Pruning Cucumbers: When and How
Pruning is the process of removing laterally growing shoots from the main vine of the cucumber. It can keep your plants healthy and looking good, and it can help avoid overgrowth as well as facilitate vertical growth if you're using a trellis. You need a few good tools to do the job (we list these below), but once you have those, pruning is really pretty easy. Let's dive in.
grow your own cucumbers
Quick video if you're in a hurry...
Here's a great video from Get Up & Grow for those of you who prefer a more visual tutorial.
You should start tending your cucumbers early enough after transplanting the seedlings to make sure that only healthy cucumber plants reach to the bearing level.
Cucumbers have very tender vines, and they should be handled with care to avoid breaking them. It should be noted that pruning should be done routinely to achieve best results. With pruning, you will have disease free plants that will attain maturity early enough and have a long production life.
Pruning aims at reducing the number of laterally spreading shoots, damaged vines, and achieving well-aerated cucumber plants. It also leads to high and quality cucumber fruits.
Why should you prune cucumbers?
Pruning is a technique that improves not only production but also enables your cucumber plants to give better quality fruits. It is a routine management practice that helps you keep check of wild growth.
The cucumber vines produce multiple shoots from a single stem. By pruning, it enables maintaining healthy plants. Also, trimming damaged or excess shoots helps provide sufficient nutrition which in turn allows vigorous fruit production.
Trimming minimizes shading and allows maximum sunlight penetration which increases photosynthesis thereby improving production. Moreover, it eliminates the likelihood of having some pests harbored within the poorly aerated bushes which might exacerbate disease occurrence.
Cucumbers are highly susceptible to diseases, a concern which calls for proper monitoring of the plants. You can easily track the progress of your fruits by keeping fresh foliage out of way further helping you control diseases. You should, however, avoid extensive pruning which would potentially reduce yields. Lastly, moderate pruning enables easy picking of fruits.
Plus, as Jason Ellis points out, pruning can increase your crop yield:
When is the best time to prune cucumbers?
Once the cucumber plant has grown a few feet above the ground, and it starts flowering, it’s about the right time you start pruning.
It might sound a little bit off, but it is advisable to start pruning early and removing the first flowers with the vision of better yields in the long-term. All you should be keen at is letting the vine produce seven leaves then you can start production.
Pruning should be done early so that the cucumbers will be able to support fruits later on. It is also prudent to keenly check on new shoots and get each of them off early enough. Pinching all the fuzzy growing tips will allow for the lateral spreading of plants.
For cucumbers that grow within cages, those tips growing beyond 4-feet should also be cut off. Well pruned cucumber plants are healthy, and they develop proper root systems which can sustain the weight of fruits.
What tools do you need to prune cucumbers?
There are some tools that you can use for pruning though you are not entirely limited to the ones available. You can also use your hands. You can pinch young shots quickly with your hands which further simplifies pruning since they are fresh and soft. They are also effective since you can take care of the main vine to avoid stretching it which can be damaging. Tools that you can apply in this process include:
- Pruning shears. They can be to nib shoots especially the ones on the main vine and those of sub vines protruding from the main vine.
- Secateurs. Secateurs can be used to prune damaged vines. There is a broad range of secateurs to choose from. They come with different blades, sizes, and orientation to suit either left or right-handed gardeners.
- Loppers. They are used where secateurs cannot be applied where there are thick stems. Mini and lightweight models are used in cucumber pruning.
- Garden scissors. They are primarily used to cut flowers that come from an early age and thin vines and shoots efficiently.
- Long reach pruners. They are used to cut off shoots or vines that are difficult to access especially for cucumber plants growing over cages. They have long arms that suit their application.
How do you properly prune a cucumber?
- First, locate the main vine of the cucumber. The main vine is the one that has not branched out. You should go to the base of the plant and follow it up.
- Spot all laterally growing shoots and remove them. These shoots if left, form runners which significantly reduce production.
- You should eliminate 4-6 shoots growing from the base of the main vine up. All other shoots growing beyond should be left to grow.
- You should then repeat the process for all plants while tying the vines to the support structures or trellis. It is important to avoid bending vines too much or tightening the vines to avoid breaking or crushing blossoms which may make the vines wilt and eventually die.
- Remove all damaged and unhealthy cucumbers that would be appearing undersized as they would be diseased. Mature fruits should be harvested timely to avoid poor quality cucumbers of big sizes.
If you follow through every of the practices as mentioned above and implement them in your farm while combining them with other practices, such as proper application of fertilizers and use of pesticides, weeding, and others, you’ll be sure to reap rewards.
Using pruning to grow vertically.
Here's an awesome tutorial from GrowingYourGreens that shows you how to use pruning to help your cucumbers grow on a trellis.
Is pruning ever a bad idea?
It is not advisable to start pruning cucumbers when they are too young. It might weaken vines while some may end up getting damaged. Also, it is not wise to prune immediately after spraying pesticides to avoid wastage.
After harvesting starts and there are many mature fruits, the level of pruning should go down. Similarly, pruning while is rainy, and there is high humidity is discouraged because it might encourage the spread of diseases between neighboring plants when vines come into contact.
Since lateral shoots grow very fast, you should cut of all new shoots for proper root development especially as vines get to the rapid development stage when the shoots are sprouting sporadically.