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How to Grow Cucumbers

Grow cucumber after the soil has warmed. Sow seed 3 to 4 weeks after the average last frost date in spring.

Cucumber near harvest and flowerCucumbers are tender annuals that grow best in temperatures ranging from 60° to 90°F (15°-32° C).

  • Sow cucumber seed in the garden or set out transplants 3 to 4 weeks after the average last frost date in spring.
  • The ideal soil temperature for growing cucumbers is 70°F (21°C).
  • Sow cucumber seed indoors as early as 6 weeks before transplanting into the garden.
  • Protect cucumbers from unexpected frost or chilly nighttime temperatures early in the season. Use floating row covers or plastic tunnels to keep the chill away.
  • Cucumbers require 55 to 65 frost-free days from sowing to reach harvest.

Where to Plant Cucumbers

  • Grow cucumbers in full sun. Cucumbers can tolerate partial shade.
  • Cucumbers prefer loose, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Prepare planting beds in advance of planting by adding 2 to 3 inches (5-7cm) of aged compost, commercial organic planting mix, and aged manure to beds. Turn the soil to 12 inches (30cm) deep
  • Place black plastic sheeting over the planting bed in spring to warm the soil in advance of planting.
  • Cucumbers prefer a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8. Cucumbers can tolerate alkaline soil to a pH of 7.6.
  • Set trellises or supports in place to grow cucumbers up or mound the soil to create a small hill off which cucumber vines can run. Use a trellis 4 to 6 feet (1.2-1.8m) tall. Create a mound at least 16 inches (40cm) across and several inches high; space mounds 4 to 6 feet (1.2-1.8m) apart.
cucumber seedlings for planting
Cucumbers are tender annuals that grow best in temperatures ranging from 60° to 90°F.

Planting and Spacing

  • Sow cucumber seeds 1 inch (2.5cm) deep.
  • Sow seeds at the base of the vertical support or on a mound at 6 to 8-inch (15-20cm) intervals.
  • When seedlings are 3 to 4 inches (7-10cm) tall, thin to the strongest plant spaced 12 to 18 inches (30-45cm) apart for vining cucumbers on vertical supports and 24 to 36 (61-91cm) inches apart for bush varieties.
  • Cut weak seedlings off at soil level with scissors to avoid disturbing the roots of remaining plants.
  • Set a trellis, tripod, or cage in place at planting time if you are growing vining varieties. A 12 to 18-inch (30-45cm) diameter wire cage is ideal for growing vining cucumbers. You can make a cage from a 4 to 5-foot (1.2-1.5m) section of wire fencing or construction mesh.
  • To grow an early crop, you can start cucumbers indoors 2 to 3 weeks before the last frost in spring then transplant seedlings to the garden 2 to 3 weeks after the last frost.

Growing Cucumbers in Containers

Many dwarf or mini-cucumber varieties will grow in a pot as small as 6 inches (15cm) wide and deep, larger is better. Check the description of the cucumber and its space requirements. ‘Potluck’ is a small growing variety. Larger cucumbers for containers include ‘Patio Pik’ and ‘Bush Whopper.’ Use a 12- to 18-inch (30-45cm) trellis, stake, or other support to increase the yield of container-grown cucumbers.

Watering Cucumbers

  • Keep the soil evenly moist with regular watering. Do not let the soil dry out. Cucumbers are about 95 percent water and require regular water for fast, even growth.
  • Set a soaker hose or drip irrigation at the base of plants. Give cucumbers at least 1 inch of water each week during the summer.
  • Always water at the base of plants. Moisture on cucumber leaves can result in fungal diseases such as powdery and downy mildew.
  • Leaves may wilt in the afternoon in hot weather; that is because plants are taking up water faster than roots can supply.
  • If plants are wilted in the morning, the soil is too try and needs immediate water.
  • Mulch around plants to slow soil moisture evaporation and to avoid soil compaction caused by heavy watering.
  • Too little water or inconsistent watering can cause cucumbers to become oddly shaped or bitter tasting.
  • An easy way to measure soil moisture is to stick your index finger in the soil; if your finger comes away dry, it’s time to water.
Cucumber growing up net trellis
Side-dress cucumbers with compost tea or a dilute solution of fish or kelp emulsion or a liquid organic fertilizer every 10 to 14 days during the season.

