Introduction to Growing Organic Cucumbers in Containers or Pots
Cucumber is a popular plant from the Cucurbitaceae family. Cucumber plants are a tropical vegetable that loves warm, humid weather in spots that get lots of sunlight. They particularly thrive in loose soil filled with organic matter.
A Step by Step Guide to Growing Organic Cucumbers in Containers or Pots
The cucumber plant grows on an annual vine that sprawls across the ground or climbs a trellis. Its many varieties are easily cultivated. Cucumbers require good drainage and full sun. Also, they need high levels of nutrients from the soil. So, it is important to amend the soil before planting and apply a good fertilizer.
Preparation of Organic Soil for Growing Cucumbers in Containers
Cucumber plants require a planting site in full sun and even soil moisture. Mulch around plants to prevent soil from drying out between watering. Straw mulch works best and will help keep them up and off the ground. Allow plenty of room for each plant, and making sure that the soil is rich in organic matter and well-drained. The quality of the garden plot you use for cucumber plants makes a big difference in how they turn out. To maximize growing conditions, you need to select a sunny plot (at least 8 hours of sunlight a day) with well-fertilized soil that has good drainage. Raised beds tend to be a good fit for cucumbers, though any soil can work so long as you top-dress it with compost and organic material before planting cucumbers.
Fill your container three-quarters full with high-quality and well-drained soil mix. Don’t use regular garden soil and it is dense, slow to drain, and may contain pests and diseases. Soil rich in organic matter is ideal for growing cucumber plants. Cucumbers need a soil pH level of between 5.5 and 7.0. Then, fill your pot with good quality potting soil. Soil can be further enriched by working in some organic material like homemade compost. Rich soils will not only help to keep the plants well-fed, but it will also retain moisture better than poor or garden soil.
Compost can be applied yearly as mulch or worked into the soil without causing excess nutrient buildup. It supplies phosphorus, potassium, and micronutrients that cucumbers need. Compost mulch helps keep down competition from weeds, so cucumbers get soil nutrients. If you don’t make your compost, you can buy commercially bagged compost and bulk compost at most garden centers and nurseries. Make a soil mixture specific to cucumber plant needs with one part each of compost, potting soil, perlite, and peat moss. Container grown cucumbers need plenty of water, but you should ensure they have good drainage as well. You’ll need a large container with several drainage holes.
Popular Cucumber Varities for Container Gardening
The most popular cucumbers for container gardening contain Sweet Success, Salad Bush, Suyo, Bush Slicer, Burpless, Liberty, Early Pik, Salty, and Crispy.
Choose the Right Container for Growing Organic Cucumbers
Cucumbers have deep root systems and require containers full of fertile soil that are at least 16 inches deep and 12 inches wide. A large container allows the Cucumber plant to develop extensive root systems. This can lead to vigorous growth and increased yields. A good rule of thumb to remember is the bigger size is always better. Self-watering planters are even better as they ensure cucumbers won’t dry out. But, you will still need to monitor the soil’s moisture levels. A pot of 20 inches in diameter can grow 4 to 6 cucumber plants. You can grow 2 to 3 plants in a five-gallon pail or one bush-type cucumber in a deep 10-inch pot.
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Cucumber Plant Spacing or Distance Between Cucumber Plants
Bush Varieties – Certain bush varieties don’t spread out in the garden as much as vining varieties, so they need much less space to flourish. Plant bush varieties 1 to 1 1/2 feet apart. Then, this way will give them enough room to grow up without competition.
Vining Varieties – To save space, plant vining varieties on a trellis. Space trellised plants 1 and 1/2 feet apart to allow for better airflow. To plant vining varieties in the ground, build up a mound of soil and plant them about 3feet apart. The abundance of space will allow for better airflow and will help the plant become resistant against powdery mildew disease. Powdery mildew disease occurs because of moisture, so extra airflow keeps the leaves dryer between dew, rain, and watering cycles.
The Process of Growing Organic Cucumbers
Step 1) Cucumbers are easy to start from seed in a container. Though, if you live in a cold climate and want to get a jump-start on the season, you can start them indoors. If you live in a region with short summers, starting cucumbers indoors may be smart. You can sprout your Cucumber seeds indoors a few days before planting them or grow seedlings that you transplant within a month. To sprout your Cucumber seeds, place them between sheets of warm, wet paper towel and put them in a plastic bag. Keep this bag in a warm, brightly lit area and plant them in the garden as soon as the seeds have sprouted.
Step 2) Cucumbers have fairly large seeds so sow them 1/2 to 1 inch deep. To make sure the seedlings receive enough light after germination, place them under shop lights with one warm and one cool bulb. If you grow cucumber plants indoors, be careful when transplanting the seedlings. First, you must harden off your seedlings.to gradually acclimate them to outdoor conditions. When transplanting them into their final container, be very delicate because cucumbers don’t like their roots to be disturbed.
Step 3) To grow transplants, start your seeds under bright lights 2 weeks before the last frost date. Plant each seed about an inch deep in peat pots or small flats, and move them into your garden when they are 3 to 4 weeks old. Cucumbers are sensitive to severe changes in temperature and won’t do well if you plant them directly after they’ve been coddled for weeks indoors. You will want to “harden” your plants by slowly introducing them to the outdoors for a few hours a day for up to a week.
