Cool, crisp cucumbers are one of the joys of summer—and they're even more delicious when you've grown them yourself. With just a few supplies and basic care, you can plant cucumbers in your garden or backyard. Here's how to grow your own cucumbers at home.
Meet the Expert
Alexandra Jones is a certified master gardener in Philadelphia. As an indoor and outdoor gardener, Jones is an author in topics like gardening, climate, urban farming, and sustainability.
- Working Time: 30 minutes to one hour
- Total Time: One to two hours
- Skill Level: Beginner
When to Plant Cucumbers
In colder regions, it's recommended to seed cucumbers indoors four to five weeks before your growing zone's last frost date, then transplant seedlings outdoors once soil and air temperatures warm up. You can also direct seed cucumbers outdoors once the soil is at least 70 degrees.
In warmer parts of the country, cucumbers can be planted as early as February or March through midsummer. In temperate regions, they can be planted in April, May, or June. Regardless of your growing zone, frost will kill cucumber plants. Be sure to wait until after the last frost date for your area to plant them outdoors and temperatures are above 65 degrees.
Depending on the variety, cucumbers will be ready to harvest approximately 55 to 70 days from planting. Stagger plantings every few weeks in spring for a consistent supply of cucumbers through the summer.
Before Getting Started
Before you plant cucumbers, make sure you have a spot in your garden with ideal conditions for your plantings to thrive.
Choose a site with full sun (at least six hours per day), ideally with a southern or western exposure. Cucumbers grow best in loose sandy loam soil, but they can do well in any well-drained soil. Because cucumber roots grow three to four feet deep into the soil, try to find a spot far from tree roots that might outcompete your plants for water and nutrients.
Choose the Right Cucumber Variety
You'll also want to decide what kind of cucumbers to plant, as different varieties grow differently and can be used for different purposes.
Depending on how much space you have, you can allow cucumber plants to spread and grow along the ground or trellis them up a fence, pergola, or other support structure. Bush varieties of cucumber have a more compact growth habit and don't need to be trellised, so they may be better for smaller spaces. Vining cucumbers need something to climb.
Slicing cucumbers are larger, which makes them good for salads, snacking, and quick pickles. Pickling varieties like Kirby are smaller, with a thinner skin that makes them ideal to pickle whole. Both are available as bush or vining varieties.
Tools and Supplies You Will Need
Before you begin, gather the following materials:
- Cucumber seeds or seedlings
- Spade or shovel
- Clean gardening shears
- Gardening gloves
- Trellis (optional, can be made of wood, wire, string, or fencing material)
Step 1: Ready the Site for Planting
Remove rocks, sticks, trash, or other debris and pull any weeds or unwanted plants from the area. Use your shovel to loosen the soil by inserting your shovel eight to 12 inches and turning it over throughout the entire bed. To ensure good drainage, mound the soil to create ridges four to six inches tall and spaced three feet apart.
Step 2: Plant Cucumbers
Use a stick or your finger to create a one-inch-deep furrow in the center of each of the prepared ridges. If planting seedlings, follow the directions that came with the plant to ensure proper spacing for the variety you chose.
Step 3: Care for Cucumber Plants
If planting seeds, plant a group of three to four seeds every foot going down the ridge, then cover them gently with soil and pat it gently to keep the seeds in place. Once seedlings are four inches tall, thin them so only one plant is growing in each spot. Use garden shears to cut unwanted seedlings off at the soil line rather than pulling them up to avoid disturbing roots.
Water the seeds deeply after planting. Water regularly if it doesn't rain to keep the soil consistently moist. Do your best to avoid getting the leaves wet to help prevent fungal diseases such as powdery mildew. Keep an eye out for signs of pest damage, like spotted, holey, or yellowing leaves, and treat infestations with insecticidal soap.
As the cucumbers grow, be sure to weed the soil around the plants. Once the vines are about 10 inches long, apply organic fertilizer according to package directions. If you're growing a vining cucumber variety, install a trellis at this point so the growing vines have something to climb. Here are some creative ways to trellis cucumbers.
If a very small cucumber plants grows flowers, it's best to pinch them off. This helps the plant put energy into growing vines and leaves so the plant will be strong enough to grow flowers and fruit later in the season.
Step 4: Harvest Cucumbers
Cucumbers are ready to harvest when the fruits are full size. For slicing varieties, fruits are typically mature when they are six to eight inches long. Pickling cucumbers can be harvested when they are anywhere from two to five inches long depending on the variety.
Make sure to harvest cucumbers when they are green for the best flavor and texture. If they sit on the vine too long, they will become oversized and yellow, which leads to poor texture, large seeds, and a bitter flavor.