mounds and plant our cucumber seeds.  After that, we typically apply a water-soluble fertilizer after the plants produce blossoms.

If you intend to grow cucumbers organically, several natural fertilizer products are available at your local garden center.  Look for thinks like bone meal, blood meal, fish emulsion, etc...  Another option is to work a fair amount of compost, composted manure or other organic material into the soil prior to planting.

Now that you're done fertilizing and watering cucumbers, it's time to think about harvesting.

Mature Pickling Cucumber

Click here to learn about harvesting cucumbers

Click here for some of our favorite cucumber recipes

Click here to learn about different cucumber varieties

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