How to Grow Cucumbers

Cucumbers are subtropical plants with a fantastic fresh taste. In addition to being fantastic in salads, cucumbers can also be pickled.

They’re highly nutritious – and are also used as beauty aids.

You can have home-grown cucumbers throughout the summer with our easy to follow growing guide.

When to plant cucumbers

Plant out your seeds in early spring if you have a heated greenhouse to grow the plants in; plant slightly later in mid-spring if your greenhouse is unheated, or if you are planting in a cold frame or straight outdoors.

Cucumbers need full sun and fertile, moisture-retentive soil. Choose the seed variety or plug plants which will be right for your needs and garden environment.

How to plant cucumbers

To grow from seed, fill a 7 to 8 cm pot with seed compost, then use a dibber to create a small 2 cm planting hole. Plant two seeds in the hole. Place them on their sides. Cover in with compost and water. Ideally use a propagator as a source of even temperatures; otherwise, a windowsill or the top of the fridge will still aid germination. Keep the soil moist and use a stick or cane to give support. In 6 to 7 days the seeds should germinate – remove the smaller of the two seedlings.

To plant out, indoor varieties should be planted two to a growing bag in late May (for unheated greenhouses) or as early as March if you have a heated greenhouse. As cucumbers are very sensitive to frost, outdoor varieties should not be planted out until early summer. Acclimatise the plants in the run-up to planting out by using a cold frame, or a shaded location covered with protective fleece. Pre-dig holes with organic matter, 30 cm deep by 45 cm wide. Mound each hole and plant 2-3 plug plants on each. Provide with a frame and train the plants to it; alternatively, allow the plants to trail across the ground. Water regularly and feed with tomato fertiliser.

Pinch out growing tips to encourage side branches to grow, increasing the number of fruits the plant will produce. Keep the soil moist, and use a high-potash fertiliser fortnightly during the fruiting period.

Harvesting Cucumbers

Use a sharp knife or secateurs to harvest a cucumber. Don’t allow the fruit to become too big, as the larger cucumbers grow the less flavour they possess and the more likely it will be that they turn bitter.

A yellowing cucumber has passed its harvest period. Indoor varieties may produce a yield through into October; outdoors the harvest will finish by the middle of September.

Through the year

According to the variety, male and female flowers will appear, or only female flowers will develop.

The flowers should be left on outdoor plants, whereas the male flowers should be pinched off on indoor plants. The cucumber fruits will grow and swell beneath the female flowers.

Handy Tips

One pest to watch out for is the cucumber beetle, particularly when seedlings first grow up. Look for signs of bacterial wilt.

If identified, use natural pest control.

Ready to plant your own vegetables now you know how to grow cucumber? Take a look at our vegetable seed collection.