Fruit and vegetables taste best when you grow them yourself. Growing cucumbers in pots is a great way to enjoy their fresh, homegrown. It is also a great choice if space is limited or your soil is poor. If you are growing cucumbers in pots, you can also better control the heat and moisture levels that the cucumbers are exposed to.
Members of the cucurbitaceae family, along with squash and melon, cucumbers produce long sprawling vines. Despite this, cucumbers grow well in pots. As we will explain in this article, the key is to select a compact variety cucumber plant. You will also need to train its vines along a trellis or some form of support.
Growing cucumbers in containers to have an upward habit also means that there is more space at the bottom, allowing you to grow another crop. Elevated fruit is also easier to harvest.
Cucumbers are known for their sprawling growth habit. Despite this cucumbers are ideally suited to planting in pots. This method enables gardeners to better control the surrounding conditions, providing everything developing cucumbers need.
Common Types of Cucumbers
There are several common types of cucumbers that you can get, and each one will serve a slightly different purpose. They include:
Eating too many cucumbers in one sitting can cause you to burp. This is due to the cucumber’s flesh, especially those cucumbers that have thicker skins because they have a toxic compound in them called cucurbitacins. These compounds are what give cucumbers the bitter taste. Scientists believe that stressed plants due to extreme water or heat develop a thicker skin, and this leads to a higher amount of cucurbitacins. However, these compounds do repel pests and diseases.
Growers have taken to cross-pollinating cucumbers to develop this specific variety. They have thinner skins than slicing cucumbers do, and they should make your burp less. A few examples include:
- Burpless Hybrid – This is a slender and long variety of cucumber that offers a mild, crisp flesh.
- Orient Express – This cucumber is easy to digest, including the skin, and you get a very mild, crunchy flavor profile.
- Sweet Slice – It has a non-bitter, sweet, and crisp taste with a tender, thin skin.
If you only have a small deck or patio handy, bush cucumbers are a great choice. The foliage usually only gets between one and three-feet high, and you can put a trellis into the area to keep them from sprawling around the ground. Having them in containers also makes it easy enough to keep them thriving in the sun, and they’re less prone to issues with disease or pests.
However, this cucumber variety does tend to eat nutrients in the soil quickly if you put them into containers instead of in the garden. You’ll have to add a plant food mix every 10 to 14-days and vegetable soil to keep them happy. A few varieties you can consider include:
- Bush Champion – This is a small, bushy plant with flavorful fruit.
- Bush Crop – This bushy plant gets up to three feet tall and produces tender, crisp fruit.
- Bush Whopper – You’ll get a heavy yield with this mounded-shaped cucumber.
- Fanfare – This is a dwarf variety with early maturity, and you get smooth skin with a strong taste.
- Pot Luck – This is a heavily producing, short-vined plant that has whtie spines with tapers on one end.
- Salad Bush – This is a smaller growing bush with slicing cucumbers.
- Spacemaster – You get compact, short vines with dark green, smooth cucumbers
These cucumbers are stout and short, and they have a much drier interior than you’ll get with slicing cucumbers. This helps them soak up the pickling brine, and many grocery stores carry this brand on a seasonal rotation basis. The freshest onese make the best pickles, so you want to pickle them as soon as you can once you harvest them. Try to pick ones that are similar in shape and size to get uniform crunchiness.
It can also pay to be picky and pick cucumbers that have a good crunch and are firm. If you put too young cucumbers into the brine, they won’t be able to soak as much up. If the cucumbers are too old, they’ll have a tough skin and be bitter. A few examples of these cucumbers include:
- Homemade Pickles Pickling Cucumbers – This is an heirloom variety with a uniform shape and size.
- National Pickling – This type resists scabs, and it’s tolerant of the cucumber mosaic virus
- Wautoma – This is a burpless variety that is disease-resistant and very good for brining
Many people will recognize this type of cucumber as being straight, long vegetables. They’re usually seven to eight-inches long with a very dark green skin. They have the thickest skins, and they’re one of the biggest varieties available. This is also one of the most popular cucumber types in grocery stores. The thick skins and bigger size lend them a longer shelf life, and this makes them excellent for shipping while keeping them fresh.
The skins are edible and not bitter, but they’re also not tasty. You’ll see random bumps and spines across the cucumber, and you can use them for pickling too. They have a refreshing, cool, and crisp taste profile, and it can enhance your sandwiches, salads, and wraps. There are dozens of varieties available, but the most common are:
- Ashley – A heirloom variety with a light green, thin skin
- Chelsea Prize – You’ll get a thin-skinned, sweet, and burpless fruit with a few seeds
- Chinese Snake – Another burpless and non-bitter cucumber variety that has a curved shape
- Green Fingers Persian – This cucumber starts early, is never bitter, and never needs peeling
- Marketmore 76 – This is a hearty variety that resists weather, disease, and mildew
- Muncher – A heirloom variety that you won’t need to peel, and it is almost always seedless if you harvest it early in the season
- Straight 8 – Another heirloom cucumber that you want to harvest young
- Tendergreen – This is a disease-resistant and tasty cucumber that grows very well in arid, hot climates
Choosing the Correct Container for Planting
This rule applies to whatever fruit or vegetable you are cultivating in a container – the bigger the better. Large containers hold more soil. This means that they have more space for the plants roots to spread. The cucumbers also retain moisture better. This is particularly vital if you are growing cucumber in pots.
