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Beginner’s Guide on How to Grow Cucumbers

Cucumbers are delicious, prolific and can be incredibly easy to grow, if you know what to look for! In this post I’ll cover my best tips and tricks for how to grow cucumbers.

Cucumbers are easy to start from seed, are prolific and relatively easy to grow. They can be eaten fresh or preserved as pickles and relish.

a large pile of pickles cucumbers

For more posts on how to preserve cucumbers, check out:

If you ask me, it’s certainly a good idea to plant cucumbers in your vegetable garden. The scientific name for cucumber is Cucumis Sativus. Read on for a sweet success for your journey in planting cucumbers in your home garden.

Nutritional Value of Cucumbers

Cucumbers initially seem like tasty bricks of water, nutritionally, they may surprise you. On the off-set, one cup of peeled, sliced cucumbers contains 12% of your daily recommended dose of Vitamin K.

However, it doesn’t stop there. Cucumbers also contain a lot of phytonutrients we don’t normally measure.

They contain three types of phytonutrients: flavonoids, lignans and triterpenes. Without getting into the scientific-y details, these are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and possibly anti-cancer ingredients.

Personally, I grew up eating slices of cucumbers in balsamic vinegar.

Later, while living in Mexico, I learned to eat them from bags. They’re served as street food, covered in chili powder and lime juice. It’s still one of my favorite ways to eat them!

While I don’t like pickles (yuck!) Baby Jack does (weirdo). So I always put up a few jars of pickles every summer.

For all my family garden planning, I absolutely love Melissa K Norris’s Garden Planning Book. Melissa is a 5th generation homesteader and she’s been growing crops for her family for decades. (Plus she’s a LOT more organized than I am!) Her book is a great guide, easy to fill out and keeps all of your gardening notes, lessons and yields so each year can be better than the last!

Pickling cucumbers on a table

How to Grow Cucumbers

To begin, you need to know what kind of cucumbers you want to grow. There are two: pickling cucumbers and slicing cucumbers.

Pickling cucumbers are smaller, denser and stand up to canning without getting mushy.

Slicing cucumbers are just that – intended for slicing and serving fresh.

NOTE: if cucumber plants get stressed, they’ll release a chemical called cucurbitacins that will make them taste bitter. To prevent your plants from getting stressed, monitor their water intake and temperatures. If they get too hot they may get stressed.

Varieties of Cucumbers

Cucumbers are tasty and easy to grow. There are two types of cucumbers—slicing and pickling. There are different cucumber varieties to choose from, too, and each of them is unique in its own way.

  • Apple Type
    • This type of cucumber is juicy. Most of the taste is seen in the cucumber seeds.
  • European or English Cucumber
    • These cucumbers are usually seedless. Also called “burpless” cucumbers, they have a mild flavor and have thin skins.
  • Kirby Cucumbers
    • Kirby cucumbers are more common and familiar to others. These are the cucumbers most people like to use for pickling.
  • Lemon Cucumbers
    • The lemon cucumber is as big as a lemon, hence, its name. People are fond of it because it becomes sweeter and crispier as it ripens. It is an heirloom variety that was introduced back in the 1890s.

There are also two ways to describe different types of cucumbers—greenhouse and outdoor types.

Greenhouse cucumbers are the type of cucumbers that love the heat.

This kind of cucumber does not pollinate. Male cucumbers need to be removed to prevent producing bitter fruits.

Because of this, there are varieties of cucumbers that have been bred to only produce female flowers.

how to grow cucumbers
cucumbers

Outdoor cucumbers, on the other hand, can tolerate the sun. Its fruits are shorter and fatter.

Unlike greenhouse cucumbers, outdoor cucumbers need both female cucumber flowers and males to pollinate.

There are also bush varieties and are more ideal for gardeners with a tight space.

While these two work differently, it is important that a gardener avoid growing the two types together as this will produce bitter fruits.

Bitter fruits may also develop when the fruits went through a lot of stress during their growing season.

bread and butter pickle cucumbers for canning

Planting Cucumbers

I know you came here to learn how to grow cucumber plants in your own garden. Whether we’re talking about a small garden or a large garden, you are one step closer to planting your own cucumbers.

Picking the right area

Just like picking a house, it is best to find the right site in your garden. Cucumbers grow best in sandy soils. Good soil for cucumber is fertile soil—one that has good drainage.

If you are using clay soil, one way to improve the soil quality is to combine compost with aged manure and adding it to the soil. Find an area in your garden where the full sun is.

Cucumbers need a soil pH level of 5.5 to 7. Soil moisture plays a big role in plant growth, too. Warm soil is good, but moist soil encourages the roots to go deeper, making the plant healthier.

Since this plant loves warm temperatures and tends to be healthier in warm weather, it cannot handle the danger of frost.

The ideal soil temperature for them is around 60 degrees F. You can improve the quality of the soil by adding organic matter or organic fertilizer.

how to grow cucumbers in a pot

Planting

Heirloom seeds or cucumber seedlings are best sown in the soil during late winter or early spring. You can also opt to just buy young plants during late spring.

Sow the seeds in peat-free pots with multi-purpose compost. They are best transplanted on the ground no earlier than 2 weeks after the last frost date.

Once their first pair of ‘true’ leaves appear, you can start potting the seedlings. Always remember that you can only plant cucumbers outside in late summer or early fall.

When you are using a trellis to grow cucumber vines, space plants one foot apart. Some gardeners like to use tomato cages as a trellis as this provides sturdiness and promotes air flow, too.

You could also try planting cucumbers in mounds by planting them 1 to 2 feet apart. Every mound can have 2 to 3 seeds planted.

You can then separate these plants when they reach a height of 4 inches, placing one plant on each mound. For colder climates, using a black plastic bag as row covers could work, too.