Feeding Cucumbers

  • Add aged compost or commercial organic planting mix to planting beds before planting. Compost has all the nutrients cucumbers need for fast growth.
  • Side-dress cucumbers with compost tea or a dilute solution of fish or kelp emulsion or a liquid organic fertilizer every 10 to 14 days during the season.
  •  Feed cucumbers with low nitrogen, high phosphorus, and potassium formula. Be careful to follow label directions; over-fertilizing can stunt or harm plants.
  • Side-dress cucumbers at midseason with aged compost to renew soil nutrients.
  • Keep planting beds free of weeds; weeds compete for soil nutrients and water. Cultivate shallowly to avoid disturbing roots.

More tips: Cucumber Growing.

Caring for Cucumbers

  • Mulch around cucumber plants with straw or chopped leaves. Mulch will help conserve soil moisture, keep vines, and fruits clean. Slugs and snails find if difficult to move across straw or pine straw mulch.

Companion Plants

  • Grow cucumbers with beans, corn, peas, pumpkins, and squash. Do not grow cucumbers with potatoes and herbs.
Young cucumber with flower
Cucumbers have separate male and female flowers. The first flowers to appear are male flowers. Female flowers have a small bulge at the stem end–as shown here.

Flowering and Fruit Formation

  • Cucumbers have separate male and female flowers. The first flowers to appear are male flowers that will not produce fruit.
  • Female flowers appear a week or so after male flowers. A female flower will have a cucumber-shaped swelling at the stem end of the flower; this is the unpollinated fruit.
  • Female flowers are pollinated when bees or other insects carry pollen from the male flower to the female flower. Some male flowers may die and drop before female flowers appear. Be patient or sow seeds every couple of weeks so that there are male and female flowers in the garden at the same time.
  • To attract bees to flowers, spritz plants with dilute sugar water.
  • If plants are in a greenhouse or hoop house where pollinating insects cannot come or if pollination is slow or does not occur, use a soft-bristled brush to hand pollinate flowers; dust the inside of a male flower then carefully dust the inside of a female flower. A female flower will have an immature fruit on its stem, a male won’t.
  • Gynoecious, hybrid cucumbers require pollinator plants; monoecious plants with female flowers.
  • Cucumber fruits hanging from a trellis or vertical support will grow straight under the force of gravity.
  • Cucumbers growing on the ground should be set on a tile or piece of wood so that the fruit does not have direct contact with the soil; this will allow cucumbers to mature with less exposure to disease and insects.
  • Cool-weather, rain, and insecticides can delay or harm pollination.

 Cucumber Pests

  • Cucumbers can be attacked by aphids, cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and slugs.
  • Control aphids by hosing them off with a blast of water or pinching out infested vegetation.
  • Cucumber beetles chew holes in leaves and can spread cucumber bacterial wilt when feeding on plant tissue. Hand-pick them off the vines and destroy them.
  • Squash bugs suck plant sap causing leaves to wilt. Squash bugs will also attack seedlings. Dust plants with diatomaceous earth around the base of plants.
  • Slugs can scrape ragged holes in leaves. Spread diatomaceous earth around the base of plants.

 Cucumber Diseases

  • Cucumber plants are susceptible to scab, mosaic, and mildew.
  • Keep the garden clean of debris and weeds that can harbor pests and disease.
  • Remove diseased plants immediately; put them in a paper bag and throw them in the trash to avoid the spread of disease.
  • Plant disease-resistant varieties. Look for the following coding to indicate disease resistance: leaf spot (LS), anthracnose (A), bacterial wilt (BW), mosaic (M), scab (S), and downy mildew (DM).
  • Bacterial wilt is spread by cucumber beetles; plants suddenly wilt and die just as they begin to produce. Control beetles as soon as they appear.
  • Powdery mildew and downy mildew, fungal diseases, will cause cucumber leaves to turn grayish-white late in the season. Slow the spread of fungal diseases by spraying plants with horticultural oil or neem oil.
  • To help prevent fungal diseases, plant resistant varieties, and space plants further apart to increase air circulation.

More on cucumber problems: Cucumber Growing Problems: Troubleshooting.

Cucumber ready for harvest
Check and harvest cucumbers daily to stay ahead of the harvest.

