When to Grow Cucumbers
If you wish to start your cucumbers from seed indoors we offer a broad range of seed starting equipment and supplies in Yardener's Tool Shed; click here
Seeds should be sown when the soil has warmed up to 70 degrees F, which means late spring, about 3 to 4 weeks after last frost. The biggest mistake is to plant seeds too soon--cukes cannot tolerate even a light frost. Make sure the average air temperature is at least 60 degrees F. before you plant. In the fall, plant cukes 3 months before first expected frost.
Where to Plant Cucumbers
Cucumbers thrive in a sunny location and a soil that drains easily after a rain.
Planting Tricks (Optional)
Most yardeners do not have absolutely wonderful healthy soil for their vegetable garden. One way to overcome some problems that might occur later in the season is to add some products to the soil before planting your seeds or seedlings.
Compost – A couple of handfuls of quality compost sprinkled along the line where the seeds will go or in the hole in which the seedling will adds micro-nutrients and valuable natural chemicals to the soil giving your new plants a boost as they get started.
Vegetable Thrive – This is an organic liquid that contains beneficial soil bacteria and beneficial soil fungi called mycorrhizae which helps develop strong root systems. Sprinkle Thrive lightly along the line where seeds will go or into the hole for the seedlings. Your plants get a better start then if they were planted without these valuable amendments.
How To Plant Cucumbers
Planting Steps for Growing from seeds
1. Prepare the soil with a trowel or shovel by working in organic matter such as chopped leaves, hay or straw to enhance drainage. Remove any rocks, stones, or clods of clay.
2. Plant cukes in rows or “hills.” If you want to plant rows, trace a shallow indentation in the soil with a stick or pencil, or stretch a string along the row to guide planting. Then use a hoe or other digging tool to create raised rows of soil about 3 inches high. Space each row about 3 feet apart. If you use the hill system, create a series of small mounds of soil a few inches high and spaced about 3 feet apart. Plant 3 seeds in each hill. Bush varieties can be spaced about 2 feet apart each way.
3. In rows or hills, plant the seeds 1/2 inch deep. Plant more seeds than you need and then thin the seedlings down to the number recommended by the seed company.
To save space in the garden, you can use trellises to grow vining cucumbers. Space the plants about 12 to 18 inches apart
Planting Steps for Planting Seedlings
Cucumbers grown from seed will take about 9 weeks tell harvest. If you’re in a hurry to get those tasty cukes, plant out seedlings purchased from a garden center instead--these will mature about 2 weeks faster. Or start your own seedlings indoors under lights.
1. Sow 2 to 3 seeds in peat pots or other containers 2 to 3 weeks before the last frost date. Thin the seedlings down to one plant per container--cukes won’t tolerate being pulled apart from the same root ball before being set out in the garden. The plants can go out into the garden about 3 or 4 weeks after the last frost. You don’t want seedlings to be much over four weeks old, or they’ll have trouble adjusting to the transplanting process.
2. If you buy cucumber seedlings at the garden center, buy seedlings that are stocky, with no thin stems, shiny green leaves, and no flowers. Avoid plants that have yellowed leaves, or are starting to trail a vine.
Succession Planting: The harvest period for cucumbers lasts for 4 to 6 weeks. Plant cucumbers every 2 weeks until midsummer. Note: Bush varieties usually produce for only about four weeks during the summer, so for a season-long harvest you need to plant successive containers. Start a new container when the first container starts bearing fruit.
Getting an early start: One way to move the season up for cucumbers is to spread black plastic mulch over the site where you intend to plant cucumbers about two weeks before planting time. This warms up the soil about 6 degrees and allows you to plant about one to two weeks earlier than normal. If you use this plastic, be careful to remove it as soon as the plants are well on their way, then rake some mulch material around the plants to protect the soil. This allows water to penetrate to the soil around the plants.
Planting seeds “nose first”: Cucumber seeds are sensitive to their orientation when planted. There is evidence that when planted with the radicle (root) end uppermost, seeds are more likely to germinate, and they go on to produce larger seedlings than those planted with the radicle end down or planted flat (horizontally).
Amendments In Planting or Transplanting
There are a number of products at the garden center that will help your newly planted or transplanted plants deal better with the stress inherent in the planting process. All healthy plants have beneficial fungi, called mycorrhizal fungi, living on their roots. You can buy these valuable additions to your plant’s ecosystem. See the file describing Using Micorrhizae When Planting.
In addition, there are a number of products such as seaweed, compost tea, and beneficial soil microbes that when added to the planting process will help your newly established plants get going faster. See the file New Technology In Plant Growth Activators
Choosing A Trellis System
If you grow vining type cucumbers, we strongly recommend growing them vertically on a trellis rig of some sort. Trellises offer two great advantages over letting the plants just sprawl all over the place: One, they save lots of garden space, and two, you’ll get more cukes. The cucumbers hang down and tend to be longer and straighter and they have fewer disease and insect problems. The best rule is to set up your trellis before you plant your cucumbers. You can train the plant up vertical stakes, a meshwork design, an A frame, whatever works to support the plants. The trellis should be at least 6 feet tall. Wide trellis netting allows you to pick cucumbers from both sides of the trellis.
Cucumbers In Containers
Plant the bush type plants in containers rather than the vining varieties. Use a container that is at least 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep; bigger is better. Most cucumber roots are in the top 12 inches of the soil, but the taproot can grow from 2 to 3 feet deep.
Put two or three bush type plants in one container. Wood or plastic containers are better than clay because cucumbers need a lot of water, and clay pots lose a lot of water out the sides. Avoid using black plastic containers, which get too hot in the sun. Make sure there are drainage holes on the sides or on the bottom. It is wise to elevate the container about 4 inches off the ground, especially if it is setting on concrete or brick. Use a soilless mix with no dirt from the garden, adding a slow-acting fertilizer in the mix. Keep the soil moist, especially while fruit is setting. Tomato cages work well as a trellis in a container if you have a vining type plant.
Use space-saving varieties such as Spacemaster, Pickalot Hybrid, Bush Crop, Fanfare, Patio Pic, and Pot Luck. Note: Bush varieties usually produce for only about four weeks during the summer, so for a season-long harvest you need to plant successive containers. Start a new container when the preceding container starts bearing fruit.