Learn how easy it is to grow your own cucumbers in this simple growing guide! Whether your goal is to can your cucumbers as pickles or eat them straight off the vine, this look at growing cucumbers will make it easier than ever to achieve!
Cucumbers are a beloved addition to home gardens, well-known for their refreshing crunch and versatility in a variety of dishes. Whether you prefer slicing cucumbers for salads, pickling cucumbers for tangy delights, or specialty cucumbers for unique flavors, growing your own cucumbers can be a rewarding experience. In this growing guide, we'll walk you through the essential steps to successfully grow cucumbers from planting to harvest.
Choosing the Right Cucumber Variety
Before you start growing cucumbers in your garden, it's important to consider your preferences and choose the appropriate cucumber variety for your needs.
- Slicing Cucumbers - If you want a great-tasting cucumber that you can slice and enjoy with some homemade ranch dressing, then the Marketmore 76 or Straight Eight cucumber is a great choice. We enjoy these all season long!
- Sweet Pickles - If you are going to be canning sweet gherkins, I recommend the "homemade pickles cucumber" variety, which yields thin, small cucumbers daily. Harvest them and keep them in the fridge (in a plastic bag) until you have enough to process a full batch of sweet gherkin pickles!
- Pickle Spears or Slices - We have found that pretty much any cucumber variety will work for this since you are slicing them to the desired size.
Best Gardening Method for Growing Cucumbers
Cucumbers thrive in full sunlight, requiring at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sun each day. They also prefer consistently moist soil, so regular watering is essential, especially during dry spells. Mulching around the plants helps retain moisture and suppress weed growth. Aim to maintain a soil moisture level that keeps the cucumber plants hydrated but not waterlogged.
While we enjoy the ease and simplicity of the Back to Eden gardening method, the reality is that cucumbers will grow in any well-draining, rich soil you plant them in! Whether you are growing in a raised bed, a container, or in a large dedicated gardening space, cucumbers enjoy rich soil and a lot of water. As long as you have those things, you will have a great harvest of homegrown cucumbers!
Direct Seeding or Starting Indoors
Cucumbers can be directly seeded in the garden or started indoors for an early start. Direct seeding is suitable when the soil temperature reaches around 60°F (15.5°C) or above. If you want to get a head start, sow cucumber seeds indoors about 3-4 weeks before the last expected frost. Transplant the seedlings outdoors once the soil has warmed up.
Leave about 12 to 24 inches (30-60 cm) between plants.
If you can start your seeds inside, you will have fruit much faster than if you plant from seeds. In fact, we often have cucumbers ready to harvest just 2-3 weeks after transplanting when we start indoors!
But even if you can't get them started early, planting via direct sowing is a great option too.
Should You Trellis Cucumbers?
We have very rarely trellised our cucumbers, but it is something that most people do.
Proper spacing is considered crucial for cucumber plants to receive adequate sunlight, air circulation, and nutrients, however, we have not seen that as an issue for the Back to Eden method.
Typically we just let the cucumber vine along the ground which yields a much larger harvest than the years when we have trellised our cucumbers.
This can do a number on your back though! So if you don't want to be bending or squatting to harvest your cucumbers, then consider providing support structures like trellises or stakes to encourage vertical growth.
Troubleshooting Issues with Your Homegrown Cucumbers
While cucumbers are a fairly low-maintenance garden vegetable, there are a few things that may arise. If you notice that your cucumber seems to be rotting on the vine and not getting any larger, check out the section on Blossom End Rot.
And if you are seeing lots of flowers but not setting any fruit, read the section on Poor Pollination!
Blossom End Rot
Have you ever noticed a beautiful cucumber on your plants, only to notice the end is rotting?? This is blossom end rot! Blossom end rot in cucumbers, as well as other fruits like zucchini and tomatoes, is primarily caused by calcium deficiency.
There are several ways to deal with blossom end rot, but the fastest way we've found is to just pour milk around the base of the plant. Usually, about a quart of animal milk per plant is enough.
The calcium in the milk is much more readily available to the plants than it is from other sources, so it's the fastest way to deal with blossom end rot. We usually see the fruit setting and growing again within 2-3 days when treated with milk!
Here are some options for adding calcium to your soil to avoid blossom end rot:
- Crushed egg shells
- Limestone dust
- Oyster shells
Depending on the bee population in your area, you may start to notice that while you have flowers on your cucumber plants, you are seeing any fruit forming. This is due to a lack of pollinators! Thankfully it's a simple process to hand-pollinate your cucumber plants.
- To improve pollination, you can manually assist by gently transferring pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers using a small brush or cotton swab.
- Additionally, attracting pollinators like bees and butterflies to your garden by planting pollinator-friendly flowers nearby can greatly enhance the chances of successful pollination.
If you're looking to attract pollinators, some great plant options are flowers such as lavender, sunflowers, zinnias, or marigolds. These plants are known to be quite effective and they are readily available in most areas.
When to Harvest Cucumbers
Harvest cucumbers at the right stage of maturity for your intended purpose.
- For slicing - Slicing cucumbers are typically ready for harvest when they reach 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm) in length.
- For pickling gherkins - Small pickling cucumbers are best harvested when they are 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm) long.
Regularly check your cucumber plants as they can produce fruit rapidly, and harvest them promptly to encourage continuous fruiting.
Enjoying Your Homegrown Cucumbers
Once you have an abundant cucumber harvest, the possibilities for enjoying them are endless. Here are a few of our favorite ways to enjoy our homegrown cucumbers!
- Refreshing Salads: Slice cucumbers and toss them with fresh greens, tomatoes, onions, and a tangy dressing for a refreshing salad.
- Cooling Cucumber Water: Infuse water with cucumber slices for a cooling and hydrating beverage.
- Crispy Cucumber Snacks: Enjoy cucumbers as a healthy and crunchy snack, either on their own or paired with hummus or ranch dip (this is my favorite way!!)
- Cucumber Slices in Sandwiches: Add crisp cucumber slices to sandwiches and wraps for an extra crunch and refreshing taste.
- Pickles: Preserve cucumbers as mini sweet gherkins or slices them for dill pickles!
- Cucumber Lemonade: Blend cucumbers with lemon juice, sweetener, and water to make a refreshing and hydrating cucumber lemonade.
- Cucumber and Cream Cheese Tea Sandwiches: Spread homemade cream cheese on bread slices, top with cucumber slices, and cut into bite-sized sandwiches for an elegant tea-time treat.
Yes, as long as the container is large enough, has drainage, and uses well-draining soil! Cucumbers also do well in raised beds.
Cucumbers will turn bitter if they don't get enough water, so be sure that you are providing 1-1.5 inches of water per week. This may be met with rainwater, or if you have mulch that keeps the water from evaporating. So just check the soil on a weekly basis to see if you need to water more.
Poor pollination may cause flowers to fail to set fruit. There are several reasons for this but can be remedied by hand-pollinating and attracting more pollinators. See the section on "poor pollination" for more information.
Even More Gardening Fun
Ready to expand your garden space to include more vegetables for your family? Here are a few of our favorite things to grow in our homestead garden!