How to Grow Cucumbers

If you are thinking of planting veg and perhaps of growing cucumbers, you may think, why bother? Cucumbers hardly look like the world's most exciting veg to grow, but they are!

Home-grown cucumbers are a different experience to shop bought and if you haven't tried growing them yet, cucumbers are worth the effort.  Home-grown cucumbers are cruchy and juicy compared to those sold in supermarkets.  Being nosey, I checked with a major food retailer as to the shelf life of cucumbers they sold. From this I can say that shop bought cucumbers may have been picked between 4/5+  days earlier if grown in the UK, or 10/11+ days if grown abroad.  In the supermarket you could be buying a cucumber which is nearly 2 weeks old.  Home-grown cucumbers are really 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. 

How to grow Cucumber from seed

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.  They are easy to germinate from seed;  the seeds are large and plant a couple of seeds per pot, cover and keep warm (18C or 65+F) which means placing the pot on a window sill, conservatory or greenhouse and/or placing the pot in a propagator to speed things up. After a few days the seedling will emerge and then remove the pot from the propagator, otherwise it can overheat which will make the seedling go soft. This is true of all plants germinated in a propagator do not leave in for any time after the seedling has become established unless it is too cold without cover.

If you are not keen on growing from seed, it is easy to buy cucumbers as young plants either at the garden centre or on-line,  and grow on in the greenhouse or a window sill. 


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

Planting and Watering Cucumbers

Cucumbers need a good warm summer to crop well outside, and to be planted in a sheltered spot. They are not frost hardy, (what does frost hardy mean?) and don't like it cool, which means it is best to delay planting outside until the warmer weather arrives. This is important when growing cucumbers, because if you plant outside too early there is a real risk of frost or cold damaging the plant. In cooler areas it can be easier to grow cucumbers in containers in a greenhouse.   

Also, some varieties of cucumbers are only suitable for growing in a greenhouse or under glass. There are specific varieties for indoors and outdoor growing. The only way to tell is to read the seed packet/growing instructions. Generally if you are growing cucumbers outdoors, you will need to grow the ridge varieties, such as illustrated top right which have a tougher skin. In a greenhouse you can grow the smooth-skinned varieties as illustrated in the centre image.

If you are planting outside, protect with cloche against wind and chill until established.  Like all Cucurbits, water very carefully and sparingly at first; they can have a tendency to rot at the stem, where it meets with the soil, particularly if over watered or the stem and surrounding soil becomes too wet. A good tip if this does happen, or the weather very wet, or just as a precaution, it's worth clearing the soil away from the stem to avoid it resting against the plant until there is strong growth.

Once Cucumbers put on growth the reverse is needed, more water is required to keep the cucumber growing.  If growing outside an economical use of space is to grow the cucumber up a wigwam/trellis which has added bonus of keeping fruit off the ground and out of slug reach. (for tips on keeping slugs at bay)

Cucumbers are vigorous and produce a lot of fruit. In a similar way to growing courgettes, a few plants go a long way and I would limit the number of plants unless you have a passion for pickled cucumbers.  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. Whether in the plot or under glass, all cucumbers like plenty of water and do not allow them to dry out. It follows that cucumbers can't be left unattended and you will need a friendly neighbour to water if you go away.

A tip when growing cucumbers is to make sure as soon as the flowers form with plenty of baby cucumbers, pinch out the tip of the plant 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. 

When growing outdoors, similar to  courgettes, it's a good idea to remove some of the male flowers.  

 How do you know the difference between male and female cucumbers and courgettes ? Female flowers have little bump behind them which is the embryo fruit, the males just have stem and flower for more information and an image follow this link

Final tip on how to grow cucumbers is they can be easier to grow under glass which helps to control the growing environment. This is especially so if you do not have a sheltered spot on your veg plot.