All About Sowing and Harvesting Cucumbers

Reader Contribution by Benedict Vanheems
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Photo by Getty Images/Garsya

Some cucumbers, often called ‘ridge cucumbers’, can be grown outdoors in cooler climates, and are often rough or spiny-skinned. Greenhouse cucumbers produce smoother fruits but do require extra warmth and protection for success. There are also varieties that can be grown both inside and out.

Sowing Cucumbers

Sow cucumbers into small pots of seed starting or general-purpose potting mix. Either start them in a propagator, or wait until late spring. Cucumbers need temperatures of at least 68ºF to germinate.

Sow two seeds about an inch deep, then water well. Once the seedlings appear, remove the weakest to leave one per pot.

Growing Greenhouse Cucumbers

Plant greenhouse cucumbers in beds, large containers, or growing bags. Train the vines up supports such as bamboo canes, vertical wires, or trellis. Pinch out the growing tips when they reach the top of their supports to encourage side shoots. Pinch out the side shoots after each developing fruit so that two leaves remain beyond each fruit.

Don’t allow cucumber plants to dry out. Fertilize them every two weeks with a high-potassium liquid fertilizer.

Remove all male flowers from greenhouse cucumbers to prevent bitter-tasting fruits. Female flowers have a small swelling at the base of each bloom, while male flowers have none. Some varieties only produce female flowers.

Growing Outdoor Cucumbers

Transplant outdoor cucumbers once the soil has warmed in late spring or early summer. Gradually harden plants off for a week or two first – a cold frame is useful for this. In warmer climates, sow seeds direct where you want them to grow.

Cucumbers need a fertile soil, so add plenty of well-rotted rich organic matter such as compost before planting. If you’re growing your cucumbers upwards using supports, grow plants 18 inches apart, or if you’ll be leaving them to sprawl over the soil surface instead, plant them three feet apart.

Pinch out the growing tips after six leaves have formed to promote fruiting side shoots. Tie climbing cucumbers in to vertical supports.

Make a Cucumber Frame

A cucumber frame is a great way to grow cucumbers. To make one, stretch chicken wire or netting over a simple wooden frame and staple or nail it on using U-shaped nails. Make an A-shaped frame using sturdy bamboo canes, then prop the cucumber frame against it at an angle.

This arrangement means that you can grow salad leaves such as lettuce in the shade of the cucumbers – great for growing cool season crops in hotter climates.

Harvesting Cucumbers

Harvest cucumbers while they’re still small and tender using a sharp knife or pruners. Pick regularly to encourage more fruits. Harvest in the morning if possible, while it’s still cool. Pick gherkin varieties when they are about an inch long for crunchy cornichons, or three inches long for larger pickles.

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