Harvesting Cucumbers

  • Cucumbers will be ready for harvest 55 to 65 days from sowing.
  • Harvest cucumbers as soon as they reach mature size; cucumbers left on the vine past maturity will suppress the production of new flowers and fruit.
  • Check and harvest cucumbers daily to stay ahead of the harvest.
  • Slicing cucumbers are best picked when they are 6 to 8 inches (15-20cm) long.
  • Clips cucumbers off of plants with a garden clipper, scissors, or knife. Pulling cucumbers off plants can damage plants.
  • A fruit that turns yellow at the blossom end opposite the stem is overripe and will be seedy.
  • Pickling cucumbers–sweet or dill–are best picked when 1 to 6 inches (2.5-15cm) long. Pick pickling cucumbers every two days.
  • Regular dills are best picked when 3 to 4 inches (7-10cm) long.
  • Burpless cucumbers should be picked at about 10 inches long.
  • Hothouse-grown English or Armenian cucumbers are best picked when 12 to 15 inches (30-38cm) long.
  • Cucumbers left on the vine too long will have tough skins and will lose flavor.

More harvest tips: How to Harvest and Store Cucumbers.

Storing and Preserving Cucumbers

  • Pickling and slicing cucumbers will keep in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days.
  • Hothouse cucumbers will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. Be sure the temperature is not too low or cucumbers will freeze and turn soft.
  • Wrap refrigerated cucumbers in plastic or store them in a zipper bag to keep them crisp.
  • Pickled cucumbers will keep for up to 1 year.

Monoecios and Gynoecious Cucumbers: The Difference

  • Most cucumbers are monoecious, meaning plants produce both female and male flowers. Female flowers are commonly pollinated by insects after visiting male flowers.
  • Hybrid cucumber varieties are gynoecious. Gynoecious cucumbers produce only female flowers. These plants must be set near a monoecious plant for pollination or must be pollinated by hand. Gynoecious cultivars include ‘Conquest,’ ‘Early Pride,’ and ‘Bush Baby.’
Cucumbers on A-frame trellis
Cucumbers growing up A-frame trellis.

Types of Cucumbers

There are many types and varieties of cucumbers. Here are the differences:

  • Bush cucumbers can grow 24 to 36 inches (61-91cm) tall and wide forming a compact plant. Bush cucumbers are well-suited for container growing or small gardens. Plant bush varieties every two weeks for a continuous harvest.
  • Vine cucumbers can grow to 6 feet (1.8m) high or more and 2 to 3 feet (.6-.9m) wide. Vining cultivars require more space but produce more fruit. Grow vining cucumbers on a fence, trellis, or tripods when possible to keep fruit off the ground.
  • Pickling cucumbers have thin, pale green skin, bear fruit early, and concentrate fruiting in a 10-day period. Pickle cucumbers a few hours after harvesting for crisp pickles.
  • Slicing cucumbers, for fresh eating, commonly are green-skinned and set fruit for 4 to 6 weeks. Slicing cucumbers include “burpless’ cultivars which are mild-flavored and easy to digest.
  • European, English, or greenhouse cucumbers are seedless cultivars developed for greenhouse growing.
  • Lemon cucumbers are yellow oval-to-round heirloom cucumbers. Lemon cucumbers are ideal for a single serving. Harvest lemon cucumbers just as they turn yellow; do not wait too long or they will be seedy.
  • Asian cucumbers are thin, heavily ribbed cultivars; the fruit grows from 12- to 24-inches (30-61cm) long.
  • Gherkin is a term used for any pickling cucumber; however, a true gherkin is not a cucumber but the fruit of a different species, Cucumis anguria.
  • Cornichons is the generic French term for any small cucumber.

Cucumber Yield

  • Grow 2 to 3 cucumber plants per household member for fresh eating.
  • Grow 3 to 4 plants per quart for pickling.
Burpless cucumbers
Slicing cucumbers include “burpless’ cultivars which are mild-flavored and easy to digest. Harvest burpless varieties at about 10 inches long.

Cucumber Varieties to Grow

Lemon cucumbers
Lemon cucumbers on vine in November.

Cucumbers are divided into the slicing cucumbers for fresh eating and pickling cucumbers. There are dozens of varieties to choose from. In the list below “gyn” denotes gynoecious which produce only female flowers and must be grown near a monoecios plant; others are monoecios, they produce both male and female flowers.

