Cucumbers are one of the best plants to have in a garden. They grow relatively fast, and in the right conditions, they produce a lot of fruit.
If you’re not sure how to get started, you’re in the right place. Here is everything you need to know about growing a cucumber from a seed.
Table of Contents
Choosing The Perfect Cucumber Seeds to Grow
There isn’t a trick to finding the perfect seed, but you do have to pick the right type of cucumber. There is a range of cucumbers out there, but they all belong to one of the following types:
Pickling cucumbers, as their name suggests, are ideal for pickling. They’re small, growing to only about three to four inches long, and have thin skin and a lot of spines. Pickling cucumbers grow quickly and are ready for harvest after only a week or so of ripening on the vine.
Slicing cucumbers grow to about seven or eight inches and have much thicker and darker skin than pickling cucumbers. They take a little longer to ripen, but the plant bears fruit for much longer than a pickling cucumber plant does.
When choosing the perfect seed, the most important thing is to make sure you choose the type of cucumber you want to grow. There are at least 30 varieties of cucumber out there, so plant a variety of them and see what you like best.
There are also vining and bush cucumbers, so keep that in mind when choosing seeds. Vining cucumbers sprawl and take up a lot of space in your garden. Bush cucumbers are suitable for a pot or large container.
Planting Cucumber Seeds
You can plant cucumber seed directly into the ground, but their survival depends on a lot of variables. Many people choose to plant their cucumbers indoors in seed trays. This method gives you a lot of control over the environment which can lead to a successful crop.
When to Plant Cucumber Seeds
When to plant your cucumber seeds depends on the climate you live in, and the ideal time is four to six weeks before the last frost of the spring. Look at the weather history for where you live to get a rough idea of when this is.
How to Plant Cucumber Seeds Step – By – Step
Here’s what you need to begin the process:
- Seed-starting mix
- Seed cups or unwaxed paper cups for planting
- Plastic wrap
- Large tray
1. If you’re using paper cups or an egg carton, the first step is to use the pencil to poke three or four holes in the bottom. If you buy another type of cup specifically for planting seeds, make sure they have adequate drainage.
2. Fill each cup with a seed-starting mix. Seed-starting mix isn’t regular soil; instead, it has nutrients and minerals to help the seeds sprout and grow in the first few weeks. Don’t fill the cup to the top. Leave between a ½ inch to an inch of space.
3. Put two seeds in each cup. Place them in the center of the cup and bury them in the mixture. Read the seed packet to determine how deep to bury them. Each variety is different, and some have specific needs for depth.
4. Make sure that each seed is covered by lightly patting the soil. Then, line the cups up on the tray and water. The mixture should be moist but not saturated.
5. Use plastic wrap to cover the cups. You can either cover each cup individually or use a large piece of plastic wrap to cover the whole tray. After everything is covered, put the tray in a warm place where it will be out of the way. Large plant stands are ideal for this, or you use the top of your refrigerator or a high shelf.
6. Check the cups every day for the first week or so. Water them if the soil dries out. When most of the cups have sprouted, remove the plastic wrap, and move the tray to an area where it will get a lot of sun. Use an indoor grow light if needed.
7. Water the cups as needed and rotate the tray with each watering.
8. Trim the plant as needed. Since each cup has two seeds, each should produce two plants. Wait until each has grown two sets of leaves then trim off the weaker of the two plants. Doing so allows the strong plant to grow without competing for nutrients with the weaker one.
Cucumber Germination Time
Germination for cucumbers is pretty fast. Most methods, including the one described above, will have root growth in a day or two. Sprouts should appear soon after.
If you plant your seeds outside, they usually will not germinate until the soil is consistently about 70 degrees (21°C). Because you have less control over this, it takes much longer. You might wait up to three weeks to see any progress.
How to Care for Cucumber Seedlings
Make sure the seedlings get plenty of water. Keep the soil moist, but make sure it can drain properly and don’t overwater.
From the time you remove the plastic wrap, the seedlings need at least six hours of light every day, if not more. If the plants get leggy or weak, it likely means that they’re not getting enough sun. Supplement with a grow light if needed. Growing healthy seedlings is important for having healthy fruit-producing plants later.
Keep the seedlings warm, too. During the day, try to keep the temperature around 75 degrees F (°C) or so. At night, do not let it get below 60 (15.6°C). You can also place an oscillating fan near them to toughen the stems before the eventual move to outside.
How to Transplant Cucumber Seedlings
Remember that the seeds were planted in a special seed-starting mix. This mix support seeds as they grow roots and begin to sprout. Once they grow beyond this point, they require different soil.
The best thing to do is move the entire starter cup into a slightly larger pot filled with organic potting mix. This is one reason why we recommend paper cups, so you can easily and carefully tear them and peel them away from the planting mix and roots.
There are a few reasons for this. First, transplanting the entire cup, and not just the plant, minimizes the risk of shock and increases the odds of survival. The plants also need more room to grow a stronger root system that will enable you to transplant them outside successfully down the road.
That said, don’t go too big when you move them to a bigger pot. Choose one that is about an inch larger in diameter.
Before you can know for sure if your plants are ready to transplant outside, you should put them through a process called hardening off.
To do this, wait for a calm, dry day. Place your seedlings outside in indirect sunlight for about an hour. Do this every day, moving them slowly into direct sunlight. When the plant reaches a full day of direct sunlight, they are ready to transplant.
Removing the Cucumber Seedlings from the Seed Tray
This part of the process can be a little tricky. First, choose the plants that you want to transplant. After you have hardened off all of the seedlings, assess them carefully and choose those that are the strongest.
The best way to remove the seedlings from the seed tray or starter pots is to use a sharp gardening knife. Cut around the rim, and you should be able to easily pull out the plant.
Repeat this until you have the number of plants that you’re hoping to transplant. If you have a lot of space, you might want to transplant all of them, or if you’re limited, choose the healthiest looking ones.
Transplanting the Cucumber Seedlings into the Vegetable Garden
After you have your seedlings ready to go, it’s time to transplant them into the garden. Most of the soil should have come out when you removed the seedling from the pot. If the soil is packed and firm, gently loosen it a bit with your hand, being careful not to disturb the root.
Dig a hole that’s large enough to hold the seedling while keeping the top of the transplant level with the rest of the garden soil. Then, fill in around the hole with more soil or compost.
Do this until all of the seedlings are transplanted into the garden, then water them thoroughly.
Keep coming back to check on the plant every day or so. If you are planting vining cucumbers and want to keep them off the ground, add a trellis around the seedling and wrap the vine around it to get it started growing vertically.
Now that you know a little more about how to grow cucumbers from a seed, we hope it seems like something you can tackle. The process isn’t that hard, but it does take some time and patience.