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Tips for Growing the Crunchiest, Crispest Pickling Cucumbers

What’s the secret to success to making home-grown pickles with irresistible “crunch?” Planting pickling cucumbers bred to produce firm, thin-skinned fruit – and then giving them the right growing conditions. With our tips on preparing a planting bed and nurturing your cukes from seeds to fruiting vines, you’ll have a pantry full of crunchy, mouth-watering pickles before you know it.

The Pickling Cuke Difference

Four traits separate pickling from slicing cucumbers:

  • Shape: Pickling cukes produce short, blocky fruit suitable for jars.
  • Size: Gherkin and dill pickle varieties are ready to harvest when their fruit is between 1.5 and 3 inches long. If allowed to ripen longer, they make tasty sliced pickles or relish ingredients.
  • Skin: As a rule, pickling cukes have thin, bumpy skin changing from light green at the blossom end to deep green at the stem; many varieties also have pale stripes
  • Texture: Picklers are prized for succulent, nearly seedless flesh that snaps when bended and retains its crisp, crunchy texture even after processing.

Popular Picklers

Tried-and-true pickling cucumbers include:

  • ‘Boston Pickling.’ Cultivated since the 1880s, it’s a generous producer with smooth, 3- to 6 inch cukes ready to harvest starting at 55 days.
  • ‘County Fair,’ a self-pollinating, wilt-resistant variety with straight, sweet 4.5-inch fruit ready in 52 days.
  • ‘Alibi,’ resistant to mildew and cucumber mosaic virus. Harvest its 2-inch fruit at 50 days for perfect gherkins. At just 18 to 24 inches tall, it’s ideal for container growing.

The Planting Site

Pickling cucumbers need well-draining, organically rich soil and six or more hours of daily sun. About one month before your spring frost date, remove weeds and debris from your planting site and work a 2-inch layer of into the top 6 inches of soil. Plant only after the soil temperature is consistently above 65°F (18.3°C).

Expert gardener’s tip: If you’re using trellises, install them at planting time.

Watering

Cucumbers need 1 to 2 inches of water per week, preferably delivered from beneath via a soaker hose or drip system to discourage fungal disease.

Pest Control

Thwart disease-transmitting cucumber beetles and aphids with lightweight row covers. They let sun, air and water reach the vines but keep the bugs away.

Picking Your Picklers

Start picking whenthe cukes reach the recommended size. Wearing sturdy gloves, cut them off with a sharp knife or pruning tool. Unless you’re pickling immediately, leave 1 inch of stem attached to keep the stem end from rotting.

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