Cucumbers are a relatively low-maintenance fruit to plant, but it’s not uncommon to experience growing problems. Sometimes you look forward to a bumper crop, and instead you could barely fill a crate.If your cucumber yield is less than you’d like, there are some things you can try to maximize it.
Here are 10 farming secrets to increase your cucumber yield:
- Mulch the base.
- Water the plant sufficiently.
- Promote pollination.
- Harvest quickly.
- Grow in full sunlight.
- Grow in a pot and use a trellis.
- Plant in the appropriate soil.
- Ensure appropriate temperature and conditions.
- Use weed and pest/parasite control.
Cucumber is delicious and versatile and it’s a wonderful feeling when you get a great yield for all the effort you put into growing. If your cucumbers are yielding less than you hoped, here are some secrets to make your next harvest the best one yet!
1. Mulch the Base
Cucumbers thrive on water, so the soil must remain moist as much as possible to keep the plant hydrated. A great way to retain moisture is by adding a mulch around the base of the cucumber plant. Some of the best mulches include dry grass clippings, compost, or newspaper.
You should apply approximately 1-2 inches (2.54-5.08 cm) of mulch around the plant. Using too much won’t be good for your cucumber’s health because it’ll stop the roots from receiving sufficient oxygen; this often leads to plant death, so you must be careful not to over-mulch.
Even if your cucumber is in a pot, you should still mulch the base. It’s always best to mulch after watering because it’ll help retain the water, making it easier for the roots to stay hydrated.
Mulching Has Other Benefits
We mulch mainly to retain moisture, but it also has other benefits. Mulching suppresses weed growth and also gives a garden an aesthetically pleasing finish. If you use the same mulch for all your plants, it’ll create a uniform look without you having to put in much effort.
Since mulching suppresses weeds and keeps your cucumber hydrated, it subsequently helps increase your yield; a healthy, thriving plant will continue to produce cucumbers if you continue to harvest them!
Biodegradable mulches will also feed your cucumber plant, meaning you won’t have to feed it as much; as the mulch degrades, your plant can take it in; this is an excellent passive way to feed your plant without putting in any effort. As long as your plant stays healthy and gets fed by the mulch, there’ll be a higher chance of a more significant yield.
Remove Weeds Before Mulching
If your cucumber plants are in the soil outside, there’s a chance there could be some weeds. It would help if you tried to remove all the weeds before mulching. Although mulching can help kill some weeds, others may be more resilient, which is why it’s good to remove as many as you can.
Weeds compete with your vegetables for nutrients and water and can cause stunted growth and reduce your harvest yield. Weeds are tough and can grow through mulch even if you cover them up so it’s best to get rid of as many as you can.
2. Water the Plant Sufficiently
One of the most important things you should do when trying to increase your cucumber yield is to give your cucumber plenty of water. Cucumbers need at least 1 inch (2.54 cm) of water every week, but they need even more if the weather is hot and dry.
If you’re growing your cucumbers in a greenhouse, it’s best to water them more frequently to keep them hydrated and healthy. Since cucumbers contain approximately 95% water, it’s only natural that the plant needs to be watered regularly to stay healthy and yield more cucumbers.
A dehydrated cucumber plant could be at risk and may even die. The most common signs of an underwatered cucumber plant are crispy, wilted, or brittle leaves. A cucumber plant that doesn’t have enough water won’t produce a large yield, so you need to make sure it has enough water if you’re looking to maximize your yield.
Although watering is essential, overwatering is an issue that may occur, which can be hugely damaging to your cucumber plant. Overwatering can cause mildew and block oxygen from getting to the soil and plant roots; this will subsequently reduce your cucumber yield, which is the opposite of what you want!
The most common signs of an overwatered cucumber plant include leaves that are yellow and wilting or leaves that have white spots (powdery mildew). Once the roots become saturated with too much water, they’ll die, and the rest of the plant will soon follow. If it has gotten to this point, there’s no way to save the plant or increase the yield; you’ll need to start fresh with a new plant.
