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Growing Cucumbers

By: Lynn Jones - Updated: 13 Jul 2015 | comments*Discuss
Cucumber Cucurbit Slicer Pickling

Cool, crisp cucumbers are perfect in summer salads or on their own with sour cream and fresh dill, and if you can grow this classic British vegetable in your own garden, they taste even better!

Types of Cucumbers

Standard cucumbers are often called slicers. Slicers are usually 6-9 inches (15-23 cm) long, but may be as short as four (10 cm) and as long as 14 (36 cm) inches. "Burpless" varieties have been bred to avoid a common side effect.

Pickling cukes are usually shorter (6 inches or 15 cm) and "blockier" than slicing cucumbers, and have a bumpy or spiny skin. They're also crunchier, which is why they're best for pickling. Some cucumber varieties are bred to be good for both slicing and pickling.

Gherkins are actually the fruits of the 'West Indian Gherkin' (Cucumis anguria), a close relative of the cucumber, which produces 1-3 inch long (25-76 mm) spiny fruits. Gherkins are grown just like cucumbers. Many pickles called "gherkins", however, are made from regular pickling varieties.

Round, yellow "lemon cucumbers" are about the size of a tennis ball. Lemon cucumbers are sweet and don't contain as much of the chemical that can make some cucumbers bitter. They also make colourful pickles.

English hothouse (also called Dutch or European) cucumbers have a ridged or smooth skin, virtually no seeds, and do not require peeling. As the name implies, they are usually grown in greenhouses. Japanese cucumbers, which are also long, slender, thin-skinned, and virtually seedless, are a good substitute.

Armenian cucumbers (Cucumis melo) are long and light green with thin, ridged skins that also don't need peeling. Asian cucumbers come in a wide variety of lengths, colours, and flavours.

Cucumber varieties include:

  • 'Marketmore 76' (slicer, 70 days)
  • 'Straight Eight' (slicer, 55-65 days)
  • 'Bush Champion' (compact bush, 60-70 days)
  • 'Smart Pickle' (pickling, 50-55 days)
  • 'Big Burpless' (hybrid slicer, 12-14" (30-36 cm) fruits, 55 days)
  • 'Lemon' (round yellow, 3 inch or 8 cm fruit, 65 to 70 days)
  • 'White Wonder' (white fruits, 35-60 days)
  • 'Summer Dance' (Japanese, 10" or 25 cm fruits, 70 days)
  • 'Armenian' (12-18" or 30-46 cm fruits, 60-70 days)

Growing Requirements

Cucumbers are a warm-weather crop and should be planted two weeks after last frost, as they are susceptible to chilling injury. Wait for the soil temperature to reach 65° before planting. Cucumbers will germinate at temperatures between 60°-105°F (16°-41°C).

Cucumbers like well-drained soil rich in organic matter with a pH of 5.5-6.8. Cucumbers are heavy feeders. Dig in two shovels full of compost for each plant or hill.

Planting Cucumbers

Cucumber plants are either vining varieties with long vines or bush varieties with shorter vines. Cucumbers may be planted in hills or grown on supports such as trellises, fences, or stakes. Choose vining varieties for growing on supports.

The most common way to grow cucumbers is in hills. Hills provide warmer soil and good drainage. Dig a hole 18 inches (46 cm) wide and a foot (30 cm) deep. Add compost to create a mix of half soil, half compost, and fill the hole with this mixture, creating a six-inch-high (15 cm) mound. Plant five to six seeds per hill, one inch (25 mm) deep in a ring on top of the hill. When the seedlings are about three weeks old, thin them to the two or three strongest plants per hill. Snip off rather than pull out the unwanted plants, so as not to disturb the roots of the remaining plants. Allow 18 inches (46 cm) between hills for bush varieties and 36 inches (91 cm) for trailing varieties.

To grow cucumbers vertically on a trellis, fence, or stake, the support should be 4-6 foot tall. Growing cucumbers vertically can increase production and save space. For trellising, sow seeds at the base of the trellis, one inch (25 mm) deep, three inches (8 cm) apart. Thin to one foot (30 cm) apart. To grow on a stake, train a primary runner to the stake and tie at 12-14 inch (30-36 cm) intervals like a tomato plant. Cucumbers can also be trained to grow on a wire mesh arch.

To get a jump start on the season, start seeds indoors. Sow two to three seeds 1/2 (12 mm) deep in a small pot. Thin to the strongest plant. After hardening off, transplant in the garden at the above spacing. Be careful transplanting, as cucumbers do not like their roots disturbed. Growing in peat pots and transplanting pot and all will solve this problem. Cucumbers contain about 90% water, so it's no surprise that they need plenty of watering.

Why not plant an exotic variety of cucumber in your garden this season and perk up those summer salads!

Want to Know More?

Read our feature Squash, Cucumbers, and the Cucurbits on this site for more information on cucumbers.

