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Small-Space Gardening: Growing Cucumbers in Containers

Gardening on the porch, patio or deck doesn’t have to eliminate cucumbers from your list of home-grown veggies. With the right cucumber varieties, containers and growing regimen, you can enjoy all the cool, crunchy cuke goodness you’d get from a bedful of sprawling vines. The secret is to grow trellis-trained, space-saving container cukes. They’ll reward you with straight, clean fruit that’s a snap to harvest.

Bush Cucumbers

Container growing requires compact cucumbers. With vines is measuring just 2 to 3 feet, bush cucumbers fill the bill. Popular cultivars include:

  • ‘Picklebush,’ Growing 8 inches high with attractive, white-spined 4-inch fruit and 2-foot vines.
  • ‘Bush Champion,’ a slicing cultivar yielding 8-inch to 1-foot fruit on 2-foot vines.
  • ‘Arkansas Little Leaf,’ with 4-inch fruit suitable for pickling or slicing.The half-size leaves of its 1.5- to 2-foot vines make finding the cukes a breeze.

Expert gardener’s tip: ‘Arkansas Little Leaf’ sets fruit without pollination. ‘Picklebush’and ‘Bush Champion’ require insect or hand pollination.

Container Size

Your container should be large enough for the mature plant’s root system and trellis. Look for one between 12 And 18 inches across and at least 12 inches deep. The larger the pot, the less frequently your cuke will need watering in the summer. Whatever its size, it needs at least one drainage hole on the bottom.

Growing Medium

A suitable medium for container cucumbers a commercial mix formulated for growing vegetables. For a home-prepared alternative, mix together equal parts of:

  • Organic compost
  • Vermiculite
  • Potting soil
  • Sphagnum peat moss

Expert gardener’s tips:

  • Avoid landscape or garden soils, because they’re too heavy and may contain weed seeds or harmful organisms.
  • A growing medium with organic compost eliminates the need for fertilizer later in the growing season.

Planting the Seeds

Plant your cucumber seeds 3 to 4 weeks after your last average frost date. Space four 1/2-inch deep holes evenly in the center of the pot, drop one seed in each and cover lightly with the growing medium. Insert your trellis, water well and place the container where it gets at least six hours of daily sun.

Ongoing Care

After your seedlings have four sets of true leaves, snip the three weakest off at the bases. Gently twine the remaining one’s tendrils around the trellis. Check it once daily in cool weather and twice daily when it’s hot. If a 5-inch wooden dowel inserted into the soil comes out dry, water until the excess starts draining.

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