3. Promote Pollination
To maximize the number of cucumbers you can harvest, you should try to promote pollination as best as you can. Not only does pollination affect the cucumber yield, but it also affects the size and quality of the cucumbers. Therefore, pollination is a crucial step if you want to maximize your yield while also yielding delicious, high-quality cucumbers!
Even though most cucumbers are self-pollinating, they still require outside help. They rely on other species to pollinate, and the most reliable cucumber pollinators are bees. According to a study by Penn State University, the most common pollinators of cucumbers in central Pennsylvania are honey bees, for example.
However, bees aren’t naturally attracted to cucumber plants, making pollination slightly tricky sometimes. You can promote bee pollination by planting flowers near your cucumber plants so that the bees will likely eventually make their way to the cucumbers.
If your cucumber plants are in a greenhouse, you could keep openings so that bees can get in. However, hand-pollinating is often more manageable in the case of a greenhouse. Hand pollinating is a quick and easy way to pollinate if bees are out of the question.
All you need to do is locate the male flowers on the plant and use a small paintbrush to gather the pollen in the middle of the flower. Then, you can paint the pollen onto the female flowers on the cucumber plant.
Although hand-pollination is a fantastic and straightforward way to increase your cucumber yield, it can be time-consuming. You’ll likely need to set aside plenty of time if you decide to hand pollinate your cucumber plants, so keep that in mind before you begin.
Here’s a YouTube video on how to hand-pollinate your cucumber plant:
4. Harvest Quickly
One of the best ways to maximize your cucumber yield is by harvesting your cucumbers as soon as they’re ready. Once you’ve harvested a cucumber, the plant will know to begin growing another in its place, so you’ll end up producing more cucumbers in a shorter period.
If you leave cucumbers growing for too long, the plant will use all its energy to maintain them. It won’t facilitate the growth of new cucumbers, meaning your yield will end up being less than it could be.
Additionally, leaving cucumbers on the plant for too long may result in an unpleasant taste and unusual texture, so it’s always best to harvest them as soon as they’re ready.
How to Know When to Harvest a Cucumber
You should harvest a cucumber once it reaches 7-9 inches (17.78-22.86 cm) long. Leaving it any longer isn’t necessary and will only reduce your overall yield and cucumber quality. When harvesting, your cucumber should be firm rather than soft or mushy. If it isn’t firm, you may have left it on the vine for too long.
When you decide to harvest a cucumber, you should leave a bit of the stem attached to it; this will help it last longer if you don’t plan on using it right away.
So, the most important thing to remember from this section is to harvest your cucumbers as soon as they’re ready. Not doing so will slow down the growth of new cucumbers, meaning your yield will be lower than it should be.
5. Grow in Full Sunlight
You must grow your cucumbers in full sunlight for the highest possible yield and best quality cucumbers. They need warmth and light to grow quickly and healthily, so this step is essential.
If you live somewhere that doesn’t get much sunlight and tends to be cloudy a lot of the time, you likely won’t have a high cucumber yield. Since cucumbers need approximately six hours of direct sunlight a day, it’s easier to grow them during the longer summer days rather than the shorter winter days.
You can still grow cucumbers in regions with less sunlight, but the yield will be much lower. If you live in a place with little sunlight but want to produce many cucumbers, you could use artificial lighting. Of course, natural lighting is more practical, but artificial lighting is an excellent alternative if it’s your only option.
Some people choose to grow their cucumbers under LED lighting because it offers more control over the amount of lighting the plant receives and can be done in any part of the world.
If you want to see an in-depth video on growing cucumbers in LED lighting, be sure to check out the interesting YouTube video below:
6. Grow in a Pot and Use a Trellis
Growing cucumbers in a pot is a great way to improve your yield. Since your plant won’t be directly in the soil, there’s less chance of it getting damaged by parasites within the soil, for example. Pots are also easier to manage because they’re generally a lot smaller than a large region of soil.
