How to Grow Cucumbers A Comprehensive Guide

It really is well worth growing cucumbers. Eating home-grown cucumbers is a different experience to shop brought.  Home-grown cucumbers are crunchy and juicy compared to those sold in supermarkets. They are also in these days of high inflation and food prices, cheap and plentiful to grow.

Being nosey, I checked with a major food retailer to find out the shelf life of the cucumbers they sell. I was told that supermarket cucumbers are often picked between 4/5+  days earlier if grown in the UK before they even reach the shelves, or 10/11+ days if grown abroad.  This means when you buy a cucumber in a supermarket it could be up to 2 weeks old.  Home-grown cucumbers are fresh, the skin is thinner and not the least bitter; and they are a breeze to grow. Cucumbers almost grow themselves, which means it is definitely worth growing cucumbers. 

Cucumbers are members of the Cucurbits family, which include squashes, melons and courgettes and are a fast growing subtropical vine. Because they are quick growing, some can crop within 50 days. Cucumbers are worth making space for and a good crop to interest children in growing food.

When and How to Germinate Cucumbers from Seed

emerging cucumber seedling

To germinate, place two seeds per pot and cover with a fine light dressing of compost, and keep warm (18C or 65+F) either on a sunny window sill, (check nighttime temperatures,) in a conservatory or a greenhouse. Covering the pot with a poly bag fixed in place with an elastic band or string, or placing it in a propagator will make germination quicker and more reliable.
After a few days, the seedling will emerge, as in the image left. Remove the pot from the propagator so it does not overheat can make the seedling go soft. If nighttime temperatures are low, cover overnight. Cucumbers are not hardy, they thrive in an ambient temperature of 18C 65F+ and will tolerate down to 12C/53F
Cucumbers are large seeds and a good starting point for new gardeners. If you are not keen on growing from seed, it is easy to buy cucumbers as young plants.


Cucumbers are colour coded green as they are easy to grow and maintenance free; information about colour coding.

Choosing the Right Cucumber Variety

When planting Cucumbers you do need to start with the right variety whether it is for indoor and outdoor cultivation. If you are growing cucumbers outside they need a warm  sheltered spot. They are not frost hardy (what does frost hardy mean?) and don't like it cool, so it is best to delay planting outside until the warmer weather arrives. This is important when growing cucumbers because if planted outside too early, there is a real risk of frost or cold damaging the plant. 

A string of cucumbers

Some varieties of cucumbers are only suitable for growing in a greenhouse or under glass. There are specific varieties for indoor and outdoor growing. The only way to tell is to read the seed packet/growing instructions. In a greenhouse you can grow most varieties especially the smooth-skinned varieties as shown in this image. In cooler parts of the country, and in less sheltered gardens, it is often easier to grow cucumbers in containers in a greenhouse.  

Caring for Cucumber Plants Feeding and watering cucumbers is important

Like all Cucurbits, water carefully and sparingly at first. The small seedlings have a tendency to rot at the stem where it meets with the soil, particularly if over watered and the stem and surrounding soil becomes too wet. A good tip if this happens, or the weather wet, or just as a precaution, it's worth clearing the soil away from the stem to avoid it resting against the plant until the plant is more mature.

Once Cucumbers get established and start to grow it's the reverse, they require more water. An economical use of space is to grow the cucumber up a wigwam/trellis which has the bonus of keeping fruit off the ground and out of slug reach. (for tips on keeping slugs at bay) As they grow cucumbers, plants need support up a wigwam, or to be tied into a cane.  Feed fortnightly with a balanced fertiliser.

Cucumbers are vigorous and produce a lot of fruit. Just like courgettes, a few plants cucumber plants go a long way. To harvest cucumbers, simply pick when they look ready to eat.

Like Courgettes, cucumbers can suffer from powdery mildew and if so, pick off worst affected leaves, water and feed. For an effective recipe to make your own organic spray, which will keep powdery mildew at bay, follow this link.

Whether in the veg plot or under glass, all cucumbers like plenty of water and do not allow them to dry out. Cucumbers can't be left unattended and you will need a friendly neighbour to water if you go away.

Growing tip: later in the season when there are plenty of flowers and baby cucumbers, stop the growth. Pinch out the growth point so the plant's energy goes to the fruit development, not more growth. Don't let the plant grow too large at the expense of the fruit. Harvesting regularly which will encourage more fruit. 

Removing male flowers: how to tell the difference between male and female flowers on courgettes and cucumber

difference between male and female flowers

Courgettes and Cucumbers flowers are very similar. So much so if you grow them from seed it is very important to label them as its is easy to confuse them.

When growing outdoors, similar to courgettes, it's a good idea to remove a few of the male flowers early in the season, but only a limited number. On both courgettes and cucumbers, the male flowers will not produce fruit so thin out the male flowers. Do not remove them too many as male flowers are essential for pollination, but often at the beginning and end of the growing season, there can be too many male flowers.

 How do you know the difference between male and female cucumbers and courgettes? Female flowers have little bump behind the flower, which is the embryo fruit, compared to the males flowers which just have a stem. The image left is of courgette flowers but they look very similar to cucumbers. 

How many cucumber plants do I need?

A short video looking at cucumbers growing in a greenhouse. How much do they grow and how many plants are enough? Cucumbers are very easy to grow, which makes them a rewarding crop and one important tip for growing cucumbers.

Last updated 08/04/2023