Whether you eat them fresh or turn them into pickles, cucumbers are both tasty and nutritious! Learning how to plant cucumbers is simple and the payoff is huge.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about growing cucumbers. From planting to harvest, you’ll find answers to all of your cucumber-growing questions.
I’ll go over things like how to start cucumbers from seed, what soil is best, how much water cucumbers need, how to harvest them, and more. Let’s get started.
Why Grow Cucumbers
Crunchy, slightly sweet, and full of nutrients, there’s a lot to love about cucumbers!
Cucumbers have a mild flavor that’s fresh, clean, and light. Homegrown cucumbers taste much better than the ones you can buy at the store.
The mild flavor of cucumbers makes them easy to incorporate into all kinds of dishes.
Eat them on sandwiches or in a salad.
Turn them into pickles or jelly.
Add them to smoothies or use them to flavor a pitcher of water.
Sprinkle chopped cucumbers on top of tacos or add them to coleslaw.
The ways to use cucumbers are endless!
Growing cucumbers is easy, even for beginner gardeners. The plants are prolific giving you a large harvest for minimal work. They keep producing for months at a time.
With just a little time and effort you can enjoy fresh cucumbers all summer long.
Different Varieties of Cucumbers
There are many different kinds of cucumbers to choose from. Some are delicious when eaten raw while others are ideal for making pickles. Choose a variety (or several) based on how you plan to use most of the cucumbers.
Take a look at some of these unique and delicious varieties:
Straight Eight Cucumber
Armenian Striped Cucumber
National Pickling Cucumber
Parisian Gherkin Cucumber
Green Dragon Burpless Cucumber
This year I’m growing Green Dragon Burpless Cucumbers. This variety is long and slender with a sweet flavor. “Burpless” means they don’t develop a bitter flavor as easily as other varieties of cucumbers. Plus I liked the name!
How to Plant Cucumbers
Cucumbers are annual plants, meaning they need to be planted again each year. You can start cucumbers from seed indoors, direct sow them into the garden, or purchase seedlings at a garden center, nursery, or plant sale.
Healthy soil is essential to growing the tastiest cucumbers. Cucumbers like rich, fertile soil with lots of organic matter. Add compost when planting to increase organic matter in the soil and feed plants as they grow.
The soil should be loose and well-draining. Heavy clay soil can be amended with a soil conditioner to improve drainage.
Cucumbers do best with a soil pH between 6.0-6.5 They can tolerate more alkaline soils up to about 7.8. If you’re not sure what your soil pH is, you can check it with an at-home soil test kit.
Full sun is ideal for cucumbers. Make sure your plants get at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight a day.
The soil temperature needs to be at least 63 degrees before planting cucumbers. Cucumbers grow faster as the soil warms up. They won’t grow at all if the soil is below 63 degrees.
Depending on where you live, the soil usually warms up enough to plant cucumbers outside in late spring to early summer.
If you want to plant cucumbers sooner, you can start them from seed indoors 4-6 weeks before the average last frost.
How to Start Cucumbers from Seed
Starting cucumbers from seed is a great way to get a head start on the growing season, especially if you live in a cooler climate. Starting cucumbers indoors means you get to enjoy a harvest weeks sooner than if you direct sow them outdoors.
Starting plants from seed is easier with good equipment. Here’s what you need:
If you’re only planting a few cucumbers you don’t necessarily need everything on the list. At the minimum, you’ll need a good seed starting mix, seeds, some containers or seed trays to plant the seeds in, and a sunny window to place your plants.
If you don’t have a suitable window that gets enough direct sunlight, you’ll need a grow light to keep your seedlings from getting leggy stems. If you keep your house cold, you may also need a heat mat.
Though you can get by without them, I highly recommend a spray bottle and gardening gloves as well!
Starting Cucumber Seeds Indoors
Set up your equipment in a spot where it will be out of the way for a few weeks. I like to use a table in front of a sunny window.
Fill your seed trays or containers with seed starting mix.
Depending on the size of your seed trays, plant 2-3 seeds in each cell. Poke a few small holes in each cell and drop a seed in each hole. Gently cover the seeds. Alternatively, you can place the seeds on top of the mix and then add more seed starting mix on top. Bury seeds 1/2 inch deep.
Press everything down gently and water it with a spray bottle.
Spray bottles are my favorite for watering seedlings because they don’t displace seeds. Once seedlings grow a bit you can use a watering can.
If you’re using a heat mat, set the seed trays on the mat and turn it on. Depending on the specific variety and growing conditions, sprouts will emerge in 3-10 days.
Seed Starting Tips
Warm soil helps seeds emerge faster.
