Growing Cucumbers: Your Guide to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Cucumbers
Are you a fan of pickles? One of my boys’ favorite snacks is gherkin pickles, while I love cucumbers dipped in homemade ranch dressing.
If you love any of these snack options, you should grow cucumbers. They’re easy to grow, and you only need a few plants to have an abundance of cucumbers.
I’m going to share with you how to grow cucumbers, care for them, harvest, and store them too. Whether you’re operating a traditional garden or a container garden, this vegetable could be a great fit for you.
Here’s what you should know about growing cucumbers:
Quick Gardening Facts for Cucumbers
- Hardiness Zones: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 (find yours)
- Soil: Loamy, PH between 6.0 to 7.0, well-drained
- Sun Exposure: Full sun, at least 5 hours of sun per day
- Start Indoors: 1-2 weeks before last frost date
- Hardening Off: 7 to 10 days before transplanting
- Transplant Outdoors: 2 weeks after last frost date or 3 weeks after indoor seed starting
- Spacing: 6 to 10 inches between plants and 2 to 4 feet between rows
- Depth: ¾ to 1 inch seed depth
- Best Companions: Bush beans, cabbage, corn, dill, peas, pumpkin, lettuce, sunflower, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, radish
- Worst Companions: Potato, sage, melon
- Watering: Deeply once a week providing at least 1 inch of water, avoid overhead watering
- Fertilizing: Apply balanced fertilizer and compost manure before planting
- Common Problems: Thrips, aphids, stink bugs, cutworms, flea beetles, cucumber beetles, cabbage looper, scab, pythium fruit rot, phytophthora blight, cucumber mosaic, squash mosaic, aster yellows, bacterial wilt, bacterial leaf spot, angular leaf spot, verticillium wilt, target leaf spot, septoria leaf spot, fusarium wilt, powdery mildew, cercospora leaf spot, downy mildew, belly rot, anthracnose, alternaria leaf spot
- Harvest: After 50 to 70 frost free days, 3 to 4 inches for pickling types and 6 to 8 inches for slicers
Cucumbers Varieties to Plant
The varieties for cucumbers seem almost endless. I’m going to share with you some of the more popular types and their uses. It should put you on the right track for picking the best variety of cucumber for your garden.
Carolina cucumbers reach maturity in 51 days. They’re an excellent choice for pickling and are well known for being uniform in shape.
The Armenian variety is different from traditional style cucumbers. They take 50-75 days to reach maturity. You don’t have to peel this variety or seed them either. Which makes this an excellent choice for snacking, or as an addition to your salads.
3. Suyo Long
This variety of cucumber takes 60 days to reach maturity for production. It has a sweet flavor and is a burpless variety. The cucumbers grow to be approximately 16 inches in length.
Suyo Long is an heirloom variety which loves hot weather and is a good choice for your salad or to make pickles.
Calypso is one of my favorite types of cucumbers to plant. They take only 52 days to reach maturity, but they produce a smaller cucumber.
Because I grow cucumbers for pickling purposes, this is a great option. If you prefer a smaller cucumber and need a variety to produce faster, this could be the right choice for your garden.
5. Spacemaster 80
Spacemaster 80 is another valuable option for a smaller cucumber variety. They take 60 days to produce and are perfect for smaller gardens. The vine reaches three feet and produces eight-inch cucumbers.
6. English Telegraph
The English Telegraph variety takes only 60 days to produce. This variety is an excellent choice for snacking because the cucumbers are long, but they have a thin skin which helps to avoid the need for peeling.
This is a neat variety of cucumber. At first glance, this cucumber looks like a lemon since it grows in a rounded shape and has yellow skin.
However, it only takes 65 days to produce and is an excellent option for making pickles or as a gorgeous addition to your salads.
8. Marketmore 86
This cucumber variety takes 55-58 days to reach maturity. It’s a great option for snacking, adding to a salad mixture, or pickling.
The cucumbers are more petite, and the plant bushes more than it vines, which makes it a wonderful addition to a small garden.
9. Parisian Gherkin
Parisian Gherkin cucumbers are great for pickling. They take only 50-60 days to reach maturity and produce cucumbers with a naturally sweet flavor. Also a nice option for salads and as an addition to your slaw recipe.
10. Dasher II
Dasher is a disease resistant variety which is helpful for the new gardener. They take only 55 days to reach maturity and produce cucumbers which are 8 ½ inches long. This variety can be used for snacking or slicing.
The Muncher variety will produce between 58-62 days. These cucumbers are a more extended variety which is also burpless. Because of their sweet flavor, it makes them an option for both snacking and pickling.
12. Homemade Pickles
The name of this variety gives away their purpose. Homemade Pickles variety are one of the best options for pickling, because of the smaller size of the cucumbers. They reach maturity in 55-60 days and are also disease resistant.
The Persian variety takes 50 days to reach maturity. They have a sweet flavor and a crunchy texture, which is a pleasant combination. They are also a good choice for different planting zones because they can handle a variety of different temperatures and still produce well.