  • Slicing:Ashley (66 days); Comet II (gyn-60 days); Dasher II (55 days); General Lee (gyn-55 days); Jazzer (48 days); Marketmore (76 days); Poinsett (65 days); Revenue (gyn-48 days); Slice King (49 days); Spacemaster (60 days); Speedway (gyn-56 days); Supersett (53 days); Sweet Slice (62 days); Tasty Green (55 days); Ultra-Slice Early (56 days).
  • Pickling:Baby Bush (51 days); Calypso (gyn-56 days); Conquest (gyn-50 days); Cross Country (51 days); Edmondson (70 days); Green Spear (gyn-55 days); Pik Rite (gyn-63 days); Salty (53 days); Spear It (gyn-52 days); Sumter (56 days).
  • Burpless: Comet II (gyn-60 days); Green Knight (60 days); Jazzer (48 days); Perfection (60 days); Sweet Slice (62 days); Tasty Green (55 days).
  • Greenhouse:Aidas (gyn-65 days); Carmen (gyn-65 days); English Telegraph (65 days).
  • Container varieties: Patio Pic (50 days); Potluck (50 days); Spacemaster (60 days); Bush Whopper.
  • Others: Lemon (64 days); Long White (65 days); White Wonder (60 days).

More on cucumbers to grow: Cucumber Varieties: Best Bets and Easy-to-Grow.

About Cucumbers

  • Cucumber is a weak-stemmed tender annual that grows. Some varieties grow like a bush, others are vining.
  • Leaves are somewhat heart-shaped with rough margins; leaves and stems are covered with prickly short hairs.
  • Flowers are yellow.
  • Fruits are commonly pale or dark green but some varieties are yellow or white; fruit ranges in size from 3 inches (7 cm) to more than 24 inches (61 cm) long.
  • Botanical name: Cucumis sativus
  • Origin: Asia

More tips: How to Grow Cucumbers That Are Not Bitter Tasting.

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    • The cucumber fruit comes from the female flower which is pollinated by pollen transferred from a male flower. Pollen is commonly transferred by bees. Once pollination occurs the small fruit at the end of the female flower will begin to enlarge and grow. If bees are not present in your garden you can hand pollinate by rubbing the inside of the male flower against the inside of the female flower.

    • Some varieties of cucumbers naturally grow long and curly. If you suspect that the variety you are growing is abnormal in size and shape, make sure that the cucumbers are getting sufficient light (8 hours each day), that the soil is staying just moist at all times during fruit production (do not let the soil completely dry out), and give the fruit plenty of room to mature. You can grow cucumbers on a trellis and let the fruit hang down as well. As well, check the fruit to see if there are any signs of feeding insects; insect damage can affect fruit shape and size.

  1. My cucumber plants are producing but now the leaves are so large the newly budding cucumbers are pretty well shaded. Should I cut back some of the leaves?

    • Once pollination occurs and the fruit begins to swell the leaf cover should not adversely affect the fruit development. Unlike a tomato, the fruit does not need sun exposure to ripen. Keep the soil evenly moist. If you simply want to see the fruit, removing some leaves should not harm the plant; just keep in mind that the leaves are important for photosynthesis which is important to the plant’s internal food production.

    • There are many excellent seed companies: Seeds for Change, Territorial Seeds, Renees Seeds, Johnnys Select Seeds, Baker Seeds, Eden Brothers, Gurney Seeds are a few.

    • Posts on Harvest to Table are updated throughout the year. You can cite 2019 as the publication date. Thanks for reading Harvest to Table.

    • A healthy just harvest cucumber should feel firm to the touch. A cucumber that is past maturity and seedy can feel soft. A cucumber that did not get regular moisture during development can develop a hollow interior–and would feel soft.

    • White spots on the outside of cucumbers can be powdery mildew or a fungal disease. White streaks inside the fruit may indicate plants when dry during fruit development. Cucumbers are nearly 90 percent water; tissue and fruit development is dependent on a steady supply of moisture. Insufficient pollination can also result in abnormal interior development. Make sure plenty of bees are attracted to the garden; plant flowering herbs nearby.

