Learn How To Grow Cucumbers Step-By-Step

Cucumbers (aka cukes) are universally loved. They’re refreshing, healthy, and super easy to grow. If you’re looking for a no-nonsense guide to growing cucumbers – you’ve come to the right place. 

Cucumbers on wooden board

Our guide includes advice on how to plant, care for, and harvest cucumbers. We’ve also taken the time to compile valuable info on the pests and bugs you should watch out for, along with a list of varieties you can choose from. All you need to do is grab your tea, find a comfy spot, and learn all there is to growing cucumber plants

How to plant cucumbers

We know budding gardeners don’t always have the ideal space to grow to their heart’s delight. That’s why we’re going to cover planting cucumbers indoors and outdoors. So, without further ado, let’s get started. 

1. Growing Cucumbers Indoors

You can choose to grow cucumber indoors in pots or growing bags – whichever you prefer. First off, visit your local garden centre to get your hands on good-quality seed packets. You can start to sow cucumber seeds by placing them on their sides and push them around 1 to 2cm deep in the soil. 

Cucumbers aren’t averse to heat and will need a temperature of around 21 degrees Celsius. You can achieve this by investing in a propagator or placing the pots on a windowsill or any other area with plenty of light. If you’re planning on growing cucumbers in an unheated space, it’s best to sow seeds in April

2. Growing Cucumbers Outdoors

The first order of business when growing outdoor cucumbers is getting the right type of seeds. Site selection for growing cucumbers outdoors will require a sunny spot that’s warm and adequately sheltered. Fertile soil is also a requirement. You can prep the soil by adding around two buckets of organic matter that’s well decomposed. Then add in 100g of fertiliser (general purpose) per square metre. 

Outdoor varieties of cucumbers need to be sown directly in the growing site no later than early June. Once again, you’ll need to plant the seeds on their sides, no less than 1 to 2cm deep. 

Fresh cucumber grown in open ground

You can cover the planting site with a cloche, glass jar, or even fleece to ensure your seeds have an adequate temperature for germination. If you have a mind to overgo the germination bit, you can opt to buy young plants instead of seeds.

Once your plants sprout a couple of leaves, it’s time to remove or pinch the growing tip out. You can let the side shoots grow and track on the ground or be allowed to grow up a netting, trellis, or fence. Once the flowerless side shoots grow seven leaves, pinch out the growing tip to encourage robust branching. Don’t be tempted to get rid of the male flowers. They’re needed to attract the bees for pollination. Ensure the soil is moist at all times by watering around the plant.

3. Growing Cucumbers In Greenhouses

If you’ve got yourself a greenhouse, invest in greenhouse variety seed packs and sow the seeds from mid-February to mid-March. The temperature inside the greenhouse should range between 12 to 15 degrees Celsius to ensure your plants are safe from the chill. 

It’s best to transfer young plants to pots containing 25cm of potting compost no later than March (for heated greenhouses) and late May (unheated greenhouses). It’s best to get the transplanting done on time. Additionally, the plants will need just enough water to keep the soil moist. You can also raise the humidity levels in your greenhouse by watering the floor. 

Attach the main stem of the greenhouse cucumbers to a vertical wire and pinch out the tip when it’s grown big enough to grow on its own. For the side shoots, pinch out the tips just two leaves beyond a female flower. For flowerless shoots, pinch out the growing points when they’re about 60cm long. It’s also a good idea to promote growth with a liquid fertiliser every two weeks.

Cucumber care

Here are some easy to implement tips to ensure your cucumbers turn out wholesome and tasty. 