This is called the black plastic mulch. This way, heat is still kept for the seeds.

Mulch around your plants after planting. You can place straw, chopped leaves, or different organic mulch on the base of the plant.

The main objective of this is to keep pests from drawing closer to your plants. This method also helps leaf diseases from developing in bush varieties. If mulch is not available, you can use a shade cloth instead.

how to grow cucumbers in containers

Care

Cucumbers are heavy feeders! They need regular watering—preferably at least an inch of water weekly.

If the air temperature goes too high, you can add more inches of water to make sure they get the right amount of water they need.

Make sure to water them thoroughly to prevent them from going bitter! Leaf diseases form when you water them through the leaves.

When watering your plants, always avoid the leaves. The ideal time to water them is during the early morning or late afternoon.

A great idea would be to use a soaker hose or drip irrigation. This way, you are sure that the foliage remains dry.

When fruits start to form, increase weekly water intake to a gallon. You can use liquid fertilizer to boost your plant’s health.

growing cucumbers vertically

Water Needs of Cucumbers

Cucumbers need quiet a bit of water, as water makes up the majority of the fruit. However, the big, broad leaves are susceptible to downy mildew and sunburn, so water the roots, not the aerial parts of the plant.

Mulching heavily underneath the plant will help retain water, which will slowly release back into the ground meaning less waterings and less dramatic changes to the plant – they’ll be slower to wilt or drown.

cucumbers held up by a trellis

Trellising

You can absolutely grow cucumbers on the ground if you have enough room. The main plant will send out vines up to 10 ft long, so make sure you’ve got plenty of room.

A better way to grow cucumbers is to provide them with a trellis system so they can grow UP. I usually will plant them along my garden fence and weave the vines in between the slats to give them plenty of room.

For someone who doesn’t have plenty of room in their garden, planting cucumbers in rows might not be ideal. Since cucumbers usually take up a lot of space, you can try planting them vertically to avoid them taking up much space.

Planting cucumbers horizontally encourages the fruits to be close to the soil. Since garden soil with cucumbers is usually moist, this might encourage fungal disease to develop. This can be avoided when the cucumbers are planted vertically.

Another reason to plant them vertically is for the cucumbers to get the right number of hours of sunlight every day. More sunlight produces the best results for cucumber fruits.

Growing cucumbers up prevents a lot of disease issues, as they have plenty of room to breathe.

While it’s easy enough to provide a trellis, think of other ways you can put the cucumbers to work for you:

If you have a south-facing window that you want to shade during the hottest time of the year, and keep your house cooler in the summer, erect a trellis over the windows. As the cucumbers grow, they’ll shade your house.

Do you have an archway or gazebo area to provide shade for a porch or sitting area? Or you can grow cucumbers up the side of your chicken run and provide your chickens with a fresh summer snack.

Pests and Disease

Funguses grow in very wet and very warm conditions.

There are a number of different types of fungus however they all result in brown spotted leaves and fruit.

If you start to see spots on your leaves, treat with neem oil or a 1/1 ratio of water and milk.

The biggest cucumber pest is the cucumber beetle. To prevent, remove any adult beetles you see or any eggs laid on leaves. If you spray with neem oil for other fungues, this will also likely take care of the cucumber beetle.

Another organic way to attack pests is to sprinkle your plants with diatomaceous earth.

These vine crops are not strangers to insect pests or diseases. Powdery mildew develops when the leaves get wet.

The easiest way to get rid of them is to apply fungicides. Cucumber beetles are also common.

They usually go for the vines and can later cause different diseases to show up. Bacterial wilt causes the edges of the leaves to turn yellow or brown.

This will then lead to the plants withering and dying. Downy mildew develops when your area is too wet or humid.

You can see pale green or yellow spots forming on the surfaces of the leaves, which will then turn brown.

To avoid any unwanted insects coming closer to your plants, it is best to introduce beneficial insects early in the growing season.

These pests could be ladybugs, green lacewing, or assassin bugs.

Another way to deal with pests is to apply neem oil together with several chemical pesticides.

If you are planning to have successive plantings, a great idea is to plant disease-resistant varieties first.

Large harvest of cucumbers

If you’re growing Cucumbers this year, here’s what you need to know:

Soil pH

6.0-6.8

Sunlight

8 hours

Water

1 inch per week

Planting Time

Direct sow 2 weeks after last frost

Compatible With

Beans, Corn, Peas, Radishes, Sunflowers, Okra

Avoid Planting With

Potatoes, Aromatic Herbs

Spacing

36-60 inches (without trellis), 12 inches (with trellis)

Maintenance

Low maintenance. Climbing varieties will need some sort of trellis or support.

Harvesting Fruit

50-80 days.

Harvest cucumbers before they get too large. Cucumbers that grow too big have a high chance of going bitter. Pick cucumbers every couple of days.

Fresh cucumbers are best eaten before they grow too mature. Fresh eating is enjoyed well when the cucumbers are still green and crisp.

When the blossom end goes yellow, the fruit may be too ripe for eating.

To keep the cucumber’s quality, store it in the fridge for a maximum of 10 days. Its best flavor comes out not right after picking. Let it rest for a couple of days before eating.

If you choose not to consume a whole cucumber in one sitting, you can always use plastic wrap to wrap the remaining parts of the cucumber before placing it in the fridge.  

The best way to liven up your summer garden is to add a sprinkle of cucumbers into it! Wouldn’t it be great to harvest crunchy cucumbers right from your backyard?

Saving The Seeds

To save cucumber seeds, remove the seeds from the fruit and allow them to ferment for at least three days. Then wash and dry.

Since cucumbers open pollinate, you can unintentionally cross-pollinate and get seeds for strange hybrids.

Diseases can also be communicated through the seeds, so only harvest from those plants that were disease free.