Cucumber Plant Growing, Caring, and Harvesting Tips

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Cucumbers are versatile and healthy. Once established, your cucumber plant will flourish and fruit in abundance. 

Cucumbers are adaptable to many growing zones and are easy to grow for beginning gardeners. Here you will learn the best way to grow cucumbers — including where, how, and when to plant them — to get the best yield.

There are three main types of cucumbers:

  • Slicing
  • Pickling
  • Seedless

Before planting, it’s important to think about how you’ll use them. You may want to consider a combination.

Cucumber Plant

It’s a member of the gourd family that produces slender fruits between three and 24 inches long. It’s scientific name is Cucumis sativus.

Planting cucumbers is ideal for beginners as they are among the easiest vegetables to grow. When you choose seeds or starts, it’s best to first decide if you want to pickle them or eat them fresh.

Pickling cucumbers: Consider English hothouse cucumbers for pickling. In general, cucumbers for pickling are shorter but bigger in width than regular eating cucumbers. 

How Cucumbers Grow

There are different varieties of cucumbers. There are two different ways that cucumbers can grow, depending on the variety you choose.

  1. Seedless varieties, also known as burpless, grow on a bush.
  2. Vine cucumbers sprawl along the ground, unless you encourage their growth up trellises.

How Long Does It Take for a Cucumber Plant to Grow?

If conditions are just right and your plants are properly cared for, a cucumber plant will quickly produce ripe and ready cucumbers.

Depending on what you’ll be using them for and what size you want them to be, some will be ready in as little as 50 days.

It can take up to 70 days for some varieties, and it will also take longer if they are affected by diseases, drought, or low temperatures.

How Big Do Cucumber Plants Get?

It’s important to know how big your cucumber plants might get to ensure you have enough garden space for them. Before planting, draw out a rough plan of your planting area to work out where everything will go.

In hot weather, cucumbers will grow quickly.

Cucumber bush plants are smaller than cucumber vine plants at around 24 to 36 inches tall and wide.

Since they are more compact plants, growing cucumbers in containers is ideal for patios, balconies, and smaller gardens. Growing in pots also means you can move them around for sunlight.

Vining cucumbers will offer you a higher yield than bush cucumbers because the plants themselves are bigger.

Vine cucumbers can grow up to six to eight feet long and two to three feet wide. You can save a lot of space by encouraging them to grow up a trellis.

Planting Cucumbers

Cucumber plants are warm season crops so they do not tolerate the cold well. This means you need to wait until you’re sure there will be no more ground frost.

You also need to get them in the ground for a long time so that they bear fruit before it gets cold again.

Soil Requirements

Depending on your soil type, you may need to amend it. Plant cucumbers in an area with fertile soil for their shallow roots to thrive.

To increase your chance of having an abundant harvest, mix aged compost into the top three or four inches of your soil. 

Soil should be well draining. Cucumber plants won’t grow well in heavy soil. 

Ideally, soil temperature should be over 68 degrees F. Over 70 degrees F is better for germination if you are growing from seed.

Cucumber plants thrive in warm, moist soil with a pH of around six to 6.5. Adequate drainage is also a must, which is why they work well in raised beds and containers. It’s important to keep the soil moist.

What Is the Best Time to Plant Cucumbers?

In milder climates, you should plant outdoors between April and June. If you need to, you can help to warm the soil before planting by laying down black plastic on your growing area.

In hot climates, you may be able to plant as early as February and as late as July.

The earlier you get cucumber seeds in the ground, the longer you’ll be able to enjoy them. When they start fruiting, they produce a lot of fruit under the right conditions.

Where to Plant Cucumbers?

To succeed, they need plenty of light. They will need a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight per day. If you live in a hot climate, shade them from afternoon sun.

Spacing Seedlings

Remember, cucumber vines can take over an area quickly. Depending on the variety, you should plant vine cucumber seedlings between 36 and 60 inches apart.

For bush cucumbers, plant seeds or seedlings 24 to 36 inches apart. You can check the tag that comes with your seedling for the recommended spacing for the variety you’re growing.

For vine cucumbers that will be trained onto a trellis, space the plants around 12 to 18 inches apart.

Sowing Seeds

Seeds should be planted about an inch deep into the soil.

First, make sure the ground is warm enough. The soil should be 60 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, for the seeds to germinate. Warm soil is essential.

Then, plant around three seeds in each space where you want a cucumber plant to grow.

When they have around four leaves each or are around six inches tall, weed out the weaker two, keeping the strongest.

Growing and Caring for Cucumbers

Once you’ve found a good spot and know that it’s the best time for planting, you need to know how to grow and care for them. This way, you’ll have good quality varieties for snacks, salads, or to make juice and smoothies. It’s likely you’ll have some to give away to neighbors.

Best Way to Grow Cucumbers

The best way to grow them depends on the variety you choose.

Vine Cucumbers

If you have the time and inclination, it’s generally thought that the best way to grow vine cucumbers is on a trellis. Not only will building a trellis save you a lot of space, but it’ll also offer the fruit better protection from ground pests.

