Tips & Techniques for Growing Cucumbers
Growing Cucumbers
Varieties of Cucumbers
Varieties of cucumbers exist which are ideal for slicing and pickling.  The pickling varieties produce smaller cucumbers which are desirable for making some types of pickles.  The larger slicing cucumbers including Asian varieties are great in salads. You can even find burpless varieties which contain low cucurbitacin, the substance that causes burping. Most cucumbers are green in color but white varieties have been developed.  Even seedless varieties are available.  Cucumbers grow on vines but bush varieties exist which are ideal for small gardens with limited space. They often produce heavy yields over just a few weeks.  The time required to produce fruit will vary depending upon the variety grown.  Cucumbers can be open pollinated or hybrid.  Seeds saved from open pollinated, including heirloom, varieties should germinate to produce new plants similar to their parents.  Heirloom varieties may have better flavor but sometimes produce less fruit than the hybrids.  One of my favorites is the Straight Eight heirloom which produces large slicing cucumbers early and continues to set fruit over a long period.  Hybrids are developed by cross breeding to improve selected characteristics.  As a result, they may be heavy producers, disease resistant, require less time to produce, etc.  You can save seeds from hybrids but they will not necessarily have the same characteristics as the hybrid.  Some plants will inherit a given characteristic from one parent while others will inherit it from the other parent. However, if you continue to save seed from plants with the desirable characteristics, it will stabilize. 
Preparing the Soil
Cucumbers can be grown without a lot of work, if you plant them in rows. You will need to till the garden and mark off rows.  A string with a stick tied to each end can be used for creating straight rows.  Use the sticks to measure the location of the next row.  It will make tilling and weeding easier, if you make the middles slightly wider than your tiller.  Using a regular garden hoe, make a straight shallow trench beneath the string.  Once the rows have been marked off, you will want to dig holes about two feet apart along the trench and mix in compost or manure making hills.  You may also include about a table spoon full of regular commercial fertilizer, e.g. 12-12-12 garden fertilizer. It is best to plan for at least two rows side-by-side to facilitate pollination.  
Planting Cucumbers
It is best to plant cucumber seed directly in the garden.  You can set out plants but they take a while to get over the shock of being planted and start growing again.  If you plant seeds, they will come up and grow fast and are some as big as the plants.  Even in the northern states, you are better off planting cucumber seeds directly in the ground. You can buy seed from the various seed companies or save your own from the previous year's crop. Keep in mind that unlike heirloom varieties, the seeds saved from hybrid cucumbers will not produce the exact same type of cucumber as the hybrid. To ensure a good stand, dig a shallow hole in each hill and place 3 or 4 seeds in it; covering them with about a half inch of dirt.  When the plants are about three inches high, thin them leaving only 2 or 3 plants.  If you leave too many plants in a hill, they will compete for resources and be stunted. As the cucumber vines grow, they will spread forming what appears to be one wide row.
Weeding & Plant Maintenance
Cucumber plants should grow well by just removing weeds and inspecting them periodically for insects.  You can remove weeds between rows with your tiller.  If you took care to make the middles slightly wider than your tiller, one pass down each middle may be all that is needed.  Initially, weeds in a cucumber row can be removed easily with a hoe since the plants are far apart. After the vines begin to spread, it becomes more difficult.  You will need to till and hoe about three or four times.  The last time or two that you till, you will need to temporarily lay the vines over into the opposite middle to prevent cutting them with your tiller.
Controlling Diseases and Insects
The most common diseases affecting cucumbers is powdery mildew, spread by spores, and the mosaic virus, spread by aphids.  Mosaic virus stunts the plants and distorts the fruit.  Elimination of the aphids will reduce the spread of the disease.  Powdery mildew is a white powdery fungus that develops on the leaves and stems. If untreated, it will kill the plants.  Some control measures include planting resistant varieties and crop rotation.  Severely infected plants may require the use of fungicides.  Always read and follow the directions on the containers when applying chemicals on garden plants.  For specific details on controlling diseases and pests, click on the "Gardening Resources" tab and go to the Sources of Information on Vegetable Garden Diseases and Pests.
Cucumbers can be picked when they are small for making pickles or when they are larger for slicing and eating.  Once they start producing, you will need to pick them often to avoid letting them get too mature.  Cucumbers are a little difficult to find.  They seem to hide under the leaves.  No matter how hard you look, you will usually miss a few.  You will need to remove any fruits missed so the vines will continue to produce.