Cucumber Growing

Cucumber seedling1
Cucumber growing requires warm temperatures of at least 70°F (21ºC).
Cucumber growing requires warm temperatures of at least 70°F (21ºC).

Slicing cucumbers and pickling cucumbers: that’s how cucumbers are divided. It is said that the ancient Roman Emperor Tiberius demanded cucumbers on his table every day of the year. The story does not say if they were slicing or pickling cucumbers; maybe both.

  • The English or Holland or European cucumber are thick meated and seedless.
  • The Armenian cucumber or Syrian or Turkish cucumber are pale green and curled.
  • The lemon cucumber is shaped like a lemon and yellow: they are slicing cucumbers.
  • Pickling cucumbers include the small West Indian Gherkin and the larger National Pickling.

“Cool as a cucumber” means you are about 20 degrees cooler than the outside air on a warm day, that is if you are a cucumber. That is said to be a scientific fact. For the kitchen gardener, “cool as a cucumber” may simply mean keeping cool in the face of a lot of cucumbers at harvest time.Slicing cucumbers are usually eaten raw on sandwiches or salads but may be cooked—prepared like squash. Cucumbers can replace squash in most recipes.

Here are cucumber growing basics for your kitchen garden:

Site. Cucumbers grow best in full sun but will grow with just 5 hours of sun a day. Cucumbers are very tender vegetables; they need temperatures of 70°F (21ºC) or warmer to grow well. They grow best in growing zones 4–12. If you allow cucumber vines to sprawl on the ground you will need about 9 square feet (2.7 sq m) per plant. You can grow cucumbers vertically; place them next to a fence or a trellis.

Container Growing Cucumbers. Cucumbers will grow in containers: choose a container at least 8 inches (20 cm) wide and 12 inches (30 cm) deep. Use a trellis or support the vine to increase yields.

Soil. Cucumbers prefer well-drained sandy loam supplemented with compost or well-rotted manure.

Cucumber Planting. You can direct sow cucumber seed in spring after all danger of frost has passed and soil has warmed to 70°F (21°C). Seed will not germinate at a soil temperature below 50°F (10°C). Sow seed ¾–1 inch (1.9–3.8 cm) deep, thinned to 36 inch (90 cm) apart. Cucumbers require 55–65 frost-free days to mature.

To get a head start on the season, sow cucumbers in peat pots 3–5 weeks before planting out. Transplant cucumbers out into the garden after the soil has warmed and the weather settled. For successive crops, plant cucumbers every 2 weeks until midsummer.

Watering Cucumbers. Cucumbers require moderate water before flowering. Heavy watering from flowering to harvest will result in a larger crop. Avoid overhead watering.

Feeding Cucumbers. Cucumbers are heavy feeders. They prefer ample amounts of phosphorus and potassium and a moderate amount of nitrogen. Add compost and phosphorus to the soil before planting.

Spray cucumbers with fish emulsion or compost tea 1–2 times per month during the growing season. Fertilize with blood meal during the period before blooming.

Cucumber Companions. Cucumbers grow well with bush beans, broccoli, cabbage family, corn, dill, eggplant, kale, lettuce, melon, nasturtium, peas, pumpkins, radish, squash, sunflower, and tomatoes. Avoid plating cucumbers with potatoes and herbs.

Cucumber Pests. Aphids, cucumber beetles and other beetles and insects can attack cucumbers. Floating row covers will protect young plants before they bloom. After blooming, pinch out infested vegetation or hose off aphids or cucumber beetles, and hand pick cutworms, slugs, snails, and squash bugs.

Cucumber Diseases. Several plant viruses and fungi can plague cucumbers. Plant disease resistant varieties, and remove and destroy infected plants. Do not grow cucumbers or their relatives, such as squash and melons, in the same spot more often than once every 3 years.

Cucumber Harvest. Cucumbers are ready for harvest usually from midsummer onwards. Harvest cucumbers 3–4 times per week as fruit matures; this allows the setting of new flowers and fruit. Harvest when the fruit is elongated and the seeds are still succulent.

Cucumber Varieties. Choose from these slicing cucumbers: ‘Marketmore’, ‘General Lee’, ‘Bush Champion’, ‘Salad Bush’, ‘Sweet Success’. Choose from these picklers: ‘Pickalot’, ‘Pioneer’, ‘Little Leaf’, ‘Northern Pickling’. Others cucumber types include: ‘Suyo Long” an Asian slicing; ‘Lemon’ is lemon shaped, and ‘Armenian’. For containers, choose ‘Pot Luck’, ‘Bush Champion’, ‘Spacemaster’, ‘Patio Pik’, ‘Salad Bush’.

Best cucumber growing tips: How to Grow Cucumbers.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.


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    • You can treat cucumbers with a copper-based fungicide every 7 to 10 days until 3 to 4 weeks before harvest. Some prefer a spray solution of 1 teaspoon of baking soda mixed in a quart of water. Limit overhead sprinkling to early in the day.

    • Check the number of days to maturity; if cucumbers remain on the vine past maturity they will turn yellow and orange. If they are turning orange before the number of days to maturity then environmental stress is probably to blame–weather too hot, too much or too little water. Feed the plants with a dilute solution of fish emulsion every 10 days.

    • Interruption in cucumber flowering — which would surely interrupt fruit production — is commonly caused by a swing in air temperature or an interruption in watering. If air temperatures swing below 60F or above 90F blossoms will either not form or drop; simply wait for the temperature to moderate. Soil moisture must be even; do not let the soil dry out and also avoid overwatering.

  1. Cucumbers for Tunnel Growing: For growing vegetables in tunnels, cold frames, or hot frames or any small space, select varieties that are small and quick to maturity. Cucumbers that fit this bill include Patio Pik–a dwarf ready in about 51 days, Midget–with vine about two feet long, ready in 55 days, Sweet Slice ready in 62 days, Park’s Comanche ready in abut 50 days, Burgess Green Ice ready in about 48 days, and China Hybrid ready in about 58 days. All of these varieties are also good choices for patio or container growing.

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