14. Straight Eight
When you picture cucumbers, you probably envision this variety. Straight eight is another heirloom variety which takes only 60 days to produce. The cucumbers grow to be approximately eight inches long – an excellent choice for pickling and snacking.
How to Plant Cucumbers
Cucumbers are one of the easiest plants you can grow in your garden. They require minimal effort on your part. Follow these few steps, and you should have delicious cucumbers growing in no time:
1. Pick the Right Spot
The right location to grow cucumbers in your garden is a location with full sun. Be sure the soil is nutrient-rich and well-draining.
If there’s an area in your garden which gets soggy, this isn’t where your cucumbers should be. When you find the location with ample sunlight and great soil conditions, this is where your cucumbers should go.
2. Amend the Soil
Next, you should amend the soil in the planting location. It’s a good idea to add aged manure or compost into this area.
Work it into the soil approximately eight inches deep, ensuring the cucumbers will have the necessary nutrients they desire when planted.
Also, check the soil pH level at this point. Cucumbers prefer soil with a pH level of 7.0.
3. Know Your Planting Zone
The biggest threat to cucumbers is frost. It’s important to know your planting zone and frost dates.
When you know when the final frost should be for your area, wait a couple of weeks after this time to ensure there are no sudden cold snaps.
The soil should be 60 degrees Fahrenheit or above when sowing seeds. If you live in a cooler climate and are afraid you won’t have a large enough window to grow cucumbers, consider adding black plastic over the soil to help generate heat underneath it more quickly.
4. Plant at the Right Time
Since you know what temperatures you’re looking for and proper dates for planting, it’s time to plant the seeds.
If you’ve realized you don’t have a two to a three-month growing period to produce cucumbers, consider starting them indoors.
This isn’t ideal as cucumbers don’t like to have their roots disturbed. However, if this is your only option to grow them, you do what needs to be done.
When starting them indoors, be sure to do this a month before planting. Also, be sure to harden the plants off a week or two in advance as well.
As the soil temperatures become ideal for sowing seeds, plant two to three seeds in one area. You can create a hill (or small mound) of dirt to plant the seeds in, or you can dig a shallow hole in the garden to place the seeds in.
Either way, the seeds need to be placed one inch in the soil. You’ll plant each set of seeds three feet apart.
You can space them closer if you have a bush variety. If you have a longer vine variety, you may need to put additional space between plants.
The plants should begin to sprout within a week. You can train the vine varieties to climb a trellis to keep the fruit off the ground.
Be sure to mulch around the plants to deter pests and diseases from infiltrating your plants.
5. A Few Tips for Container Cucumbers
Cucumbers are a great addition to a container garden as well. Be sure to choose either a bush variety or a variety with shorter vines.
When planting, you’ll follow the same procedure. You need a large pot to plant in. A 12×8 or larger is ideal.
Fill the container with quality soil and compost. Plant two to three seeds per container, and as long as you wait to plant when the weather is warm enough, you should have quality cucumbers in no time.
How to Care for Cucumbers
Cucumbers require little care for excellent production. Here are the few things cucumbers need from you:
Cucumbers require a great deal of water. The ideal amount of water is one inch per week. It’s a good idea to keep a rain gauge near your garden to keep up with how much water they receive naturally.
From there, you can supplement as needed. The more water you give your cucumbers, the better flavor they’ll have.
Another rule of thumb is when you stick your finger in the soil; if the soil is dry one inch or deep into the soil, you should apply water.
Be sure when watering to keep the foliage dry or to water early enough in the day the sun will dry the leaves before nightfall.
This will help to deter diseases or mildew and harm them. Also, consider mulching around each plant to help retain moisture this way as well.
If you added enough compost and aged manure to the soil before planting, your cucumbers might not need much fertilizing.
You could add more aged manure and compost once a month to the base of the plant to give additional nutrients.
However, if you prefer to use store-bought fertilizers, consider using one which is low in nitrogen but high in phosphorous and potassium.
You’ll only apply store-bought fertilizers to the base of the plant and just after the cucumber plants have bloomed. Add more every three weeks after the initial fertilizing.
Be aware of when you fertilize because if you overfeed, your plants won’t produce as they should.
3. Thin Out
When you planted the cucumbers, you should’ve planted two to three seeds per hill. This is to ensure one of the three germinates.
But what if all three seeds germinated? You now have plants too close together. When the cucumber plants reach four inches in height, it’s time to thin them out.
You should thin them to where you have two feet between each plant.
Problems with Cucumbers
Cucumbers have a few diseases and pests which could cause problems for your harvest. Here’s what you need to keep an eye out for:
Aphids are tiny bugs which can be found attaching themselves to your plants. If you see them on your cucumbers, try giving them a spritz of cold water with your water hose.
However, if they remain attached, try hosing them down with soapy water. This should cause them to detach themselves from your plants.
2. Cucumber Beetles
Cucumber beetles will cause a great deal of damage to your seedlings. They’re also known for causing wilt.
The best option to deter them is to place row covers over your plants. Be sure to remove the row covers when your cucumbers bloom to leave room for pollinators.
3. Powdery Mildew