Container grown cucumbers require lots of water to grow correctly. A large pot will provide the plants with a consistent level of moisture. A 5 gallon container is ideal. Self watering containers, or earth boxes, are a great option for container cucumbers. A more natural approach is to grow the plants in a straw bale garden. Cucumbers are generally easy to grow.
The process of growing cucumbers in containers is partly dictated by the size of your pot and the variety of cuc you are growing. Larger containers are able to house more plants or larger types of cucumbers. Generally a 5 gallon container, roughly 20 inches in diameter, will hold two to three plants. A smaller 10 inch deep pot for planting container cucumbers will comfortably hold one plant.
Make sure you choose a container large enough to hold the variety you are planting. Vining or large types of cucumbers will require more space than dwarf or shrub varieties. Your chosen container should also be clean and have drainage holes in the bottom.
Fill your pot with good quality potting soil or potting mix. Soil can be further enriched by working in some organic material such as homemade compost. A rich soil and potting mix will not only help to keep the plants well fed, it will also retain moisture better than poor or garden soil.
Types of Cucumbers
There are two types of cucumber plants, bush cucumbers and vining cucumbers. Bush cucumbers or compact varieties are best for growing cucumbers in containers if space is limited. However cucumbers don’t yield as heavily as vining varieties.
To extend the season, and increase your harvest, sow or plant bush varieties in succession. If you have an ample amount of space, and a large container, you can try to grow vining cucumbers.
One of the most reliable is Saber F1. Ideal for urban areas where bees are rarer, this variety doesn’t require pollination. Maturing in 55 days it produces fruit that is 8-9 inches long. Another variety that doesn’t require pollination is h-19 Little Leaf. A pickling variety, its compact fruit, 3-4 inches long, will mature in about 58 days.
Paraiso F1 is a heavy yielding variety, its 10 inch long fruit will mature in 59 days. For something more unusual, Poona Kheera is an Indian variety. With attractive, golden skin the fruit of this variety is crisp and juicy. Another reliably productive plant, it will begin to fruit within 50 days, and can climb to heights of about 6ft.
Lemon Cucumber produces sweet, small, yellow fruit that can be eaten fresh or pickled. Diva is parthenocarpic which means it doesn’t require pollination. A popular variety because it is disease resistant and a reliable producer, it takes 58 days to mature.
Suyo, Salad Bush, Burpless, Early Pik, Sweet Success and Liberty are also all popular varieties for planting in container gardens.
Take the time to find a variety that suits your conditions as well as your own personal taste. You will find that there are plenty of options to choose from. Growing cucumbers in containers is not as restrictive as you may think.
How to Grow Cucumbers From Seed
Regardless of whether you are growing cucumbers in containers or raised beds, remember that cucumbers are hot weather plants. Cucumber seeds can be sown early undercover. If you want to sow the cucumber seeds outside, in their final position wait until the soil has warmed and the last local frost date has passed.
Plant your chosen seeds undercover from early March. Seeds are best sown individually into small biodegradable containers. The seedlings can later be planted in their final position, still in the biodegradable container. This reduces the chances of you accidentally disturbing the roots while transplanting and causing transplant shock.
Fill the containers with fresh, general purpose compost. Plant each seed to a depth of about half an inch to an inch. Water the seeds well and cover with a clear plastic bag.
Sow two or three seeds in each container. This will safeguard against some seeds failing. Should all the seeds germinate carefully pick out the weakest seedlings and allow the strongest plant to grow on.
Place the seeds in a sunny position. Keep the soil moist.
Germination will usually occur within 10 days. Following germination, remove the plastic bag and place the containers or trays on a windowsill.
When the seedlings are at least 2 inches high the cucumbers can be transplanted into a container. When transplanting try to handle the seeds as gently as possible. Cucumber plants are sensitive to any form of disturbance. If the transplanting process is too traumatic it can cause the plants to fail.
Alternatively, you can plant your cucumber seeds straight into the container. If the containers are outside you should first warm the soil by covering it with soil or a plastic bag for about two weeks. When the soil feels warmer you can sow the seeds. Cucumbers need the warmth to grow.
Sow as per the previous instructions. However because you are sowing the seeds in their final position, space each seed roughly 40 inches apart. The exact spacing will vary depending on the variety you want to grow – check the seed packet before sowing.
Cucumber Care Guide
Growing cucumbers in containers is largely the same as cultivating the plants in the ground or a raised bed.
When you grow cucumbers, remember that cucumbers need sunny positions and warm temperatures. Cucumbers need at least 6 hours of sunlight.
Also, cucumbers are heavy feeders and need some slow release fertilizer – an organic fertilizer such as liquid kelp or fish emulsion, such as Neptune’s Harvest Organic Hydrolized Fish and Seaweed Fertilizer can be applied. Alternatively try making your own liquid plant feed at home. Liquid plant feeds are particularly useful because they can be easily incorporated into your watering routine.
