The Dos and Don’ts of Watering Cucumbers

In a perfect world, your cucumbers would get all the water they need from Mother Nature’s rain. In reality, however, cukes are some of the thirstiest veggies — and that means they’ll need supplemental water from you. Knowing when, how, and how much to water cukes is as much an art as a science – but with these tips, it’s an art you’ll master in no time!


Soil and Water

Ideal garden soil contains roughly equal amounts of loam, clay and sand. But excessive clay or sand can harm your cukes by interfering with drainage. Clay soil absorbs water slowly and hangs on to it; sandy soil absorbs it quickly and loses it just as fast. To improve clay or sand, amend your soil one month before planting time with organic compost.

Adding Compost to Clay

Dig up and loosen the top 12 inches of soil. Rake it smooth and spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic compost evenly over the surface and work it in with a rotary tiller.

Expert gardener’s tip: Work the soil while it’s dry; wet clay forms clods nearly impossible to break apart.

Adding Compost to Sandy Soil

Much lighter and coarser than clay, sandy soil has difficulty retaining nutrients. Amend it as you would clay, only work it to a depth of 20 to 27 inches and add 6 inches of compost.

How Much to Water

Cucumbers need watering once or twice per week, for a total of 1 to 2 inches of water. In hot, dry weather 2 inches is best. Use a rain gauge from your garden store to determine how much supplemental water to give them. Signs that they’re getting too little or too much include:

  • Curled leaves. If they’re brittle and hard, you may need to water more. If they’re yellow and limp, suspect underwatering.
  • Brown leaves and dying branches. Either drought or root rot from overwatering could be responsible.

Some cucumber diseases mimic symptoms of inadequate or excessive watering. Rule them out before changing your watering schedule.

Expert gardener’s tip: One inch of water equates to 6 gallons for every 10 square feet of soil.

How to Water

Water in the morning, preferably with a soaker hose, drip system or sprinkler can. The goal is to soak the soil slowly to a depth of 6 or more inches before the water evaporates in the day’s heat. Always water cukes at their bases; wetting the leaves invites fungal disease and increases evaporation.