Make sure the seeds stay moist while they’re germinating. You can use a humidity dome to maintain even moisture.
Once seedlings emerge, make sure they get plenty of light. Sometimes a sunny window isn’t enough. If your seedlings look like they’re getting tall and skinny, use a grow light.
Planting Cucumbers in the Ground
Once the weather is warm enough you can transfer cucumber seedlings outside into a prepared garden bed. Try to wait until temperatures are consistently in the 50s or higher, even at night.
Before transplanting, make sure to harden off your plants.
All plants that are started indoors need time to adjust to the harsher conditions outdoors before being moved outside permanently.
If you purchased seedlings from the store, they’re usually kept outdoors most of the time. Those plants are ready to plant outside as soon as you buy them.
Don’t Disturb the Roots
Cucumbers are prone to transplant shock so treat them very gently when transplanting! Try not to disturb the roots.
Create a Mound
Create a mound shape in the soil that’s 6-8 inches tall.
Cucumbers don’t like water collecting around their roots. The mound shape helps drain excess water away so the roots don’t get soggy.
You can plant up to three plants per mound and space mounds 1-2 feet apart.
How to Plant Cucumber Seedlings
Dig a hole in the top of the mound for your seedling. Gently remove the cucumber plant from its previous container and place it in the soil. Remember, try not to disturb the roots. Fill in around the plant and water thoroughly.
Growing Cucumbers Vertically
If you want to maximize space in your garden, you can grow cucumbers vertically. Use a trellis, arch, or teepee to support your plants. Cucumbers are vining plants so they’ll latch on to the supports and grow up around them.
This is a completely optional step. Cucumbers don’t require any support, they’ll grow just fine along the ground. If you have the space to let them stretch out horizontally, you can. If you want to make more room for other plants, growing vertically opens up a lot of space.
Hot to Direct Sow Cucumbers
You can direct sow cucumbers outside once all danger of frost has passed. Cucumbers grow quickly so direct sowing works well in many areas.
Push the soil into a mound shape that’s 6-8 inches tall. Plant 3 cucumber seeds on each mound. Cover them with soil and water thoroughly.
Planting Cucumbers in Containers
It’s possible to grow cucumbers in containers but you’ll need a big one. Choose a large container that holds at least 5 gallons of potting soil.
Cucumbers need lots of water and containers can easily dry out, especially on hot summer days. If you’re growing cucumber plants in containers, make sure to check on them regularly and water them as needed.
Caring for Cucumber Plants
Once you’ve learned how to plant cucumbers, caring for cucumber plants is simple.
Cucumbers are thirsty plants. They like soil that stays constantly moist but not soggy. Water cucumbers regularly, providing an inch or two of water every week. If temperatures are high and you’re not getting regular rain, you may need to water cucumber plants more often.
A lack of water can result in small, misshapen, or bitter fruits. To keep your plants happy make sure they get plenty of water!
Mulching around the base of your cucumber plants is beneficial in several different ways. Mulch helps maintain even moisture, keeps roots from getting overheated, adds organic matter to the soil, and reduces weed growth.
If you find yourself watering cucumbers constantly to keep the soil moist, mulch can really help.
Use an all-natural mulch like straw, crushed leaves, or wood chips.
Cucumbers benefit from regular fertilizing. Apply fertilizer after you see the first flowers blooming, then again every other week during the growing season.
For best results, use a slow and steady method to fertilize cucumbers. Too much fertilizer all at once can result in lots of green leaves but less fruit. Regular fertilizing in low amounts keeps your plants producing steadily.
Harvest cucumbers early and often to encourage the plant to keep producing. A lot of cucumbers left on the vine encourage the plant to make the fruit larger rather than produce more fruit.
Overgrown cucumbers develop a bitter flavor and the seeds get large and woody. Young cucumbers have excellent flavor. Having more, smaller cucumbers is better than having fewer larger cucumbers.
In the summer, check your cucumber plants daily as the fruit grows very quickly. Use Garden shears or sharp scissors to cut ripe cucumbers away from the vine.
Cucumbers keep well in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks. For the best flavor, eat them within the first couple of days after harvesting.
Put Growing Cucumbers on Your Garden List!
Now that you’ve learned how to plant cucumbers, you’re ready to get started! What variety are you going to choose?
To get more information on planting and growing, don’t miss the seed starting page. There we have how-to-plant guides for many different vegetables, herbs, and flowers, plus helpful tips, product recommendations, and more to help you have the best garden yet.
Getting started on your seed growing journey? Use my seed starting guide to find care guides, helpful tips, product suggestions, and more!