Men's hands watering the cucumber plant

  • Try adding mulch to the soil to ensure it holds in as much moisture as possible. 
  • If you’ve added decomposed organic matter to the soil before plantation, add some compost on the sides of the stems to make up for the nutrient requirement. 
  • Consistent moisture is vital for healthy growth. Your plants will require about two cm of water per week for optimal growth. If the temperatures exceed, you may have to increase the water amount to ensure the soil remains moist throughout. To check soil moisture, dip your finger in the soil past the first joint – if it doesn’t stick to your finger or feels dry, you need to add more water. Remember, inconsistent watering can lead to bitter cucumbers. 
  • Try and water the soil during the early afternoon or mornings. Always ensure you water the soil around the plants and keep the water off the leaves. Moisture on leaves can lead to disease, which can kill the plant. It’s best to water your plants using drip irrigation or a soaker hose
  • Once your seedlings make their appearance, you’ll need to step up the watering, and once the fruits appear, increase the watering capacity to 3.7 litres of water per week. 
  • When working in small spaces, it’s best to prepare trellises or frames to ensure there’s no damage to seedlings or vines. 
  • Once your seedlings are about 10cm tall, work on thinning the plants, so they stand about 45cm apart. 
  • When opting for liquid boosters, pick one that includes high potassium and phosphorus, with low nitrogen quantities. It’s best to add liquid plant food once at planting, one week after blooming and every three weeks after that. If you feel the growth of the fruits is being affected, reduce the frequency of plant food
  • To make sure you have plenty of bees buzzing around your plants, spray your vines with a combination of sugar and water
  • Work on keeping your plants free of weeds. It’s best not to plough the soil more than 2.5cm to ensure you don’t damage the roots and affect the growth. 
  • If you notice your female flowers are dropping off, take a cotton swab to touch the inside of male and female flowers to help aid pollination and development of fruit. 

Harvesting cucumbers

Cucumbers tend to ripen from mid-summer to mid-autumn in greenhouses. Outdoor cucumbers may ripen quicker, depending on the climate. To ensure your harvest at the right time (when the fruits are perfectly sized), check the instructions on the seeds you purchased. 

Fresh harvest of cucumber in a basket

More often than not, the small fruit varieties will be ready to harvest when the cucumbers are about 10cm in size. For long fruit varieties, the dimensions range from 15 to 20cm. 

The fruit (or cucumber) should be firm to the touch and green in appearance with rounded tips. Don’t let the fruit turn yellow in colour or soft because that’ll mean they’re overripe. Cucumbers will tend to grow rapidly, so it’s best to keep an eye on them. 

To harvest, you’ll need a clean pair of secateurs or a sharp knife. Simply cut the stem off to detach the fruit, and you’re done. Also, keep in mind that harvesting regularly will lead to an increase in fruiting

Common cucumber pests and diseases

No plant is 100% safe from pests and diseases – unless you know what to look out for. This section will list the bugs and diseases cucumber plants are prone to, so you know how to keep your plants safe as they grow. 

Pests

  • Whitefly: These are small white flies that attack the sap of your plants. They discharge a sticky liquid over the plants, which promotes the growth of mould. You can keep these bugs away from your plants through sticky traps or spraying them with a solution of liquid dish soap and water.

Diseases

  • Cucumber Mosaic Virus: causes stunted and deformed growth in cucumber leaves and plants. Affected leaves will have a yellow mosaic-like pattern. The virus can also affect flowering and fruit growth. Generally, aphids will spread the disease as they move from plant to plant to suck the sap. You can remedy the situation by destroying affected plants and be sure to wash your materials and hands before touching the healthy plants. 
  • Powdery Mildew: will appear as a type of white powder deposit all over the leaves of your plants and will stunt leaf growth. To avoid occurrences of this disease, ensure your soil is moist at all times and move the plants to a cooler location if possible.

Pickling cucumbers in glass jars

Cucumber varieties to choose from

Now that you’re all caught up on cucumber growth and care, let’s talk about your options regarding varieties. Typically, there are two main types of cucumber plants: vining or bush varieties

Vining cucumbers sprout strong vines (as the name suggests) and have large leaves. They’re also fast-growing and give out plenty of fruit. However, if you plan on opting for this variety, it’s best to have your fences prepared because they grow best with support. Additionally, these cucumbers are also easier to pick and care for. 

Unlike their vine-growing counterparts, bush cucumbers are perfect for smaller spaces. They take to growing quite nicely in containers and grow quite fast as well. Their yield is crunchy and delicious, and they’re disease resistant. 

Here are some of the most popular bush and vine-growing veg varieties, along with a few others:

  • Marketmore: a popular ridge cucumber that’s perfect for salads and grows well without any support.
  • Burpless Tasty Green: is classified as an F1 Hybrid and yields crunchy fruits with no bitterness. 
  • National Pickling Cucumber: Excellent for gherkin-lovers. 
  • Mini-munch: Female variety and greenhouse variety cucumbers offer a long growing season and a heavy yield. 

Cucumbers on a basket

Cukes are perfect for all seasons and go with just about any type of food and cuisine. They can help keep you hydrated, lower blood sugar levels, and are good for your digestion too. Plus, the advantage of growing your own vegetables is that you don’t have to concern yourself about issues like GMOs, chemicals, or pesticides. So, don’t wait any longer and get your garden patch ready for your very first batch of delicious cucumbers.

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