Growing conditions are ideal for a wide variety of food crops in the Hawaiian Islands. One of the best crops to grow in many backyard gardens across the state is the Cucumber. They thrive in the tropical climates that the islands have to offer.
Cucumbers in Hawai’i will grow year round below 3000 ft to sea level and from April to October above 3000 ft. They require very fertile soil and protection from pests that love to eat the fruit. Some varieties to grow are “Sweet Success,” “Burpless 69,” and “Diva.”
While growing cucumbers in Hawai’i tends to be fairly easy in the tropics, growing GOOD cucumbers requires a few tricks in our tropical climate. I have recently come into regular success producing quality, pest free cucumbers after years of trying.
Related: Growing great cucumbers begins at the soil level. Start your seeds in the best potting soil out there.
Best Cucumber Varieties to Grow in Hawai’i
When it comes to growing vegetables in Hawai’i, the variety you choose to plant plays a huge role in the success that you will have. Some seeds are more susceptible to decreasing or increasing daylight and may not germinate if planted at the wrong time of year. Others have resistance to powdery mildew which can be a big problem in the tropics.
Below are some varieties that I have tried out and have had success with. Some grow year round. Some grow only in the summer or do best during the winter. Upper elevations above 3000’ should stick with planting cucumbers from April to October, the rest of us can grow year round crops.
|VARIETY||SUMMER PLANTING||WINTER PLANTING||POWDERY MILDEW RESISTANT||PARTHENOCARPIC*|
|Western Slicing Types|
Pests Love Cucumbers In Hawai’i
One of the first things you should know about growing cucumbers in Hawai’i is that the pests LOVE them. This is really where success and failure happens, but if you take the right precautions you can grow cucumbers that are relatively pest free.
My favorite way to grow pest free cucumbers is by planting them in a modified greenhouse that has a clear plastic roof and screened in sides. This allows you to control the water flow as well as keep the bugs out and still let the airflow in.
Pests such as Melon Fly & Pickleworm cannot breach the screened in growhouse, allowing you to grow healthy cucumbers without the need to bag them. If you do not have a screened in growing area, you can bag each fruit as they appear. It is cumbersome work, but without it you will likely find cucumbers crawling with larvae.
Slugs tend to love cucumbers as well. Allowing the cucumber to grow up a trellis rather than trail on the ground definitely helps, but additional measures should be taken. Slugs are a vector for Rat Lungworm Disease, you should assume it is on all of the islands.
The best way to deal with slugs is to go out at night with tongs and a jar of salt water and pick them off one by one. Having a couple of ducks around can also help to keep the population down.
Leaf Miners and Whiteflies attack cucumbers as well, but their populations tend to be kept in check by natural predation.
Unfortunately, pests are not the only thing that can bring calamity to your cucumber plant. Powdery Mildew is a fungal disease that can be a real problem in the wetter parts of the tropics. That’s why growing them under cover so that you can control the water is key.
Prepare The Soil So The Cucumbers Can Thrive
Cucumbers love to eat and they love to drink. Preparing a soil bed that drains well, but can retain moisture and is loaded with nitrogen rich manure or compost will get you off to a great start. They like a lot of water, but do not like to hang out in puddles.
I like to try and add manure to the growing area a month ahead of time so that it has a chance to break down. As the cucumbers are growing I like to continue to feed them with a foliar application of Fish Emulsion once during the vegetative stage and another time after they fruit to encourage more vining of the plant.
If you have root nematodes present in your soil, it would be a good idea to plant a crop of sunn hemp ahead of time to repel the nematodes.
Cucumbers like a slightly acidic to neutral pH level, which most Hawaiian soils already tend to be.
How to Plant Cucumber By Seed
Cucumbers actually grow pretty easy from seed. I like to direct seed my cucumbers about 18” apart. They tend to have no problem sprouting right up. But if you have an area that might get attacked by chickens or other pests, you may want to start your cucumbers in small pots.
I really like to use Cell Trays (Amazon Affiliate Link) when I am not direct seeding any type of plant. They are cheap and reusable.
I like to fill the cell trays with a good potting soil, like this one by Fox Farm (Amazon Affiliate Link). Then I stick my index finger into the soil up to my first digit to make a hole, drop the cucumber seed in, cover it up and water. Continue to keep the soil moist until it sprouts, then water as needed.
Once the seedling has developed it’s true leaves, you can carefully transplant. The roots on cucumbers are very sensitive, so be sure to be VERY careful when transplanting your cucumbers. Improper handling can lead to stunted or even dead plants.
Trellising Cucumbers For Success
Cucumbers can trail on the ground, but the fruit is susceptible to slug damage and rotting. A better idea would be to trellis your cucumbers.
Cucumbers will climb up almost anything, but it is best to have a trellis in place. I like to use two strong, straight sticks set 2’-3’ apart and about 4’ high into the garden bed. Then I will attach chicken wire to the two sticks for the vines to trellis on.
Sometimes the vines need a little extra help, so I will go through and attach some vines to the trellis using twist ties. As the vines grow beyond my trellising I will prune the tips so I can keep the plant under control. It also makes it easier to prune off any dead leaves that I may find.
Harvesting Your Cucumbers
Harvesting cucumbers is pretty straight forward. When they look ready they are ready. But there are 2 things you should be aware of.
The longer you leave the fruit on the vine, the better the chance it has to be attacked by insects or birds. I like to harvest my cucumbers when they are just a little bit larger than a pickle to eliminate the chance of losing them to something else.
It’s also important to regularly harvest your cucumbers or else the plant will begin to think it’s done its job and it’s time to die. Regular harvest causes the cucumber plant to produce more fruits.
Preserving Cucumbers For Months To Come
If you’re like me, you can’t eat all of the cucumbers that you grow each year. That’s where pickling comes in. Pickled cucumbers can last for months and they taste better in my opinion.
Take the time to preserve your harvest, that way you can make room to grow another crop that you need to fill the pantry and not waste what you’ve grown.
When it comes to pickling, I have been using this recipe from Farm & Dairy. It’s a pretty simple recipe that produces some crisp, fermented pickles. Give it a try.
Related: Every good pickler needs some Mason Jars. Pick up these Mason Jars from Amazon and support this Blog.
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