They may have a funny shape, but “cukes” have a long and distinguished history. They originated somewhere in northern India, where they were domesticated over 3,000 years ago. History records a few noteworthy cucumber fanatics, including the Roman emperor, Tiberius, who ate some every day--his gardeners were under some pressure to find clever ways to grow them out of season. Another emperor, Charlemagne, became a fan in the ninth century A.D. Even Columbus found room for them in his experimental gardens on Hispaniola (Haiti) during his second voyage in 1494. Cucumbers are very easy to grow, and they have many uses, which explains why they’ve spread all over the world today

Cukes for slicing and cukes for pickles. Which is which? Slicing cucumbers are dark green, 6 to 8 inches long, and are usually smooth-skinned, with few warts or spines. Pickling cucumbers are lighter-colored, shorter, and chunkier looking, and they usually have plenty of warts and spines. Slicing cucumbers are probably what most folks are interested in growing, at least in the beginning. The slicer is what you use for salads and those cucumber sandwiches that everyone, just everyone, serves with tea in the late afternoon. There is nothing wrong with using pickling cucumbers in salads, or harvesting slicers when they’re young to use for pickling.

Bush-type or vining-type cucumbers. Both pickling and slicing cucumbers come in varieties that are either vining-type plants or more compact bush-type plants. The question here is whether you allow the vines lie on the ground or train them to grow vertically on a support structure such as a trellis. Left to its own devices on the ground, a vining cucumber will cover about 12 to 20 square feet, compared to only about a tenth of that area on a trellis. Bush cucumbers will cover an area of two to three square feet, depending on the variety, and they do well in containers too.

How Many Cucumbers To Plant

Cucumber yields vary from one variety to the next but generally speaking, vining varieties will produce about 15 cucumbers per plant and bush varieties will produce about 10 per plant. A 25-foot row of plants will produce from 25 to 40 pounds of cukes over a season; a 3-by-8-foot bed (24 square feet) should give you 40 to 70 pounds of cukes. However, if you use a trellis, a 25-foot long trellis will yield over 100 pounds of cucumbers depending on the variety.