Growing Cucumbers from Sowing to Harvest

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Cucumbers growing in poly tunnel

Crunchy cucumbers, fresh from the garden are in a league of their own, so if you’re wondering whether to grow them or not, the answer should be a resounding ‘yes’!

There are cucumber varieties suitable for growing outdoors or in the greenhouse. Outdoor cucumbers, also called ‘ridge cucumbers’, will tolerate cooler climates and are often spiny or rough to the touch. Greenhouse cucumbers form smoother fruits but do need that extra warmth for success. Some varieties will happily grow inside or out, in a sunny, sheltered spot in the garden.

How to Sow Cucumbers

Sow cucumbers from mid spring into small pots of seed starting or general-purpose potting mix. Sow two seeds about an inch (3cm) deep, then water well.

Cucumbers need temperatures of at least 68ºF (20ºC) to germinate, so either place pots in a propagator for speedier germination, or simply wait until late spring to get started. Once the seedlings appear, remove the weakest to leave one per pot.

“Sowing
Sowing cucumber seeds in potting mix

Growing Greenhouse Cucumbers

Greenhouse cucumbers can be planted into beds, large containers of potting soil, or growing bags. If using the latter, plant two cucumbers per bag into bottomless pots set on top of the growing bag. These will help to trap moisture every time you water, instead of it running off over the surface.

Put in place supports such as bamboo canes, vertical wires, strong netting or trellis. Train vines up their supports then pinch out the growing tips when they reach the top to encourage side shoots. Pinch out the tips of side shoots after each developing fruit to leave two leaves beyond each fruit.

Feed plants every two weeks with a liquid fertilizer that’s high in potassium and keep these thirsty plants moist at all times.

Unless you are growing an all-female variety, remove all male flowers from greenhouse cucumbers. This prevents bitter-tasting fruits. It’s easy to identify female flowers by the slight swelling of the embryonic fruit behind each bloom.

“Cucumbers
Greenhouse grown cucumbers need slightly different care

Growing Outdoor Cucumbers

Outdoor cucumbers should be planted out when the soil has warmed in late spring or early summer. Gradually acclimatize plants for a week or two beforehand. A cold frame is useful for this hardening off period. In warmer climates you can sow seeds straight into their final growing positions.

Cucumbers prefer rich, fertile soil, so dig in plenty of well-rotted organic matter such as compost before planting. If you’re growing your cucumbers upwards using supports such as trellis, set plants at about 18 inches (45cm) apart. If you’ll be leaving them to sprawl over the soil surface instead, plant them about three feet (90cm) apart.

Pinch out the growing points after six leaves have formed to encourage plants to produce fruiting side shoots. Climbing cucumbers may need tying to vertical supports, particularly as the heavy fruits start to develop.

“Cucumber
Use a cold frame to slowly harden off outdoor cucumbers

How to Make a Cucumber Frame

Another option for outdoor cucumbers is a cucumber frame. To make one, stretch chicken wire or netting over a wooden frame and secure it into place with staples or U-shaped nails. Prop the frame up onto an A-frame made of bamboo canes.

The beauty of this type of support is that leafy salads like lettuce may be grown underneath to take advantage of the shade cast by the cucumbers – a clever solution for growing cool season crops in hot climates.

“Cucumber
A frame support is great to grow cucumbers up

How to Harvest Cucumbers

Harvest cucumbers while they’re still small and tender. Cut them off plants using a sharp knife or pruners. Pick often to encourage more fruits and, if you can, harvest in the morning while it’s still cool. Gherkin varieties are picked very small – an inch (3cm) long for crunchy cornichons or three inches (8cm) long for larger pickles. Cucumber and dill are perfect pickling partners and the ideal solution for summer gluts.

Sliced into salads or sandwiches, pickled or dropped into cooling summer drinks – I can think of plenty of ways to enjoy cucumbers! Please share your own cucumber recipes and growing tips in the comments section below.