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[Add a Comment]
please help me someone, just taken a f1 burp less cucumber to eat, I found ahorrid white hard substance at the bottom of the cucumber bit like lime scale to look at, cut the cucumber in half no disease or discolour, cucumber tastes fined this is my first attempt with an f1 , I normally use market more x but was convinced to try these f1 . I have 1 cucumber and 1 tomato plant in a very big pot growing in my greenhouse fed as normal watered every day, can someone please help me if possible, cheers Mark
sparky - 13-Jul-15 @ 8:27 PM
shuff - 22-Jul-13 @ 6:53 AM
hi i am growing yellow cucumbers for the first time in my greenhouse i was looking on the internet about them it said in a greenhouse you take the male flowers of the plant but if growing them out side you leave the flowers alone is this true because i have never grown them before so please could you tell me what to do about flowering plants in greenhouse do i just leave them alone or do i take the male of the plant if so what do the male flowers look like to the female thanx
tilly - 29-Apr-13 @ 12:39 PM
I wish to grow Asian cumcumbers next year and I have got seeds imported from abroad. I just like these ones as they are bigger and more fleshy. Can you please give me any tips of how to grow them in UK. Thank you
navin - 10-Oct-12 @ 6:46 PM
@JOHNO Yellow cucumbers are not fit for consumption so do not eat it. Cucumbers can turn yellow because of a virus, over watering, nutrient imbalance or being over ripe.
Marg - 5-Jul-12 @ 2:30 PM
I am growing cucumbers for the first time in my greenhouse they are coming along really well...my question is that one of them is yellow can you tell me why this is?
JOHNO - 4-Jul-12 @ 9:17 PM
Just gone to greenhouse and found that cucumbers, aubergine and melons have developed wilting leaves with pale green spots. Does anyone have any idea what is the cause. One theory is something called Anthacnose?Would really appreciate some help with this. Thank you
helpinghubby - 20-Jun-12 @ 3:31 PM
Cucumer plans should not be watered every day, unless you live in an area that's s extremely dry with constant over 100 degree temperature.The reason they are flowering and losing them and not fruiting is too much water.The soil should be kept somewhat damp, so watering once every 2 to 3 days should be plenty - just make sure each time you give plenty of water very slowly to reach 12 to 18 inch deep.The roots are not that deep, but this will keep the soil moist for a few days.
Jack - 10-Jun-12 @ 2:34 PM
Thanks for this info, i found it most heplful.
Jeff - 1-May-12 @ 2:01 PM
I see lots of great questions but no answers, where can I find the answers? I started japanese cucumbers and early on got 2 beautiful cukes.delicious, now I have lots of flowers and no new cucumbers.I am watering daily, they are in a raised bed. I feed them a little miracle grow every few weeks now that the soil has used up the nutrients it came with [lasts 3 months, but I didn't wait three whole months as the bed is full.] thanks
jude - 20-Aug-11 @ 7:24 PM
Hi. I have 2 cucumber plants growing in my greenhouse in West Yorks but both are now wilting and I think I'm over or under watering?? I have had about 4 cues from the F1 variety ( normal length) and about 6 or more from the miniature variety but both are showing signs of mould and the leaves are completely wilted on the full sized variety. I have shaded them when really hot and watered the floor of the greenhouse too - with an automatic opener for ventilation. Please can someone help me on how to keep the plants growing for longer?
librarylottie - 11-Aug-11 @ 4:44 PM
I grow 4 cucumber plants in the greenhouse. All plants where doing quite well, but now the leaves are drying up an fruits are going yellow at about 1 inch long. I water them every night. What can I do?
ulla - 12-Jul-11 @ 7:23 AM
Have had 4 cucumbers from plant, but now the new ones seem to be going brown, mouldy looking and not growing.What do I do???
DAVE - 9-Jul-11 @ 2:58 PM
First time growing miniature cucumbers in greenhouse. Very successful until yesterday when the leaves started to wilt. Is there a special way to water this plant. Obviously I have done something very wrong and would leikt to know for next year.
Lillian - 4-Jul-11 @ 9:11 PM
I have 2 large cucumbers at bottom of plant ready for eating, others are forming but then going mouldy? I am growing in a greenhouse, any advise please?
pompey - 26-Jun-11 @ 10:00 AM
Growing marketmore cucumbers. Have produced 3 fruits on all plants but new fruits further up the stems are going yellow at about 10cm long and wilting. What could be the likely cause?
DAVE - 22-Jun-11 @ 1:59 PM
What sort of fertilisers and insectiside you would need for growing English ( Common ones availble in all stores) and Spanish ( White) cucumbers
Nav - 4-Jun-11 @ 5:27 PM
Thanks for this info, i found it most heplful.
Jeff - 6-May-11 @ 9:33 PM
Great to learn about how to rotate vegetables and how it helps break down the life cycle of pests and diseases. Thank you very much for that information, I now know how I can rotate my vegetables.
beche - 1-Apr-11 @ 6:42 AM
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