The Unabridged Guide to Growing Cucumbers
To grow cucumbers, you need plenty of sunlight, a good amount of water, and well-drained, fertilized soil. Cucumbers will grow from seed, which you can start indoors or direct sow in the garden after the risk for frost is past.
Type of Plant
Lots of sun
Soil Type & pH
Loamy soil, neutral pH
4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
What You'll Need
seeds, soil, trellises, pruners, pots.
Quick Tip: Cucumbers need consistent water. A good way to check is to stick a finger in the ground. If it's dry beyond an inch or so (about one finger joint), it's probably time to give your cucumber a drink.
The type of cucumber variety you grow determines whether you can grow the plant indoors, how much space it will need and whether it can successfully grow in a container or not.
We'll go into detail below, and there are lots of cucumber-related articles on the sidebar, but here's a quick visual reference for you to start.
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All cucumber plants start out as small seeds. As a gardener, you have the option of starting your plants from seeds or purchasing a small seedling from a garden center.
Cornell University recommends starting the plants from seed, as cucumbers can be picky about being transplanted. But there are a few reasons why starting from a seedling might make sense for you.
If you only want to grow one cucumber plant, it doesn't make much sense to purchase an entire seed packet, which might contain 50 or more seeds. Planting a seedling directly in your garden after the risk for frost in your area is past can also be a good idea if you don't have much space in your house to start seedlings
Starting from Seeds
You have two options when you plant cucumber seeds. You can start the seeds indoors, about four weeks before the last frost in your area. You can also wait until the danger of frost has past, then direct sow cucumber seeds into your garden.
Starting seeds indoors gives you a jumpstart on the season. By the time it's warm enough outdoors for your cucumbers, they will be about a month old.
The video from Rustic Garden shows some handy tips on the process of starting and growing cucumbers from seed using cups.
But starting seeds outdoors reduces the risk for transplant shock, which can occur when you move a small seedling from its cushy life indoors to the more challenging environment outdoors. You also risk disturbing the plant's roots when you transplant a small seedling to your garden.
No matter which option you choose to start your cucumbers, whether seeds started indoors, seeds planted directly in the garden, or transplants planted in the garden, make sure the soil is warm enough before you plant. Ideally, the soil temperature will be at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Burpee. Otherwise, you won't have very happy cucumbers.
What Cucumbers Need
Once it's established in the garden, a cucumber plant can be relatively unfussy and easy to grow. That doesn't mean it doesn't have specific needs, though.
Cucumbers generally require four things: light, food, water and space. The plants do best when they get at least six hours of sunlight daily and when they grow in a well-drained, neutral soil. How much space your cucumber plants will need depends in large part on the type you're growing.
Vining cucumber plants can quickly take over a garden and will send out long, trailing vines. Bush varieties of cucumber take up less space, but will still need more room in your garden than petite plants such as lettuce or peppers.
If you don't have much space, you might have to get creative to successfully grow cucumbers. Plenty of gardener’s train their plants to grow vertically or to climb up a trellis, rather than sprawl out on the ground.
Water and Food
The main ingredient in a cucumber is water. So it makes sense that your cucumber plants are going to need an ample amount of water to grow successfully. The typical recommendation is to make sure your cucumbers get about an inch of water weekly, according to Bonnie Plants.
Keep an eye on the soil and on your plants to see if they are getting enough water. The soil should stay moist, but shouldn't have pools or puddles of water on the surface. If your cucumber plants are a bit parched, they'll start to wilt and droop.
Cucumbers will need some fertilizer throughout the season. You can make sure the plants have enough food by adding compost to the soil when you plant. Another option is to use a liquid fertilizer every a few weeks.
If you don't give your cucumbers enough food and water, you'll end up with stunted or misshapen fruits. The cucumbers will also develop a bitter, unpleasant taste.
One of the frustrations first-time cucumber growers face is having a plant produce a lot of flowers but just one, or in some cases, no fruit. Many varieties of cucumber produce both male and female flowers. To get fruit from these plants, the pollen from the male flowers needs to get to the female flowers.
You can tell the difference between male and female flowers by looking at them. Female flowers have a mini cucumber growing on the end. If the flowers get pollinated, that mini cuke turns into a full-sized cucumber. Male flowers are just flowers.
Bees in the garden will often take care of the work of pollination for you. But if bees are in short supply or you're growing the cucumbers indoors, you'll want to pollinate the plants yourself.
The video above from Gary Pilarchik shows you how to hand-pollinate cucumber plants, using a small paintbrush. He also shows you what to look for when finding male cucumber flowers to get pollen from.
Growing Cucumbers Indoors and in Containers
If you don't have a lot of garden space in the ground or if you don't have any outdoor space, you can still grow cucumbers. The plants tend to thrive in containers, provided you choose the right variety.
They can also grow well indoors, as long as you are able to give them plenty of light and room to grow. Certain varieties of cucumbers are bred specifically for growing in indoor conditions, such as greenhouses. These varieties typically are able to self-pollinate, meaning they can produce fruit without outside assistance from bees or you.
Learn More About Growing Cucumbers
You can find all our cucumber articles in the sidebar of this page.
To learn more about how to plant cucumbers, including how to start seeds indoors for little or no money, check out our article How to Plant Cucumbers. It includes tips and advice on planting cucumber seeds, moving the plants to your garden and making sure your cucumbers have everything they need.
Although you might only see one or two types of cucumber when you visit a grocery store, there are actually dozens of different varieties available. You can divide cukes into two main categories: slicing and pickling, and find many sub-types within either category. Our article on cucumber types will introduce you to a few unfamiliar varieties and help you decide which one is perfect for growing in your garden.
One thing that determines the variety of cucumber you grow is the amount of space you have. Usually, cucumbers need plenty of room, but the way you plant the cukes plays a role in how much space they need. For example, if you plant cucumbers in rows and train them to grow vertically, you'll need less room than if you plant them in hills. The article Cucumber Spacing in Your Home Garden introduces you to the plants' spacing requirements and gives advice on growing the cukes to maximize space.
Growing cucumbers up a trellis or vertically not only cuts down on the amount of space your plants need. It can also help you grow healthier, happier cucumbers. To learn more about the benefits of growing vertically, check out the article What You Need to Know About Growing Cucumbers Vertically.
Indoor gardeners, we haven't forgotten about you. Growing cucumbers indoors has its own set of challenges, namely making sure the plants get enough light and that the fruits are pollinated. The article Growing Cucumbers Indoors: What You Need to Make It Work is a helpful guide for setting up your own indoor cucumber garden.
Since growing cukes indoors also typically requires you to grow the plants in containers, our article on Growing Cucumbers in a Container will be helpful as well. The article provides tips and pointers for successfully growing the plant in a pot, including advice on choosing the best variety for container growing and the type of soil to use.
Choosing the right tools for your garden will help you have success growing cucumbers. We've taken a look at the various fertilizers and trellises available for growing cucumbers. Our round-up of the best fertilizers and the best trellises will help you know what to look for and which products are worth your hard-earned money.
Finally, have you ever wondered why we consider cucumbers a vegetable when cooking, but call them a fruit in the garden? We take a close look at the classification of cucumber in the article Is Cucumber a Fruit or a Vegetable? Read on to get the truth!
Did you know?
There were over 40,000 acres of cucumbers planted in the U.S. in 2015.