You’ll need to use a large pot if you want to maximize your yield and have plenty of space for the plant to flourish and grow. Additionally, you want to ensure the plant has constant drainage, so a pot with drainage holes is essential.
Using a trellis will help save space in your garden or greenhouse, but it’ll also increase sun exposure for your cucumber plant. As you may know from earlier in the article, sun exposure helps cucumbers grow quicker and significantly increases your yield. Therefore, using a trellis is undoubtedly something to consider if you want to grow as many cucumbers as possible.
If you use a pot to grow your cucumbers, you’ll still need to use high-quality soil. You should also mulch the soil after watering to retain the moisture; this will help promote cucumber growth.
Growing cucumbers in a pot is often more convenient because you can easily protect them from adverse weather conditions. For example, if you place your pot in an area with direct sunlight, but the sunlight begins to move, you can move the pot to follow the light. A pot is often more convenient since you can’t do this when your cucumber plant is planted directly in the ground.
You need to fertilize your cucumbers if you want to maximize your yield. While mulching retains moisture and prevents weed growth, fertilizing will give your cucumber plant the nutrients it needs to grow quickly and healthily.
The best and most natural fertilizer you can use for cucumbers is compost, and this should last for at least a year in the soil. Compost feeds the plant slowly, making it a great long-term feeder for cucumbers. Not only is compost an excellent fertilizer, but it’s also a great mulch.
You can also use a liquid fertilizer, which is best used for cucumbers growing in pots. You should apply liquid fertilizer once every 2-3 weeks. An example of a liquid fertilizer would be the Dr. Earth Organic Fertilizer (available on Amazon.com).
This product doesn’t contain GMOs and is kind to insect life and the environment while providing all the nutrients your cucumbers need to grow and flourish.
It’s essential to go for a fertilizer that doesn’t contain too much nitrogen. Nitrogen will assist with foliage growth but will hinder your cucumber yield. Cucumbers also need high potassium levels, so a fertilizer that contains potassium is essential.
Luckily, compost fertilizer generally contains low levels of nitrogen and higher potassium levels, which is why it’s your best option overall. By giving your cucumber all these essential nutrients, you’re ensuring that it grows quickly and increases your cucumber yield.
8. Plant in the Appropriate Soil
Whether you’re growing your cucumbers directly in the ground or a pot, you should make sure you’re using well-drained soil. Another critical factor is aeration; your soil should be well-aerated if you want to increase your cucumber yield as much as possible.
Luckily, cucumbers can grow in many types of soil. You can grow them in clay or loose soil as long as it’s well-drained and aerated.
Prepare the Soil Before Planting
It’s a good idea to amend the soil approximately one month before planting the cucumbers because it’ll help loosen the soil and make it more favorable for your plant. To amend the soil, you should use well-rotted manure, such as from chickens, and compost.
It’s also a good idea to use a rake to break up any hardened, dense soil. Loosening the soil will make it easier for water to travel to the root of the cucumber plant, which in turn will give you a higher yield because it keeps the plant healthy and thriving.
How To Prepare the Soil in a Pot
If you’re using a pot, you should use rich, high-quality soil. I’d recommend using potting soil because it’s made specifically for the soil in pots, which means it drains better than regular garden soil.
Once you’ve prepared the soil, you can plant your cucumbers and finish it off by watering and mulching. Watering is an important step to settle the roots in the substrate and promote growth.
Don’t Plant Your Cucumbers Next to Large Tree Roots
When planting your cucumbers, it’s best to keep a few inches of distance between the planting site and the nearest tree, particularly a large tree; this is because cucumber roots can grow deep within the soil. They can reach 38-46 inches (96.52-116.84 cm) deep.
Since many trees have extensive root systems, these tree roots may steal water and nutrients from the cucumber. This will subsequently reduce your cucumber yield because they’ll grow much slower and may even die eventually.
You should also make sure to plant them in an area that gets the most sunlight and not in the shade of nearby trees for maximum growth and yield.
