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Growing Lemon Cucumbers

They may look like lemons, but they taste just like cucumbers.  That’s because they are cucumbers – lemon cucumbers.  These little unusual beauties are one of my favorite heirlooms to grow, and in recent years, we’re starting to see them become more popular – to the point that the plants are being sold at nurseries.  Oh lemon cuc, you’ve made it to the big time!

I have to admit, my first few years trying to grow lemon cucumbers, or any cucumber at all, were disastrous.  The coastal weather would stunt the growth, then powdery mildew would consume the plant.  I’d get a few spindly vines no more than a foot tall, and a flower or two, and then the whole thing would die.  So sad (head hanging).












Lemon Cucumber vine with flowers and buds

The last couple of years have been different however. The cucumber gods have been smiling upon the garden, and we have already harvested our first sunny orb.  The difference?  I can’t point to any one thing, but I think it’s because I planted them out in the garden very early this year.  We had some warm weather before June Gloom set in, so there was considerable growth early on for the plants to take hold.  Here’s what we did:

Start outdoors – Since members of the cucurbit family (including melons, squash and cucumbers) don’t like to have their roots disturbed, we try to plant those seeds directly in the garden.  Some of the first round of sprouts died from damping off, so we replanted.  With some added compost to encourage rapid growth, those new sprouts did well.  Cucumbers prefer a pH between 6.0 and 7.0, and thrive best in temperatures between 65-75 degrees.

Give them a trellis – Cucumbers love to climb, so we put up a sturdy trellis to grow up.  We alternate planting on both sides of the trellis so the weight will be balanced.












A baby and teenage lemon cucumber with spikes

Grow baby grow – We guide the vines around the trellis as they grow, and the cucumbers have been forming nicely.  The young cucumbers have little prickly spikes on the skin, which start to dull and fall away as the fruit matures.

Harvest – when the cucumbers have turned deep yellow and show lighter yellow stripes, they are ready to harvest.  Use gloves to rub the outside to remove any remaining prickly spikes.









Ripe yellow lemon cucumber

Use as you would any cucumber.  My favorite use for them is in “spa water” – sliced with oranges in a pitcher of water.  It’s amazingly refreshing and nurturing.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Shelley

    My beautiful lemon cukes have aphids. I have seen even one ladybug here this year. When I was young we had lots. I’ve tried mild dish soap water on them as well as mild vinegar. Ideas please?
    Also I don’t have any cucumbers but lots of flowers.

    1. Christy

      Hi Shelley, there are a few things you can do: 1) put down worm castings to help fend off the aphids. 2) Water more often to help the cucumbers thrive (if they are looking droopy during the day). They need more water than other squashes do. 3) Import more lady bugs and grow beneficial flowers to attract them to your garden on a regular basis. 4) as a last resort, you can use an organic insect spray like Safer brand to reduce the population quickly. I say last resort because soap sprays and insecticidal oils often take the good with the bad. So be careful.

  2. Jennifer

    We planted from seed and have transplanted into large pots. The edge of the leaves are white like? Any ideas?

    1. Christy

      The change in color on the leaf edges could just be a little transplant shock. Try watering your seedlings with kelp emulsion. It’s a broad-spectrum nutrient fertilizer that helps ease transplant shock. It also sounds like it could be heat damage. If they were indoors or in a shady spot before transplanting out, they need to be hardened off before transplanting out into full sun. Hardening off means you put them out a little bit more each day in the sun and bring them back in until they have been exposed enough to to full sun to allow the leaf cell walls to thicken and build up a tolerance to direct sunlight. Keep them watered and they will recover with new leaf growth.



    1. Christy

      Be patient. They will come. You’ll see male flowers first, then females. Then cucs. If the females or the fruits fall off instead of setting, it could be a lack of phosphorus and potassium. Check your nutrients for deficiencies before amending though, and you’ll have fruit soon.

  4. Audrey Bishop

    I am harvesting straight 8s cucumbers right now. They are a litlle “warty” it seems and extra prickly…taste fine though. Is the wartiness usual for this variery?

    1. Christy

      HI Audrey,

      The “warty” appearance is called stippling. Straight Eights are supposedly free from stippling by description, but I see many photos of Straight Eight cucumbers with stippling on them. Perhaps the strain you grew has more stippling than others. As far as prickly texture, that is common among Straight Eights.

  5. Christina

    This is my first time growing yellow cucumbers I didn’t know when to harvest or when to you know bring it in when the cucumbers are poke it . i have water them twice a day in the temperature of a 109 degree. its been hot out there so I’m kind of worried if its going to make it. I like my pumpkin died first ones I’m been growing tomatoes which kind of had a disease now its growing again and now I’m doing bell peppers homegrown bell peppers did it by taking the seeds all the old bell pepper seed implanted in the house and then replanted it outside but that was like in May. Now its August.

  6. Coleman Remington

    Hey there! I would agree with the advice given. I would let the lemon cucumber’s soil dry between waterings. Usually by the time the first inch or so is completely dry, and under the first inch or so the soil feels lightly damp like when you get a new bag of potting soil. I find that it allows oxygen and gases to exchange down into the roots providing better growth to their roots which in return will reflect growth of the entire plant. Your plant will tell you if it’s under watered. Just watch it carefully, with weather in zone 8b right now it gets about 94 at peak hours. I try and let it get morning sun from 7am-noon. Then it gets shade the rest of the day. I only need to water mine about once every 2-4 days depending on weather. I use a 5 or 6 gallon pot and I use mixture of 1 bag natural choice organic miracle grow * 1 bag of black gold organic with fertilizer * 10 quarts of COMPOST * 8 quarts of Perlite. I find adding perlite helps from over and under watering. It really let’s you know when it’s dry, and it fluffy up the soil to make it not as dense. Also if your soil is really loaded with nutrients, it could help cut down burning your plants from too much nutrition.

  7. Christy Wilhelmi

    Hi Laura,

    Serenade is a good bet for powdery mildew, but you have to catch it early in order for it to really work.  I water with drip irrigation to keep from getting the leaves wet, but in our coastal environment, powdery mildew is pretty prevalent.  Keep cutting off the effected leaves and with the other defenses, you’ll keep it at bay.

  8. Laura

    I LOVE my lemon cucumbers. This is my first attempt growing them. They were doing well, producing cukes and growing up the trellis, until powdery mildew hit them. It’s pretty mild. I’ve ordered a product called Serenade that was recommended to me. I am more careful to water in the am and avoid wetting the leaves. A local resource suggested I let the soil dry out a bit between waterings. What are your thoughts?
    Thank you!

  9. Laura Cochrane

    I love my lemon cucumbers! A local resource suggested that I let the soil dry out a little between watering. What do you recommend?

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