Are you a gardener who loves growing cucumbers but struggles with them in the summer heat? In places like Arizona, the heat is often too much for the cucumbers to handle, they dry out, and if they do grow, they are often bitter. Cucumbers grow best with a long, warm (not hot) growing season.
This blog post will cover valuable tips and information to help you grow delicious, crisp, and juicy cucumbers in a hot summer climate. Everything you need to know from planting to harvesting. So, let’s get started!
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Choose the Right Variety of Cucumbers When Growing in a Hot Climate
To overcome the challenges of growing cucumbers in hot climates, the key is to plant cucumbers early in the season and plant short-season varieties that will ripen before the hottest days of summer.
Choosing the right variety of cucumbers is crucial in a hot summer climate. There are many varieties of cucumbers, but some are more tolerant of heat and drought than others.
Some recommended varieties include Triumph, Poinsett, Marketmore 76, and Lemon. I’ve also had success with Diva, Japanese, and Armenian. These varieties are known to produce good yields even in high temperatures and dry conditions.
Armenian types are actually a melon that tastes like a cucumber. They are especially suited to hot desert areas and will produce throughout the summer.
For more information on growing Armenian Cucumbers, read this article.
How and When to Plant Cucumbers
Start seeds indoors 3-4 weeks before your last frost date, or sow them directly outdoors once the soil has warmed. Plant cucumbers outside when soil temperatures have warmed up to at least 60°F (15°C), typically late spring or early summer.
Planting dates for the low desert of Arizona:
- Start seeds indoors: January – March and July – August
- Plant outside: February 15 – April and August 15 – September
Keep the soil consistently moist, but avoid over-watering to prevent diseases. Cucumber seeds generally germinate within 7-10 days. Plant a group of 3 seeds every 12 inches (30cm); when seedlings have 3 leaves, thin to 1 plant every 12 inches (30cm). Good companion plants for cucumbers are bush beans, corn, and cabbage.
Cucumbers thrive in well-draining, fertile soil enriched with organic matter like compost. Choose a location with plenty of sunlight, as they require at least 6-8 hours of direct sun daily.
Provide Support for Growing Cucumbers
It’s best to provide a trellis or some form of support for cucumbers as they grow. This helps keep them off the ground and keeps the fruit clean and free from rot. Trellising the plants also gives other crops room to grow, as cucumber vines can quickly take over a raised bed.
Looking for ways to add vertical space to your garden? This post shares 10 of my favorite ideas.
In this blog post, find more ways to add vertical space to your garden.
Provide Ample Water and Shade for Cucumbers Grown in Hot Climates
Cucumbers are thirsty plants and require ample water to grow well. In hot summer conditions, they require more water than usual. So make sure to water them regularly and deeply. You can also provide them with shade by using shade cloth or by planting them near taller plants. This will prevent them from getting scorched by the sun and keep them cool.
How to Grow Cucumbers in Hot Climates? MULCH Them!
Mulching your cucumber plants is an excellent way to keep the soil moist and cool during the hot summer months. Use organic materials like straw, leaves, or compost to cover the soil around your cucumber plants. This will help retain moisture, reduce water loss due to evaporation, and keep the soil temperature cool. Learn more about mulching in this blog post.
Understand Cucumber Pollination
Cucumber plants have two primary pollination types: self-pollinating and cross-pollinating.
Self-pollinating cucumbers, also known as parthenocarpic varieties, do not require pollen transfer to produce fruit. Examples of parthenocarpic cucumbers include ‘Diva’, ‘Socrates’, and ‘Tyria’, which are ideal for indoor or greenhouse growing conditions since they can produce fruit without the presence of pollinators like bees.
Cross-pollinating cucumbers rely on the transfer of pollen from male to female flowers within the same plant or between different plants. Examples of cross-pollinating cucumbers are ‘Marketmore 76’, ‘Straight Eight’, and ‘National Pickling’. This process typically requires the assistance of pollinators, such as bees, to ensure successful fruit production. If you find that female fruits are withering and not being pollinated, consider hand-pollinating them.
Watch Out for Pests and Diseases
Healthy plants are more resistant to pest infestations, so do what you can to keep your plant healthy. Keep a close eye on your plants and look for signs of damage, such as wilting, yellowing, or holes in the leaves. Check for pests like aphids, spider mites, and cucumber beetles.
- Practice organic gardening principles to encourage beneficial insects.
- Check plants and undersides of leaves daily. Handpick beetles and remove their eggs. Early detection and intervention can prevent severe damage and make controlling pests easier.
- Use a strong stream of water to dislodge spider mites from the leaves. Make sure to target both the top and underside of the leaves. Repeat this process every few days until the infestation is under control.
- Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth on the affected plants. This natural powder can help kill spider mites by damaging their exoskeletons. Be careful not to over-apply, as it can also impact beneficial insects.
- Avoid over-fertilizing, as excessive nitrogen can encourage spider mite outbreaks.
To prevent diseases, avoid watering the leaves and provide good air circulation around the plants.
Harvest Your Cucumbers at the Right Time
Harvesting cucumbers at the right time is important for the best flavor and texture. Cucumbers should be picked when they are firm but still slightly tender. Cucumbers are best harvested when small, and the flower is still attached.
Overripe cucumbers can get bitter and lose their crispness. So keep a close eye on your plants and harvest regularly to keep the fruits coming.
Harvest cucumbers in the morning when temperatures are cool. Cut the stem or twist rather than pulling at the fruit to break off. Immediately immerse them in cold water to disperse “field heat” to increase the quality and life of the picked fruit.
Use Homegrown Cucumbers in a Variety of Ways
Enjoy cucumbers in simple ways, such as raw slices for a crunchy snack or added to salads. Cucumbers also work well in cold soups like gazpacho or blended into smoothies for extra hydration and nutrients.
Pickling is another popular method to preserve and add flavor to cucumbers. For a creative twist, use cucumber slices as a base for appetizers by topping them with spreads, cheeses, or smoked salmon.
Store whole cucumbers in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator, wrapped in foil or a plastic bag. Typically, they stay fresh for up to a week. Once cut, store cucumber slices in an airtight container to maintain their crispness and consume them within a few days.
Growing cucumbers in a hot summer climate can be a challenge, but with the right techniques, you can still enjoy a bountiful harvest. Choose the right variety, provide ample water and shade, mulch your plants, watch out for pests and diseases, and harvest your cucumbers at the right time.