9. Ensure Appropriate Temperature and Conditions
Cucumbers grow best in temperatures between 75 and 85°F (23.89 and 29.44°C), which is why you’ll get the highest cucumber yield during the warm and sunny summer months.
Since cucumbers like warm weather, they don’t fare well when it gets cold. Cucumbers may begin to wilt and die if the temperatures get too low, which subsequently minimizes your cucumber yield (we certainly want to avoid this).
If you’re in a cold region but still want to plant cucumbers and get a high yield, you must grow them indoors. Unfortunately, there’s no way to grow them outdoors during cold, winter weather.
There are two main ways to grow your cucumbers indoors, these are:
- In a greenhouse
- In your home, using artificial lighting
Both methods are mostly the same. The main difference is that a greenhouse uses natural lighting rather than artificial lighting.
Here are some handy tips you can use as a guide when you’re planting and growing cucumber plants indoors:
- You’ll need to plant your cucumber plants in a pot with potting soil – in both instances. Once you’ve put the soil in the pot, you can plant your cucumber seeds in the center of the pot.
- Water the soil once you’ve planted the seeds – water is one of the most important things to increase your cucumber yield. Watering after planting is essential, and it’s also necessary to retain this moisture.
- Mulch the potting soil – you should mulch the potting soil after watering to retain moisture; this helps lock in the much-needed water and keeps the cucumber plant nicely hydrated.
- Leave in the light – it’s essential to keep your plant in sunlight or artificial light for as long as possible each day.
- Keep the temperature warm – if the room or greenhouse is too cool, you’ll need to use a heater. The cucumber plant won’t flourish or give you a high yield if it’s too cold, which is why temperature is so important.
10. Use Weed and Pest/Parasite Control
If you plant your cucumber seeds in the ground, pests and parasites are more likely to get at the roots because they live in the soil. These parasites can end up damaging the plant, which will decrease your cucumber yield. They can sometimes even kill the plant, which is why it’s essential to prevent and control these parasites and pests.
Here are some of the best ways to control or prevent pests and parasites:
- Crop rotation. It would be best to consistently change the area where you plant your cucumbers because this helps reduce the risk of parasites like nematodes. Not only does crop rotation prevent parasites from damaging your crops, but it also helps prevent diseases.
- Remove the affected soil. If only a small section of soil is affected by parasites, you could dig up that part and add new soil in its place. However, this method would likely be too difficult if a large area is affected.
- Solarize the soil during summer. An excellent and natural way to kill parasites is to solarize the soil. This method requires a lot of heat and sunlight, so it’ll only work well during the summer. All you need to do is clear the soil, water it, and cover it with clear plastic. Let it sit under direct sunlight for a few weeks, and the parasites should be gone.
Weeds can also make your plants suffer because they block nutrient supplies from getting to your cucumber plant. If your plant isn’t getting the needed nutrients, the cucumbers will grow slower, and your yield won’t be as high as you might like. Weeds can then further damage your plant and kill it eventually, so it’s always good practice to control weeds.
Here are some of the best ways to remove, control, and prevent weeds in the soil:
- Mulching. The sun helps weeds grow, so mulching can help block the sunlight from the weeds. You can use any organic mulch to prevent weeds. This method is helpful, but it may not always entirely deter weeds from growing, which is why you’ll also need to keep a watch over your soil consistently.
- Hand-picking. You can remove some visible weeds by hand if they’re not stuck too deep within the soil. The most important thing is to make sure you get to the root; otherwise, the weed will grow back. You can dig into the soil if you’re having trouble getting to the root.
- Use vinegar and dish soap. I always try to stay away from harmful chemicals for my plants, so a great alternative to chemical weed killer is vinegar. All you need to do is add white vinegar, salt, and dish soap into a spray bottle; this will dry up the weed, making it wither and eventually die.
By controlling pests, parasites, diseases, and weeds in the soil, your cucumber plant has a much higher chance of producing a large number of delicious, high-quality cucumbers.