    • Prevention is the best treatment for powdery mildew; however, once the fungal disease is attacking plants it can be controlled. Compost tea is a good powdery mildew control so is milk. Combine 40 percent milk to 60 percent water, mix well, and spray both the upper and lower parts the leaves. Fungal disease preventions include lots of air circulation in the garden (don’t space plants too close) and avoid overhead watering.

  2. I have cucumbers growing in a container. Unfortunately I have no idea what kind they are. They are growing nicely, many misshaped. Really large at the stem (some turning yellow) and thin at the flower end. I don’r know when to harvest them. Any ideas? Currently they look like Kirby cucumbers.

    Thank you

    • It may be too late for this season, but place a tomato cage in your container next time you grow cucumbers and train the vines up. Gravity will help cucumbers hanging from a cage or trellis grow straight. The misshape you see may be the result of uneven watering; too much then too little then too much; the fruit may have taken up moisture in fits and starts resulting in the misshape. For more on harvesting cucumbers jump over to the post called How to Harvest and Store Cucumbers here

  3. We are going thru drought with temperatures in the 40’sC (100sF) , the leaves are falling off my cucumbers and the fruit doesn’t seem to grow..Any suggestions mate.I’m using my kitchen grey water to soak them every day..Cheers.

    • When temperatures rise above 32C (90F) most vegetables (including cucumbers) retreat into dormancy; they halt growth. Growth will resume when temperatures fall to about 30C. In the meantime, protect the plants by placing shade cloth over the plants. Set four or more posts at the ends of the planting bed and drape shade cloth over the posts. Also, keep the plants well-watered. Create small earthen basins around the plants and fill them with water; evaporation will help cool the plants.

  4. I am growing lettuce from seeds and they started very good however, they have stopped growing. I think i may have replanted them too soon. What can i do to get healthy lettuce from this point?

    • Plants will often stop growing when temperatures are too cool. If you replanted your lettuce to the garden place a plastic tunnel over them or cut off the bottom of plastic milk jugs and place one over each plant. This will protect the plants from chilly nights and days. Protected the plants will resume growth as temperatures warm.

    • Check the seed packet of the variety you planted. It will likely tell you how long the vine will be, and how large a trellis you will need. You can let cucumbers grow across the ground, but a trellis is the best strategy. Train the vine up the trellis; this will keep the fruits off the ground and prevent rot from soilborne diseases. Cucumbers hanging will also grow straighter.

  5. काकडीचा वेल जोमाने वाढला आहे.सुरुवातीला 2 फुले येऊन लगेच गेली.नंतर फुले येणे बंद झाले पाने.मोठी झाली आहेत., वेल वर चढला आहे.पण 1 महिनी झाला फुले येत नाही.उपाय सुचवा.
    Cucumber vine has grown vigorously. At first 2 flowers came and went immediately. Then flowering stopped. Leaves have grown. The vine has climbed.

    • First flowers often do not last. If the plant is growing well and the weather stays warm, the plant will flower again. Be patient, allow the plant to keep growing, and more flowers will follow.

    • High temperatures or incomplete pollination can cause the small cucumbers to turn yellow and fail. If temps are hot, shield the plants from the midday sun and keep the soil moist–do not let the soil dry out. You can also hand pollinated if pollinators are not busy in the garden.

    • Clay soils usually contain lots of plant nutrients, but if the soil is not well-drained cucumber plants will suffer. It is best to add as much aged compost or commercial organic planting mix as possible–this will feed the soil and also help break up the clay particles making the soil better drained.

  6. I’m a First Time Garden Grower, so my question is that my cucumbers started out growing great then I noticed white stripes on the stems what would be causing this problem, I don’t want to treat them with just anything that would cause them to die unless of course there are already to far gone then I guess I’ll have to start over?

    Wendy Saavedra

    • The white stripes may be the start of powdery mildew. Check the leaves as well. Spray with a fungicide. Feed the plants a dilute solution of fish emulsion or an all purpose-fertilizer, 5-10-10, with magnesium and calcium added.

    • The baking soda will act as a fungicide; however, you must be careful adding soap and cooking oil–both of those if too much is added will cause the leaves to burn. Test your home remedy on one or two leaves before applying the mix to the entire plant. Wash the leaves with clear water and feed the plant a dilute solution of fish emulsion or kelp meal.

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