Growing cucumbers in Arizona can be a challenge. The intense heat of Arizona 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 (but not hot) growing season. To overcome the challenges of growing cucumbers in Arizona the key is to plant cucumbers early in the season and plant short season varieties that will ripen before the hottest days of summer.
Varieties to Try When Growing Cucumbers in Arizona
Some recommended varieties include Triumph, Poinsett, Marketmore 76, and Lemon. I’ve also had success with Diva, Japanese and Armenian. Armenian types are actually a melon that taste 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
Planting dates for Maricopa County: Feb. 15th – April 30th and August 15th – Sept. 30th.
Plant a group of 3 seeds every 12”; when seedlings have 3 leaves, thin to 1 plant every 12”. Good companion plants for cucumbers are bush beans, corn and cabbage.
Plant in a sunny location with well draining soil, high in organic matter. Keep soil moist, but not waterlogged; using mulch helps soil maintain moisture.
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 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.
How and When to Harvest Cucumbers
Cucumbers are best harvested when small and the flower is still attached. Once cucumbers turn yellow they can be bitter. Cut the stem rather than pulling at the fruit to break off. Immediately immerse in cold water to disperse “field heat” to increase the quality and life of the picked fruit.
Recipes to Try With Fresh Cucumbers
Cucumber Lemon Water with Mint (recipe from healthy-holistic-living.com)
12 cups of filtered water (3 quarts)
1 medium organic cucumber
2-3 small organic lemons
10-12 organic mint leaves
Directions: Wash lemons and cucumbers; slice thinly. Add lemons, cucumber, and mint to pitcher. Cover with water and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
Dill Pickles (recipe from Foodandwine.com)
1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
3/4 teaspoon dill seeds
2 cups hot water
2 pounds cucumbers, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3/4 cup coarsely chopped dill
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
In a large, heatproof measuring cup, combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard seeds, coriander seeds and dill seeds with the hot water and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Let the brine cool.
In a large bowl, toss the cucumbers with the dill and garlic. Pour the brine over the cucumbers and turn to coat. Place a small plate over the cucumbers to keep them submerged, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the pickles overnight, stirring once or twice. Serve cold.
The dill pickles can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.