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Cucumbers are versatile and healthy. Once established, your cucumber plant will flourish and fruit in abundance. So what do you need to grow cucumbers?
They 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.
Table of Contents
Cucumber Plant: An Overview
The cucumber plant is a member of the gourd family that produces slender fruits between three and 24 inches long.
They are among the easiest vegetables to grow. When growing cucumbers, you’ll have three varieties to choose from. When you choose cucumber seeds or plants, 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.
The three main types of cucumber are slicing, pickling, and seedless, so think about how you’ll use them before planting.
How Cucumbers Grow
There are two different ways that cucumbers can grow, depending on the variety you have chosen.
Seedless varieties, also known as burpless, grow on a bush. On the other hand, 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.
Cucumber bush plants are smaller than cucumber vine plants at around 24 to 36 inches tall and wide. Since they are more compact plants, they’re ideal for growing in pots or smaller gardens.
Vine cucumber plants 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.
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.
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 cucumbers as early as February and as late as July.
The earlier you get them in the ground, the longer you’ll be able to enjoy them.
When they start fruiting, cucumber plants produce a lot of fruit under the right conditions.
Where to Plant Cucumbers?
The cucumber plant thrives in warm, moist soil with a pH of around six to 6.5.
To increase your chance of having an abundant harvest, mix aged compost into the top three or four inches of your soil. You also need to make sure that the area gets plenty of sunlight.
Adequate drainage is also a must, which is why cucumber plants work well in raised beds and containers.
Depending on the variety, you should plant vine cucumber seedlings between 36 and 60 inches apart.
For bush cucumbers, plant the seedlings around 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.
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.
Then, plant around three seeds in each space where you want a cucumber plant to grow.
When the plants have around four leaves each or are around six inches tall, weed out the weaker two plants, keeping the strongest.
Growing and Caring for Cucumbers
Once you’ve found the perfect spot and know that it’s the best time to plant cucumbers, you need to know how to grow and care for them.
This way, you’ll have good quality cucumbers for snacks, salad, or make juice and smoothies.
Best Way to Grow Cucumbers
The best way to grow cucumbers will again depend on the variety you choose to grow.
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.
You can build your 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.
If you’re not growing your cucumbers on 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.
You can grow bush cucumbers in pots or the ground, depending on your preference.
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.
If your cucumbers would be exposed to sweltering, dry summers, keep them shaded during the afternoon sun. Growing cucumbers in smaller pots means you can move them around if you need to.
How Do You Take Care of Cucumber Plants?
Cucumber plants grow fast, with surprisingly little care needed.
When your cucumber plants 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.
Cucumbers are made up of water. Therefore, cucumber plants have particularly heavy watering needs. Be sure to give them at least an inch or two of water each week, keeping the soil slightly moist.
Water them more if the weather is particularly hot or if there is little or no rain.
If your cucumber plants 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.
Cucumber plants have heavy feeding needs.
Once the first flowers start to appear and the vines have developed runners, you should begin feeding your plants regularly.
Side dress your plants with compost, aged manure, or fertilizer every two to four weeks.
Weeding the area around your cucumber plants will help protect them from pests.
Bacterial wilt disease, which is spread by cucumber beetles, is often hosted by surrounding weeds.
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.
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 it early in the morning , when the flowers are open.
Cucumber plants need harvesting often, and the more you pick the fruit, the more they’ll produce.
Use a sharp knife or pruners to harvest the cucumbers when they’re small and tender.
For the best taste and texture, you should try to harvest your cucumbers 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 cucumbers 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?
Cucumbers are low in calories. They work well in salads, sandwiches, and sauces. You can enjoy them for snacks and on dipping platters.
How Cucumbers Grow to Perfection
As long as your cucumber plants get plenty of warmth and water, 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.
You can also help guarantee fruit production by ensuring they get pollinated by having some pollinator-friendly flowers nearby.