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 and taste like the more common, green oblong varieties. Growing on a six- to eight-foot-tall vine, bright yellow blooms appear in mid- to late-summer and early fall, giving way to round, yellow cucumbers the size of a small tennis ball. They 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 foot vines
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 outside. Plant in rows or hills after the soil temperature has warmed up to at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit, which happens in mid- to late-May in many USDA hardiness zones.

If your garden beds are large enough, space plants 36 to 90 inches apart. If garden space is limited, install a trellis or other type of support system and train the vines to grow up the supports

Light

Plant lemon cucumbers in full sun, at least six to eight hours of sunlight per day.

Soil

Lemon cucumbers are heavy feeders and require rich, well-drained soil similar to any other cucumber variety. For an extra nutritional boost, mix in finished compost or well-rotted manure. Maintain a slightly acidic soil pH of 6.5 to 7.0 (neutral).

Water

Well-draining soil will prevent 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 flowers.

Give plants one inch of water per week to keep the soil evenly moist. Inconsistent watering leads to bitter tasting fruit. During hot, dry spells, you might need to water several times per week to prevent soil from drying out.

However, be sure not to overwater because that can cause the soil to become unnecessarily soggy. Direct water at at the plant's base to avoid splashing 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 and Mulch

Before planting, add compost with phosphorous or mix in a low nitrogen 5-10-10 fertilizer. A fertilizer too high in nitrogen might burn plants or encourage foliage growth and not much cucumber production. Fertilize plants every two weeks with an all-purpose fertilizer.

At planting time, apply a layer of organic mulch (straw, shredded leaves, or any another organic material) to keep roots cool, retain moisture, provide pest protection, and prevent the fruits from lying directly on soil. Do not use more than three inches of mulch, as too much mulch may exacerbate an existing slug issue.

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 two to four weeks before the last frost date, or if starting them outdoors, sow directly in the soil after all danger of frost has passed and soil has warmed to at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

You can use a variety of containers to start 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. Moisten soil well before sowing seeds (don't soak the soil) and then nudge seeds into the planting medium and cover them lightly.

Tip

You can save seeds from your lemon cucumbers. After unblemished fruit ripens, clean and dry the seeds. Once dry, store and use the seeds to start another crop next year.

Trellises

To save space, you can grow cucumber vines vertically on trellises. Make sure the trellis structure is strong enough to bear the weight of the mature vines as they produce fruit. Just before or just after planting, install the trellises and locate the cucumber plants at the base of the trellis. It's best not to disturb growing plants and move them to a trellis. Cucumber vines naturally send out tendrils for climbing, but you can support them on the trellis by using plant ties. twist ties, garden velcro, or stretchy garden tape to secure them to the structure.

Harvesting

Harvest 1.5-inch lemon cucumbers for pickling and two-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 with insecticidal soap. If cucumber beetles are a problem, squish any eggs you see and remove adults by hand and drop them into a bucket of soapy water.

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 they are usually less bitter. Unlike the traditional green, oblong varieties, they are round and turn yellow like lemons when ripe and ready to harvest.

Article Sources
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  1. Explore Cornell - Home Gardening - Vegetable Growing Guides - Growing Guide.” Cornell.Edu,

  2. Cucumbers.” Almanac