  • Trellis Tips

You can build a cucumber trellis by creating a rectangular wooden frame and covering it with chicken wire. Staple the chicken wire in place, or you can use U-shaped nails.

Next, construct an A-shaped frame out of bamboo to support the cucumber trellis.

The trellis will lay at a slight angle, which gives you a great shady spot to grow lettuce or other cooler weather crops.

  • Ground Tips

If you’re not growing with a trellis, then it’s essential to spread mulch on top of the soil. Wait until the ground has been warmed from the sun and then throw down some organic mulch, such as pine or wheat straw.

Doing so will help to protect the fruit from slugs and cucumber beetles. The mulch will make it more difficult for them to move around and munch on all of your hard work.

In addition, it will help keep soil temperatures at a consistent temperature.

Bush Cucumbers

You can grow bush cucumbers in pots, in garden beds, or in the ground, depending on your preference.

  • Potting Tips

If you’re planting your bush cucumbers in a pot, it’s best to use a terracotta pot since it helps the soil retain moisture and won’t be as hot as a plastic container. Soil moisture is important. You can add light mulch to help.

If they will be exposed to sweltering, dry summers, keep them shaded during the afternoon sun. Growing cucumbers in small pots enables you to move them around if you need to.

cucumber plant

How Do You Take Care of Cucumber Plants?

Cucumber plants grow fast, with surprisingly little care needed. When they have six or more leaves, you can start pinching out the growing points. Pinching encourages side shoots, all of which will most likely produce fruit later.

1. Watering

Cucumbers are made up of water. Therefore, they have particularly heavy watering needs. Be sure to give them at least one or two inches of water per week, keeping the soil slightly moist.

Water them more if the weather is particularly hot or if there is little or no rain. If they don’t get enough water, they will most likely produce odd-looking and bitter-tasting fruit.

When watering, try to keep the foliage dry to help prevent disease. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems are ideal for watering cucumber plants. Mulching the area around the plant base will also help the soil to retain more moisture.

2. Feeding

Cucumber plants have heavy feeding needs. Once the first flowers start to appear and the vines have developed runners, fertilize cucumber plants regularly.

Side dress your plants with compost, aged manure, or fertilizer every two to four weeks. Use organic fertilizer when possible.

3. Weeding

Weeding the area around them will help protect them from pests. Bacterial wilt disease, which is spread by cucumber beetles, is often hosted by surrounding weeds. 

When watering, pay attention to leaf diseases, scar stems, and damage. Disease spread can quickly deteriorate the plants. 

4. Tying

If you have climbing cucumber plants, tying them to the vertical support will help bear the weight of larger fruits. You can tie them off with anything you have handy, from string to zip ties.

5. Adding Friendly Flowers

Cucumbers need to be pollinated to fruit. Planting pollinator-friendly flowers around your vegetable garden will help ensure your plants fruit. Otherwise, you’ll most likely get flowers, but no fruit, or an oddly-shaped fruit.

Consider planting cucumbers with companion plants such as pole beans, peas, corn, or broccoli plants.

6. Hand Pollinate

Pay attention if your cucumber plant isn’t producing fruit. You may need to hand pollinate. It’s easy to do with a cotton swab. It’s best to do early in the morning, when the flowers are open. Transfer the pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers.

Male flowers generally appear first but then drop off. Female flowers are the ones that produce fruit. You can recognize them by their swollen base. 

Harvesting Cucumbers

Mature cucumber fruits need harvesting often. The more you pick the fruit, the more they’ll produce. Use a sharp knife or pruners to harvest cucumbers when they’re small and tender.

For the best taste and texture, you should try to harvest them when they are:

  • 6 – 8 inches for American slicers
  • 4 – 6 inches for Middle Eastern types, such as Amira cucumbers
  • 3 – 5 inches for most pickling varieties
  • 8 – 12 inches for Asian varieties

Do Cucumbers Need Support?

Cucumber plants do not need support. However, if you are growing them in pots or in a garden bed and you are limited in space, you can support them growing up instead of out.

You can grow them on a trellis and train them to vertically instead of sprawling out. This is great if you have limited space. 

What Can You Do with Cucumbers?

They are low in calories. They work well in salads, sandwiches, and sauces. You can enjoy them for snacks and on dipping platters. Some people use them as ingredients in smoothie recipes.

Do You Need to Self-Pollinate Cucumbers?

Take a morning every so often to hand-pollinate cucumbers. It’s easy to do as the flowers will be open. You will have a higher success rate (more growing) if you ensure all the female flowers are pollinated.

You can rely on bees; however, with frequent rains, you should do it yourself. The female flower must be pollinated in order to produce fruit.

How They Grow to Perfection

As long as they get plenty of warmth and water along with fertile, well-drained soil, they’ll grow quickly with little help from you. For the most generous harvests, start a regular feeding schedule as soon as flowers start to bloom.

Be sure to choose the cucumber variety that will suit your needs. When successful, you will have a big harvest. You may consider growing different varieties.

You can also help guarantee fruit production by ensuring they get pollinated by having some pollinator-friendly flowers in nearby gardens. Or hand pollinate.