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Growing cucumbers from seed can be easy and fun when armed with a bit of knowledge. Here you will learn how to plant cucumbers, what types of cucumbers are available to you, how to grow cucumbers in containers, and more!
Growing Cucumbers from Seed
When growing cucumbers from seed, it’s necessary to understand what growing conditions a cucumber plant enjoys. Cucumbers like warm temperatures, ample moisture in the soil, and a climbing variety will require a trellis or structure upon which to grow. There are “bush varieties” of cucumbers that do not need a climbing structure.
Growing Season for Cucumbers in Zones 9 and 10
Plant cucumbers in their correct growing season. In Zones 9 & 10, cucumbers enjoy growing in the warm season, typically from April through September. If your area gets frost, you want to make sure you plant your cucumber seeds with plenty of time for them to mature before the arrival of cold weather. Cucumbers can take anywhere from 50-70 days to mature, so ensure you plant them with ample time.
Growing Season for Cucumbers in Zones 3-8
In Zones 3-8, cucumbers will grow best in the warmest part of the year. Soil temperatures should be at least 50 degrees, but cucumbers do best germinating in soil that is 70° F. You may need row cover to protect your crop while it’s growing. If cool temperatures persist in your climate, growing cucumbers in a greenhouse may be necessary. The key to growing cucumbers successfully is to allow them to grow free of weeds in rich soil during long warm days. If you can accomplish that, you will likely get more cucumbers than you know what to do with!
Pro Tips for Growing Cucumbers from Seed Successfully
Growing cucumbers from seed is not difficult if you can give them a warm environment to grow in and keep them free of diseases. Cucurbits and other plants in the cucurbit family are highly susceptible to foliar diseases. For this reason, it’s important to water at the base of the plant and not overhead water. Apply an organic granular fertilizer at the time of planting to give these hungry plants a boost!
Types of Cucumbers
There are many different types of cucumbers, but for the backyard grower or small-scale grower, you will want to be familiar with the basic types of cucumbers.
Pickling cucumbers are cucumbers that are usually shorter and fit nicely in a pickling jar. These types of cucumbers are great for pickling but can also be used for slicing and other dishes. Pickling cucumbers tend to produce a large crop of cucumbers all at once, giving growers the need to preserve or pickle their harvest. Our National Pickling cucumbers are sure to stock your kitchen with more pickles than you can eat! You will have to share with neighbors and friends, but that’s a good thing! Another excellent pickling cucumber option is our Mark it Eight Dude cucumber: A prolific producer of small pickling cucumbers.
Slicing cucumbers are longer than their stubby cousins and tend to produce cucumbers over a long period of time. When planting cucumbers like these, keep in mind that the more often you pick, the more the plant will produce. Pick fruit when their skins are tender for the best flavor. Depending on the variety, these fruits can grow 7-8 inches long. Tendergreen, Muncher, and Garden Sweet Burpless are delicious slicing cucumbers that are perfect to be enjoyed right off the vine.
Snacking cucumbers are similar to slicing cucumbers but tend to be shorter in size with very thin skin making them great for quick snacking. These are sometimes called cocktail cucumbers. They are typically spineless and picked very small when the seeds inside are immature.
Growing Cucumbers on Trellises
Most cucumber varieties are climbing vines, except for bush varieties like our Green Finger cucumber. Bush varieties do not need a trellis and can grow right on the ground. Bush varieties of cucumber are less common than vining varieties. The best way to grow vining cucumbers is to grow them up off the ground on a structure to climb freely. Trellises accomplish this best. There are hundreds of different ways to trellis your cucumbers, and you can be as creative as you want when trellising your plants. Remember that when the plants become loaded with fruit, they can be quite heavy. Make sure your trellis is secure.
We have used many different trellising methods on our farm, from stringing them to using recycled materials for cucumber vines to grow up. Cattle panels work well and are inexpensive to purchase. They are a great idea if you have sufficient space in your garden.
If you do not have adequate space, using the low and lean method is best. You can create a simple trellis system using T-posts and metal conduits to build a structure as a frame for your cucumbers to grow up using our tomahooks. This method allows for maximum production in small spaces, reduces disease by allowing for more airflow, and allows for quick and easy harvesting. Find a full explanation of the low and lean method here.
Growing Cucumbers in Containers
Even though they can grow wild and unruly, you can successfully grow cucumbers from seed in a container. When growing cucumbers in a container, make sure the container is in proximity to a climbing structure or has a trellis mounted in the container: the larger the container, the better for growing your cucumbers. A 20-gallon pot will work. Keep in mind that pots tend to dry out quickly and should be checked often for moisture. A thick layer of mulch around your cucumber plants will help safeguard them from drying out completely between watering. A saucer under your pot will allow for any excess water that runs through dry soil to be caught in the saucer and retained for the plant to soak up slowly. Our Spacemaster cucumber is a compact bush variety perfect for growing in containers!
Watering your cucumber, or any plant for that matter, is essential to the health of the plant. You must ensure that the plant does not dry out and wilt between watering and keep the plant from sitting in stagnant water for long periods. When watering cucumbers, make sure you do not overhead water but instead water at the baseline of the plant. Overhead watering the plant can lead to powdery mildew, downy mildew, and other diseases. Cucumbers are made of a large amount of water and do not typically respond well to long periods of dryness. Check your cucumbers often to see if the soil has moisture 3-4 inches below the surface and water accordingly. If you are watering plants you’ve planted in the ground, infrequent deep watering is best to promote deep root growth.
Harvest cucumbers at their peak freshness. The timing of this depends on the variety. For eating cucumbers fresh, it is best to harvest them before the seeds have developed for the most tender fruit. You will want to harvest your cucumbers often and make sure you don’t miss one. If left too long, you’ll likely find that the cucumber has grown too big and has become tough and bitter.