Whether in a salad, on a sandwich, or pickled, cucumbers makes for a versatile, healthy snack. A healthy snack that’s also fun and easy to grow. So, lets grow some!
In this step by step video and below transcript, we'll be walking you through how to grow cucumbers from seed or transplant.
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Ready for a growing horticulture adventure in cucumber crop growing? Lets do this!
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
How to grow cucumbers is easier when you know the terms. So before we get started, let’s learn a little bit about cucumber terms:
TRUE LEAVES: The first leaves that look like the ones from a mature cucumber plant (not the very first leaves to appear). True leaves are firmer and have sharper edges than seedling leaves.
POLLINATION: Cucumber plants need to be pollinated by insects (bees) or by human hand. You can help with the pollination by lightly brushing a cotton swab over the male flower then transferring it to the female flower. Typically, male flowers will develop at the vine first, followed by the larger female flower.
PICKLING: The process of preserving cucumber by placing it in a jar/container of vinegar.
How to grow cucumbers is important, but so is growing cucumbers you love. Below are three most common varieties of cucumber you can grow, depending on their use.
This variety has short fruits (3-4 inches; 7-10cm), thin skins, and vines. The fruit has a dotted color pattern ranging from dark green at the stem to light green at the blossom end. It’s usually ready to harvest earlier than slicing varieties, but its harvest window only lasts 7-10 days.
Its long fruits (7-8 inches; 17.7-20cm) have a thick skin, and their color is usually a consistent dark green. They take longer to become harvest-ready, but their harvest window can typically last about 4 to 6 weeks.
VINING AND BUSH VARIETIES
Vining varieties bear more fruit, but they take up a lot more space. They can, however, be trained to grow up a trellis. Bush varieties produce fruits a bit earlier than vining varieties, and are easier to maintain and harvest.
PLANTING YOUR CUCUMBERS
How to grow cucumbers when you're starting from cucumber seeds
If you’re starting your seeds inside, do so in 2-inch pots about 3 to 4 weeks before transplanting. Putting 3 seeds per pot will do the trick!
If you’re starting your seeds outside, plant them about 1- 1.5 inches (2.5-3.8cm) deep. Ideally either 2 inches (5cm) apart in rows that are 5-6 feet (1.5-1.8m) apart, or 3-6 seeds in hills that are 3-5 feet (91cm-1.5m) apart. It’s up to you!
When your seedlings are about 1-2 inches (2.5-5cm) tall, thin them to the strongest plant.
Avoid planting on sides that recently had melons, pumpkins or squash growing. These crops are in the same family as cucumbers (cucurbits) and can increase the risk of disease infection.
TRANSPLANTING BEST PRACTICES
How to grow cucumbers when you have cucumber transplants or seedlings
Make sure your seedlings are well watered before transplanting and that you have at least 1-2 true leaves first.
When hardening-off, make sure not to expose your cucumbers to cold temperatures (their minimum air tolerance is 60°F or 15°C).
Start by moving your crop outside for a couple of hours each day, keeping it in a sheltered spot at first, where it won’t be directly exposed to harsh winds or full sunlight.
The process of hardening-off will toughen your plants up and get them ready to keep growing outside.
Once they’re ready, transplants should be placed 2 feet (60cm) apart in rows that are 4 feet (1.20m) apart.
Just take care not to damage the roots of your cucumber plants during the transplanting process!
Peat-based trays make it super easy to remove your cucumber seedlings when it comes time for transplanting!
THINGS TO KNOW WHEN CARING FOR YOUR CUCUMBERS
How to grow cucumbers at every step
Cucumber can grow in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 11, and they prefer soils with a pH of 6.0-6.8.
Cucumbers are very sensitive to cold, so it needs warm soil and air plus full sun. Its minimum air temperature tolerance is around 60°F (15°C).
When your plants have about 2 to 3 true leaves, thin them 8-15 inches (20-38cm) apart in rows, or separate to 2-3 plants per hill.