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Best Trellis for Growing Organic Cucumbers in Containers
Trellising cucumbers has lots of advantages. It saves space, makes harvesting easier, and encourages airflow, which discourages foliar diseases. Some standard trellis types are vertical ladder trellises, bentwood, and teepee trellises. If you don’t mind your vines on the ground, be sure to pad the ground with straw or hay. This will keep cucumbers clean and discourage rot, as well as keep weeds down. If you don’t have a lot of gardening space, you can grow dwarf cucumber plant varieties in large containers.
Water Requirement for Growing Organic Cucumbers in Containers
Cucumber plants are a close relative of the watermelon and they need tons of water to thrive. Keep your plants provided with 1 to 2 inches of water a week, especially during periods of rapid growth when they are flowering. Mulches are useful for keeping water in the soil and preventing your plants from drying out. Your best strategy is to keep the soil slightly moist at all times while preventing the Cucumber vines themselves from getting too wet. For this reason, drip irrigation is a good idea. If you should use overhead watering, use it in the early morning so that the leaves have plenty of time to dry out before evening. As much as cucumbers love water, and they love feeding even more. Keep your Cucumber plants satisfied with consistent applications of organic fertilizers and mulches. Top dress your cucumber plants with compost, kelp, alfalfa, and neem cake throughout the growing season to stop them from facing a nitrogen deficiency.
Cucumber plants need a consistent supply of water to produce the highest quality fruits. If Cucumber plants are water-stressed and allowed to wilt in between watering, the fruits can turn bitter. Container grown vegetables need to be watered more than in-ground plants so keep a close eye on moisture levels and water when the soil feels dry to the touch. In summer, this can be every day, depending on the weather and the size of the container.
Organic Fertilizers for Growing Cucumbers in Containers
Cucumbers need organic fertilizer such as liquid kelp or fish emulsion. Alternatively, try to make your liquid plant feed at home. Liquid plant feeds are mainly useful because they can be easily incorporated into your watering routine.
You can amend the soil with a granular fertilizer as you transplant the Cucumber seedlings. Then, feed once a fortnight with a balanced liquid fertilizer, during the growing season. Organic options can also be used. Alternatively, you can make your liquid plant feed and compost tea at home.
Cucumber plants are heavy feeders. It’s helpful to add a slow-release, all-purpose fertilizer into the potting soil before planting and then feed the Cucumber plants with a diluted, liquid fish emulsion, seaweed combination every other week during the growing season.
An Organic Pest and Disease Control of Cucumbers
Cucumber beetle disease is the main insect that damages cucumber plants. Be on a lookout for early signs of these insects. If you find damaged plant leaves and stems which have been eaten away leaving a net-like structure it probably is a cucumber beetle attack. The black and yellow cucumber beetles are fast and destructive. They can munch through leaves and fruit. Thankfully, they are easy to control.
Prevention – Check undersides of leaves and manually remove them before they spread to other parts of the Cucumber plant. Wear gloves with a layer of petroleum jelly on it while removing the beetles and it will prevent the pests from falling off to other parts of the plant. Also, you can use a vacuum cleaner to remove the beetles. Spray them with neem oil, and destroy the orange eggs they lay on the underside of leaves to control the Cucumber beetles.
Squash bugs are also the most common problem. A regular check is needed for signs of infestation.
Prevention – An application of neem oil or soap water will cure most infestations. To prevent pests like Squash bugs from striking, cover young plants with garden fabric or mesh until the cucumbers begin to flower.
Powdery Mildew is a disease that presents like white powder sprinkled on the leaves of the plant. It occurs in humid conditions and when the Cucumber plants are under stress.
Prevention – Provide good air circulation to help prevent infections. And if you spot the disease, remove any affected leaves. If the infection persists, try either one of these home remedies;
- Mix one teaspoon of baking soda with a drop of dish soap and a quart of water. Spray the solution on the plants.
- The mixture raises the leaf surface pH making it less hospitable to mildew spores
- Mix one part cow’s milk with nine parts water and use the solution as a foliar spray after each rain.
- The enzymes in the milk dissuade the growth of fungus.
When and How to Harvest Cucumbers
Cucumbers taste best when they have matured or even a little earlier. Because over-mature cucumbers do not taste as great. Seeds of over-mature cucumber are bigger which makes it less enjoyable than cucumbers picked at the right time. When cucumber has started turning yellow you know that you have missed the right time of picking it. The right time to harvest cucumbers is just before it turns yellow. Keep looking for cucumbers that have stopped growing in size on the plant. When the fruit stops growing that is the time you should pick it up. Harvest cucumbers with a pair of scissors. Never pull it off the plant as it will not easily detach from the plant.
Depending on the variety it can take about 12 weeks from sowing the seeds to harvesting fruit. The Cucumber is ready to harvest when it reaches the desired size. Many plant varieties can be harvested small. Some even taste better when the cucumbers are on the small. The best time to harvest cucumbers is in the morning before the temperature levels increase too greatly. Remove the fruit with a sharp knife. Don’t pull fruit from the vine. This can damage the vine and lead to the plant becoming diseased.
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