Cucumbers grown in the wrong conditions can become bitter or tasteless. Here is a simple tried and true tip for having the sweetest cucumbers in town.
Want Sweeter Cucumbers?
If you want your cucumbers to be sweeter, plant them alongside sunflowers. As they grow, the cucumber tendrils will use the stout sunflower stalks for climbing support, and you’ll have the sweetest cucumbers you’ve ever eaten. This is known as companion planting. When you plant and combine certain plants, they benefit each other, which impacts the plants’ health, taste, and yield.
What Makes them Sweeter?
When planted using this method, each plant then selects and rejects certain nutrients that alter its flavors. In other words, the companion plant makes the cucumbers sweeter by absorbing the nutrient that normally makes them bitter.
Cucumbers contain naturally occurring compounds known as cucurbitacins. The higher the level of cucurbitacins, the more bitter the cucumber will taste. Weather conditions that are too hot, or too cold can cause an increase in cucurbitacin levels, as can a lack of proper watering.
Sunflowers release an enzyme called elastase which naturally reduces the amount of cucurbitacins within the cucumber.
Cucumber Growing Tips
To ensure that your homegrown cucumbers aren’t high in bitter cucurbitacins, always plant them with sunflowers. Space them at least 8″ apart to avoid overcrowding (or grow them as we do in weed-free self-watering hydroponic grow buckets!).
Cucumbers need plenty of water, never allow the soil to go completely dry between waterings. Again, you can easily prevent this issue altogether with the self-watering grow bucket method. The buckets always have a constant, maintenance-free water supply.
Temperatures that are consistently in the ’90s or higher will cause natural stress and increase the chances of higher levels of cucurbitacins. Planting with sunflowers provides natural afternoon shade, filtering the harsh sun.
For more Companion Planting tips on getting the most from your garden, check out our Companion Planting Guide.
If you’ve purchased cucumbers and want to avoid the bitterness that they sometimes contain, try this simple Bitter Cucumber Cure.
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / fotostok_pdv
17 thoughts on “Sweeter Cucumber Tip”
gotta try this. not only can you eat the cukes, but the sunflower seeds as well. thanks
i would never have thought a sunflower would hold up a cucumber plant. now i know. great.
love this site. i am an avid gardener but never thought to do this.
I love companion planting. my cucumbers have never done well, but i don’t feel so bad after talking to my amish neighbors. both summers i planted they had trouble with theirs as well.
i’ll give sunflowers and cucumbers a try now that we are in our new house. it will be fun to watch the ants “herd the aphids”
speaking of bugs, braconid wasps are visiting my garden. i was so excited when i saw this on my tomato plant, lol.
i’ve found that planting cucumber seeds rather than transplants works so much better for me. this is true for any squash & melons, too. i’ve never tried using sunflowers for support…
what a great idea!:springsmile:
nice – i’ll give this a try this year. i planted cukes last year that were so bitter i pulled up the plants. i hope this works.
what does planting cucumbers next to sunflowers and having them trail do for “sweetness”. i plant my cucumbers in the garden and use poles and garden twine. i dont understand the “sweeter” part of this story.
It’s called Companion Planting- when you plant and combine certain plants together they can benefit each other and impact health, taste and yield. Each plant selects and rejects certain nutrients which can alter their flavors (aka make them sweeter by absorbing the nutrient that makes them bitter to begin with); they create in their structure and the environment, complex chemical compounds, such as perfumes, pollen, essential oils, growth inhibitors, hormones, enzymes and some minute trace elements.
Here’s a beginners guide to companion planting to help you understand how it works:
Budget101.com – – Beginners Guide to Companion Planting
i’d like to know what size containers to plant squash and cucumbers in. would like to do containera as i feel i would save on water, just not sure what sizes for things.
I would love to knoe this also
what a great idea. i want to grow cukes to make dill pickles. so i will try this.
can’t wait to try some of these ideas!
can cukes be grown in a cage like tomatoes, if the cage is made taller?
i can’t wait to try this next year!
i have grown cukes and wrapped them around the outside of tall tomato cages as they grew. i just have a small garden area, and am trying to cram in as much as possible. i have everything in cages, tomatoes and peppers, and the cukes around the outside of the cages, i put them on the back side of my garden where i can reach around them.
there is a hill/drop off at the back of my garden to the neighbors yard.
i tried cantalope this way twice, but the plants have died off two years in a row. (it was only 3 plants each year) This year I am trying to extend my garden lengthwise, but it will end up with afternoon shade in the new area. Any suggestions for afternoon shade plants that will still provide?
I figure some tomatoes might like some afternoon shade, and a late lettuce crop?
Jules, any leafy green vegetables grow happily in semi-shade and often it can stop them from bolting too soon. Also root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, onions and beetroot can grow well in semi-shade.
Hoping for a decent cucumber harvest this year after 2 disappointing years of them. I have cucumbers already forming but will get some sunflower seed mañana and add to the places already planted and where next batches will go.
Everyone I know including the highly skilled Hmong family who have my favorite farm stand had really awful cukes 2 years running. Even though too bitter to enjoy eating fresh, they made fantastic dills though.
Depending on where you live, afternoon shade can be a great blessing and you can grow just about anything. The sun is beastly here in the afternoons so I have to create shade structures to protect from about noon on even this early in the season this already too hot year.
My Asparagus planted next to the rose bush did the best out of the whole row. Kinda like a wide or double row planting by accident since I put in the Asparagus intending to move the rose. Got sick and didn’t get it moved.
To test it was why the asparagus did so good…
I planted a rooted rose clipping two plants down and the same thing happened! Both roses and the asparagus did better than ones in row NOT planted by each other!!! Now I have a row of roses with a row of asparagus next to it.