Cucumbers love water! So, they will need 1-2 inches of water per week, and you’ll want to make sure you avoid water stress (too little water). This will cause the fruits to become bitter and misshapen.
When watering, try to keep your plant’s leaves as dry as possible and only water the soil. This will help prevent any diseases from festering.
Fruits that are not properly pollinated will be small and shriveled, so you’ll have to remove those from your plant.
FERTILIZING CUCUMBERS AND ADDING MULCH
How to grow cucumbers with the best plant food and protection
Since cucumbers are heavy feeders, you’ll want to work compost or well-rotted manure into your soil before planting.
After the vines have developed leaves, you can side-dress each plant with 3-4 tablespoons of a nitrogen fertilizer, sprinkling it around your plant.
Then, water it into your soil, and side-dress again once your plants start to flower.
Mulching conserve water, improve air circulation and keep weeds away from your plants.
Natural mulches like wood pieces, grass clippings or straw are all great options to use!
Just make sure to apply any mulch before your plants start growing vines.
COMPANION PLANTS FOR CUCUMBERS
How to grow cucumbers with plant friends that protect them
The best companion plants for cucumbers are:
Beans fix nitrogen in the soil which will benefit your cucumber!
Radish will prevent most pests, while corn and sunflowers can work as a trellis for cucumber vines to climb.
Dill helps to attract predator insects.
Other great planting companions are asparagus, the cabbage family, corn, eggplant, lettuce, radish, pea, tomato, celery, kohlrabi, and onion.
Don't plant cucumbers with:
Sage should be avoided as cucumbers are quite sensitive to aromatic herbs
GROWING STRUCTURE CONSIDERATIONS
How to grow cucumbers with the support that helps them grow big and strong In a large vegetable garden, cucumber vines can easily spread on the ground. However, if you have a smaller home garden, there options help vines climb while growing.
You’ll actually also see a difference in the shape of your cucumbers depending on whether they grew vertically or horizontally. Cucumbers grown on the ground have curled or round shapes, while those grown from vines tends to grow fairly straight.
Keep in mind that fruits raised from the ground tend to have less diseases and pests because trellises and other vining structures improve air circulation.
A WIRE ATTACHED TO A WALL
When you have a wall next to your growing area, you can attach a wire to the wall and anchor the other end in the soil.
The vines can then be trained to climb along the wire. Just make sure the growing spot doesn’t interfere with other plants that need full sunlight.
Typically, a cylindrical or squared shape, its walls support your plant as it grows upright.
Build some hills around the wires in the ground, then set your seedlings/transplants.
The cage itself can be made of heavy wire that’s used to reinforce concrete, or you can use wide mesh fencing.
If you choose to use mesh fencing, your cage will need additional support either from wooden stakes or iron rods.
A trellis comes in various shapes and sizes, so you’ll want to choose one that fits the size of your vegetable garden and planting area.
It’s usually built using two stable wooden or iron poles with squared wires, iron stalks or wood in between the two.
Train your cucumber vines to use these arrangements by carefully twining them to the materials as soon as they’re tall enough to reach.
Pinch back any plants that grow beyond their structure, as this encourages even growth.
Make sure to set your structures up before planting to avoid any damage to your plants.
COMMON CUCUMBER CHALLENGES …and solutions.
There are a few diseases, pests, and deficiencies that could potentially harm your cucumber crop. Not to worry - we’ve listed them below, as well as how to avoid or fix the issues!
How to grow cucumbers disease free:
BACTERIAL WILT: A disease that causes leaves to wilt on one or more vines, and eventually your plant can die completely.
Solution: Remove and destroy any infected plants, and control cucumber beetle populations that can spread the disease.
POWDERY MILDEW: These white fungal patches start on older leaves, eventually spreading to the rest of your plant. The leaves will die, which then leaves the fruits exposed to sunlight and as a result they’ll become ripe prematurely.
