Basics of Growing Cucumbers Outdoors
- 27 Apr, 2021
A classic, easy-to-grow garden favorite, cucumbers are a must in all gardens. All they need is sun and water, and they'll produce loads of crispy, crunchy cucumber delights. The cucumber plant is super flexible, and there are many excellent varieties to choose from. Grow dill interspersed with the cucumbers, and you'll have all the makings for pickles!
Types of CucumbersCucumbers come as vining types or bush varieties. The vining types grow prolifically and vigorously on long vines, sometimes reaching 6-8 feet long. This type requires trellising or fencing, or if you have space, let the vines spread out in the garden. Bush cucumbers are smaller and don't produce as much but are ideal for small spaces or container growing.
How To Grow CucumbersCucumbers are best started indoors in seed starting pots. Because they are incredibly temperature-sensitive, cucumbers will struggle to get established if the soil is too cool or the daytime temperatures aren't high enough. For most climates, starting the cucumber seeds indoors gives a head start on the growing season that is essential for them to reach maturity. Also, by starting them indoors, you may avoid many pests that attack the plants while young and fragile.
- Sow seeds indoors 3 weeks before the last expected spring frost.
- Plant them 1” deep, in rich, organic potting soil.
- Water the soil well and place the pots in an extra warm location. The soil must be around 70F for the seeds to germinate. You may need to get seed-heating mats or grow lights to keep the temperature up. (A good DIY solution is to set the seed starts on top of the refrigerator or top of a water heater until they sprout).
- Water the soil daily, so it is moist but not soggy.
- Cucumber seeds will sprout in 3-10 days.
- After all danger of frost has passed (wait two weeks after the last expected frost to be sure!), transplant seedlings outdoors.
- Start by hardening off seedlings, so they are not shocked by the sudden change in temperature. Place them outside for one hour the first day; then, each day afterward, increase the time by one hour until after 10 days they are outside full time.
- Choose a garden spot in full sun and with well-draining soil.
- Space seedlings 2-3 feet apart (for bush varieties and vining varieties that aren't trellised), or 1-foot apart for trellised types.
Cucumber Plant Care
- The most crucial thing is to make sure the plants receive enough water. Cucumbers need consistent, regular watering. If you can set up irrigation, that is the best option. They need at least 1" of water per week. If the watering is inconsistent, the fruit turns bitter! Once the fruit begins to form, increase watering to encourage more fruit.
- Mulch around the plants to help the soil retain moisture and keep weeds away.
- Pick cucumbers when they are small and young (the exact size depends on the variety). When they get too big, they turn seedy and bitter.
- When cucumbers are at the peak of production, pick every other day. Do not underestimate how fast cucumbers can grow!
- If there are over-large fruits, pick them and discard them. Do not leave them on the plant as they will suck nutrients away from new fruits.
- To harvest, use a knife to cut them off the vine. Never yank or pull cucumbers off as that may damage or pull up the roots.
- The more you pick, the more will grow!
Arrange the trellising or fencing before you transplant the seedlings outdoors. It's best to do it this way because you may disturb the shallow cucumber roots when setting up the trellis if you wait. There are dozens of options for trellising, from cages to Here are some of our favorite ideas: DIY Cucumber Trellis Ideas
Our Favorite Cucumber Varieties
Boston Pickling Cucumber - The classic pickling cucumber, this variety grows short, stout green cucumbers.
Straight Eight Cucumber - The ideal salad cucumber. Straight, dark-green, crunchy fruits.
Garden Sweet Burpless - A high-producing variety with sweet, 10-12" long fruits.
White Wonder - An heirloom that proves cucumbers don't have to be green. Snow-white fruits produce abundantly.