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Comments

 
"last year I froze finely cubed peeled cucumbers and diced unpeeled tomatoes with minced mint and parsley to make tabbouleh in the winter. let thaw overnight in the fridge. used the drained water to soak into the bulgur - without heating it. nice fresh flavor. will for more successful ways to freeze cukes, for dressings and cold soups."
lemonfair on Saturday 16 June 2018
"Great idea! I've never tried freezing cucumbers as they'd just turn to a watery mush, but as a way to give a fresh flavor it seems like a very good idea. Thanks for sharing."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 25 June 2018
"I'm also going to try freezing slices I've soaked in water, vinegar, and sugar after salting, as I do for fresh pickles in the summer. I'm thinking removing some water and adding the sugar may help them freeze better, Would hopefully be satisfactory for salads. "
lemonfair on Monday 25 June 2018
"Could be a good move. Let us know how you get on with that method."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 25 June 2018
"Thanks, Benedict Cucumberpatch."
Martin on Friday 28 June 2019
"Mix cider vinegar with sugar stir until disolved then put a lot of thinly sluced cucumber in. Leave for at least one hour. Delish with cold cooked meats, bbq or pork pie and so easy. Will last a couple of days in the fridge."
Pat on Saturday 20 July 2019
"what about the growing part...how long until the buds start, what can you do to encourage growth? how long does it take the cucumber to mature, etc. How do they grow in their native habitat, which I believe is northern India. are their certain varieties that can grow in the north?"
Carol Thiessen on Sunday 9 February 2020
"Hi Carol. Growing cucumbers somewhere warm and sunny will certainly help, especially if the soil they are growing in is rich, moisture-retentive but also drains well, so not overly wet. You can help flower and fruit formation by applying a tomato fertiliser as per the packet instructions. I'm not sure how they grow in their natural habitat. But as it is a sprawling vine I would imagine it would sprawl along the ground then grow up against trees etc."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 11 February 2020
"once the vegtables fruit does the vine keep bearing fruit or do you need to replant"
brett Macpherson on Monday 30 March 2020
"Hi Brett. Yes, the cucumber will continue to produce fruit once it starts and has beared its first fruit. You can expect several cucumber fruits per plant, and they should continue fruiting all summer long."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 30 March 2020
"I also freeze cucumber, egg plant, sliced tomatoes and bell peppers chopped into small cube type shapes and then in the winter I can have ratatouille or add to stir fry, defrosting first and adding juice to recipe. The v shaped peppers seem to have tougher skin but I also microwave the frozen peppers before using for about three minutes. Bell peppers I also clean and blanch anhich is delicious for winter salad is to bake v shaped peppers ntil skin bland freeze whole for stuffed peppers in winter , skin is inedible but flesh is fine. Another recipe with v peppers is to bake whole till skin blackens (bbq is good for this) Drop into covered bucket to cool then peel. Freeze in fours with chopped garlic save the precious juice by freezing in icecube bags or trays and add to your salad dressing with balsamic vinegar for a great winter treat"
amanda celar on Monday 11 May 2020
"What fantastic ideas Amanda. Thanks so much for sharing - I'll be trying a few of these this summer."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 11 May 2020
"Hi, last year we had a go at cucumbers starting from a small plant we bought from a garden centre on a whim but the fruit was very bitter. We couldn't eat them despite trying several tips to make them less bitter (chopping the end off and rubbing until a froth forms etc!?) Does anyone have any tips for us to avoid bitter fruits this year? how much should we be watering etc... ? Or are bitter cucumbers just what we should be expecting if we grow outside, in patio pots, in the UK? Any advice welcome! "
Hannah on Saturday 23 May 2020
"Hi Hannah. Bitter cucumbers often come about from female flowers that are fertilised. You can buy all-female varieties which avoids all the bitterness associated with this. Also, make sure plants have enough water, are properly fed and get plenty of sunshine."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 25 May 2020
"Hello I forgot to thin out baby cuckes and now they are 5 to 6 inches tall. Do I still thin them out? They all look healthy. Thx"
Barry on Tuesday 26 May 2020
"Hi Barry. Yes, I would definitely thin them out, or if they are all in one pot, separate them out and pot each one up individually to grow on before planting into their final positions. "
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 26 May 2020
"I had good success last year with vertical grown cucumbers, but this year they die shortly after hardening out, planted in the same area, the only difference they are sited at the top of an onion bed, whereas previously they were next to runner beans. I have read that some vegs do not live with others and wonder if this is the case here."
J D Mortimer on Monday 15 June 2020
"I would be surprised if that was the problem - there wouldn't be that violent a reaction. Could they have been eaten or the roots damaged in some way? How dispiriting. There is still time to start again though if you can find young plants to buy."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 15 June 2020
"I planted too many too close together. They are all healthy and about a foot high. Can I transplant some to a shallow garden box at the base of a trellis? How much depth do the roots need? Thank you. "
Angela on Monday 22 June 2020
"Hi Angela. You could certainly give it a go but you will need to do this with care. Try not to disturb the plants that will be left where they are. If you can carefully ease out the excess, then it's certainly worth transplanting them. Try to get as much of the root system as you can. This might necessitate taking most of the soil with the roots too. There will inevitably be a few roots lost, but with gentle re-planting and plenty of watering to help them settle, they should make the transition."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 22 June 2020
"Thanks "
Romi young on Wednesday 24 June 2020
"Can anyone tell me why my cucumbers have gone all bobbley on the surface of the cucumber. .They have been grown in pots in the greenhouse..watered well and have been feeding them with tomato feed. Anyone with any suggestions. .Plants have plenty of flowers on the plants but not very good cucumbers "
Lorna dalton on Sunday 9 August 2020
"Hi Lorna. Could it just be the variety of cucumber? Some varieties do have a knobblier skin that the classic smooth cucumbers you usually see. "
Ben Vanheems on Monday 10 August 2020

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