How to Grow and Care for Lemon Cucumbers

Lemon cucumber on the vine

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Lemon cucumbers (Cucumis sativus 'Lemon') resemble a lemon in size and color. Contrary to what their common name might indicate, these cucumbers do not have a citrus flavor. Growing on a 6- to 8-foot-tall vine, bright yellow blooms appear in midsummer to late summer and early fall, giving way to round, yellow cucumbers the size of tennis balls that are mild and sweet with a cool, crispy texture ideal for salads and pickling.

Common Name Lemon cucumber
Botanical Name Cucumis sativus 'Lemon'
Family Cucurbitaceae
Plant Type  Climbing vegetable vine
Mature Size  6 to 8 feet tall
Sun Exposure  Full sun
Soil Type  Rich, well-drained 
Soil pH  Mildly acidic to neutral
Bloom Time  Midsummer to late summer and early fall
Flower Color  Bright yellow 
Hardiness Zones  2-10, USDA (annual)
Native Area  India

Lemon Cucumber Care

Space seeds 18 to 24 inches apart in mid-spring to early summer. Harden off seedlings grown indoors before transplanting them in the ground outside. Plant in rows or hills after the soil temperature has reached at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit, which happens in mid- to late-May in most locations. Give 36 to 90 inches of space between each plant.

Light

Plant lemon cucumbers in full sun.

Soil

Offer plants rich, well-drained soil as one would for any other cucumber variety. For an extra nutritional boost, add some compost or well-rotted manure. Maintain a soil pH of 6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic) to 6.6 to 7.5 (neutral).

Water

Well-draining soil will be helpful in preventing rot of germinating seeds and the roots of developing plants. Keep the soil evenly moist while seeds are germinating. When seedlings appear, continue to water regularly to encourage the cucumbers to set. As cucumbers come, about one inch or one gallon per week will keep the soil evenly moist. Be sure not to overwater as that can cause the soil to become unnecessarily soggy. Water at each plant's base and avoid getting water on the foliage to prevent powdery mildew and other diseases. Two especially effective methods for watering lemon cucumber plants is a drip irrigation system or soaker hose.

Fertilizer

Before planting, add compost with phosphorous or mix in a 5-10-10 fertilizer (the 5 showing a lower nitrogen level, as a fertilizer too high in nitrogen may cause "burning" or encourage a lot of foliage growth and not much cucumber production). When the soil has warmed, apply a thin layer of mulch to cool the soil. Do not use more than 3 inches of mulch, as too much may exacerbate an existing slug issue. Fertilize plants every 2 weeks with an all-purpose fertilizer.

Temperature and Humidity

Lemon cucumbers are a good variety for cooler climates. Easy to grow and naturally prolific, they tend to require less heat to ripen than some other cucumber varieties and less likely to taste bitter. Generally, plants thrive in temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit and below 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Starting from Seed

Start lemon cucumber seedlings indoors 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost date, or if starting them outdoors, sow directly in the soil after all danger of frost has passed. There are many containers to consider when starting seeds indoors. Milk jugs can serve as mini-greenhouses. Seed trays are good for starting many seeds all at once. Fill jugs and/or trays with high quality seed starter soil. Wet soil before sowing seeds, saturating but not soaking the soil, and then nudge seeds into the medium and cover them with a little bit of dirt.

Tip

You can get seeds from your own lemon cucumbers to grow even more. After unblemished fruit ripens, clean and dry the seeds inside. Once dry, they are ready to be used for seed starting.

Trellising

To save space, grow vines vertically up trellises. Make sure trellises are strong enough to take on the weight of the plants as they bear the lemon cucumbers later in the season. Just before or just after planting, establish the trellises in the ground. Do not disturb growing plants any later in the season. Train vines up the trellis so that they do not sprawl on the ground. Secure vines with garden clips, nylon hose, or pantyhose.

Harvesting

Harvest 1.5-inch lemon cucumbers for pickling and 2-inch lemon cucumbers for slicing. Then store them in the fridge.

Common Pests

Aphids and spider mites are among the pests that can be controlled by a spray of insecticidal soap. If squash beetles arise, pick them off by hand.

FAQ
  • Are lemon cucumbers easy to grow?

    Yes, some gardeners say that this cucumber variety is even easier to grow than better-known varieties.

  • Do lemon cucumbers grow fast?

    Yes, when given the proper care and conditions, they are ready to harvest as soon as 60 days after planting.  

  • What is the difference between lemon cucumbers and regular cucumbers?

    Lemon cucumbers taste like regular cucumbers, though usually less bitter. Unlike the traditional green, oblong varieties, they are round and turn yellow like lemons. Also, lemon cucumbers come later in the season than most varieties.

Article Sources
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  1. True Lemon Cucumber.” Seed Savers Exchange.