Solution: Avoid crowding your plants by following spacing instructions and eliminate any weeds to allow for good air circulation. As well, after the growing season, make sure you dispose of the infected leaves/fruit. To avoid this disease, plant Marketmore 76, Slicemaster and Raider – which are all resistant varieties to powdery mildew.
SCAB: This fungus causes small water-soaked or pale green spots to appear. Your plant’s leaves may seem ragged because of the cracking and tearing of their infected spots. On the cucumbers, there will be small, grey, lightly sunken, oozing spots that will only get bigger.
Solution: Avoid getting the leaves of your plants wet, and water early in the day so that they can dry as quickly as possible. Also, avoid crowding your plants by spacing them apart for better air circulation. Finally, be sure to remove any and all infected plants.
CUCUMBER MOSAIC VIRUS: This disease causes leaves to become spotted, malformed, small, and curled. As well, an early infection will affect the fruits both in their size and shape.
Solution: Remove infected plants and control any aphids, since they spread the virus. You’ll also want to eliminate perennial weeds like milkweed, marshcress and yellow rocket. Just make sure to wash your hands after touching any infected plants! Finally, Pacer, Marketmore 76, Slicemaster, Dasher II, Spacemaster and Sweet Success are all varieties that are resistant to this disease.
ANTHRACNOSE: This fungal disease causes brown, roughly circular spots with yellow edges to appear on the leaves, the petioles (the small stem that connects the leaves to the main stem) and on the fruits.
Solution: Plant resistant varieties when possible and rotate your crops every year.
LEAF SPOT: Small spots with light brown centers will first appear on older leaves. As the disease progresses, these spots will spread over a wider area.
Solution: Small spots with light brown centers will first appear on older leaves. As the disease progresses, these spots will spread over a wider area.
DOWNY MILDEW: A fluffy, purplish growth that’s found on the undersides of leaves, while yellow spots appear on their upper side.
Solutions: Don’t overcrowd your plants and avoid overhead watering so that their leaves stay dry.
How to grow cucumbers without common vegetable garden pests
STRIPPED OR SPOTTED CUCUMBER BEETLES: The striped or spotted adults will feed on leaves and vines. Meanwhile, its larvae burrow into the roots and stems. Eventually, your plant will wilt and die.
Solutions: Make tents of fine netting or cheesecloth, or use floating row covers when planting your cucumbers. This will help keep the beetles away, but just remember to remove them before pollination so that bees can have access to your plant’s flowers.
APHIDS: These are small pests that are typically found on the bottoms of leaves and/or on the stems. Plants can usually deal with aphids - but when the infestation is heavy, it might cause the leaves to wilt.
Solutions: Use insecticidal soaps or a strong water stream to wash off any aphids.
SQUASH VINE BORER: Symptoms start with the wilting of infected plants, which will first happen in hot sun. As the infestation spreads, your plant will eventually die. You might also notice some holes near the base of your plant.
Solutions: Remove the borers by hand and destroy them. As well, destroy any crop residue after harvest. You can also try placing traps by filling a yellow bowl/container with water- mature borers are attracted to the color, and will then get trapped by the water.
Depending on the variety you’ve grown, there are different guidelines for how to best harvest your cucumbers. How to grow cucumbers for every meal and use:
SLICING CUCUMBERS: You can harvest this variety when they are about 6-8 inches (15-20cm) long. In general, slicing varieties can be stored for 10 -14 days at temperatures between 50° and 55°F (10° and 12.8°C).
PICKLING CUCUMBERS: You can harvest this variety when they are about 3-5 inches (7.6-12.7cm) long. As indicated in their name, this variety is best stored when pickled in a jar of vinegar.
NOTE: Don’t let your cucumber fruit become overripe. This will signal to the plant that the seed development is almost done, and it will start to shut down. After this point, no more cucumbers will be produced.