Like in the soil, cucumbers in containers do best when the temperature averages 70 to 95 ℉. Do not plant cucumbers until soil temperatures are at least 70 ℉, and wait until two weeks after the last spring frost.
If you are unable to provide constant temperatures outside, try to grow cucumbers undercover. A greenhouse, cold frame or even a light windowsill are all great places for cultivating temperature sensitive plants.
The most important thing to remember is that these plants thrive in moist soil. Regular watering of the plants is vital. Check the soil every morning, if it feels dry to the touch water the plants thoroughly.
When watering the plants, only water the soil. Damp leaves can be a breeding ground for disease.
You can amend the soil with a granular fertilizer as you transplant the seedlings. Feed once a fortnight with a balanced liquid fertilizer, during the growing season. Organic options can also be used. Alternatively you can make your own liquid plant feed or compost tea at home.
As we have already discussed, cucumbers are very sensitive. Cucumbers dislike any disturbance around their base. This can make weeding difficult. A homemade weed killer is a great way to keep soil weed free. Easy to apply, because it is made at home you know exactly what is in it, meaning that you aren’t adding any unpleasant chemicals to the garden. Homemade solutions are just as effective as commercial controls.
Cucumbers emerge from spent flowers. Be careful when tending your plants not to damage or remove any flowers. Removing flowers will impact on the amount of fruit you will be able to harvest.
A trellis will help you to make the most of the plants vining habit. A tomato cage can make the ideal trellis if you are want to grow cucumbers. The best time to install the trellis is when you transplant the seedlings, or sow the seeds if you are sowing into the final position. Installing the support early means that you won’t risk damaging the roots of the plant later on. As the vines grow tie them loosely to the support. Don’t tie vines too tightly, this can damage the cucumbers.
Vining varieties in particular will require lots of sturdy support. This is especially important when the plants are in fruit and are naturally more top heavy. Adequate support will prevent the plants from toppling or snapping. It will also raise fruit from the ground, protecting it from soil borne pests and diseases. Monitor for pests and diseases carefully.
When the main stem reaches the top of the trellis pinch out the growing point. Side shoots should be pinched out when two leaves have emerged beyond the female flower. The female flower is easily identifiable, you will notice small fruit forming behind the flower. Flowerless side shoots can be pinched out when the cucumbers reach 2ft in length.
Just because you grow cucumbers in pots doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from companion planting. Cucumbers do well alongside, or close to, carrots, beets, radishes, onions, peas, corn and beans.
If you grow cucumbers in large pots, try planting smaller crops such as lettuce or radishes in the same container. This is a great way of getting the most out of your soil. Just be careful not to disturb the root system of the cucumber.
Cucumbers struggle when grown close to melons, potatoes and sage.
Common Cucumber Problems
Once established cucumbers are largely problem free. Cucumber beetles and squash bugs are the two most common problems. Regularly check plants for signs of infestation. An application of neem oil or soapy water with baking soda will cure most infestations. To prevent pests like cucumber beetles from striking, cover young plants with a garden fabric or mesh until the cucumbers begin to flower.
Powdery mildew, a white powder like substance that covers the leaves, can occur in overly humid locations. Properly spacing the plants, so that air can circulate, will help to prevent this issue. Powdery mildew can also be a sign that the plant is stressed.
Harvesting Cucumber Fruit
Depending on the variety it can take about twelve weeks from sowing the seeds to harvesting fruit. The fruit is ready to harvest when it reaches the desired size. If you are unsure how large your fruit should be, consult your seed packet. Many varieties can be harvested small. Some even taste better when the cucumbers are on the small or petite side.
When best to harvest cucumbers? The best time to harvest cucumbers is in the morning, before the temperatures increase too greatly.
Remove the fruit with a sharp knife or secateurs. Don’t pull fruit from the vine. This can damage the vine and lead to the plant becoming diseased.
Be careful when you harvest not to damage surrounding vines or younger fruit. Hold the fruit firmly in one hand and cut cleanly away from the plant with a sharp knife.
Cut as and when you want. Harvesting regularly will encourage more fruit to form.
Be careful not to leave fruit on the vine too long before harvesting. Old fruit can become soft or bitter. Overly ripe fruit can also be overly seedy.
Harvest Before Your Cucumbers Turn Yellow
You may spot a yellow hue on your cucumbers as you walk through your garden. Ideally, you don’t want to let your cucumbers turn yellow. If they do, this is usually a sign that they’re too ripe. When cucumbers get overripe, the green coloring that comes from the plant’s chlorophyll will start to fade, and this brings out the yellow hue. Cucumbers get more bitter the bigger they get, and yellow cucumbers are usually not something you’d want to eat.
A yellow cucumber can come from too much water, a viral infection, or a nutrient imbalance. In some cases, a yellow cucumber is derived from planting a yellow-fleshed plant. Lemon cucumbers are a good example of this, and they product lemon-shaped, small, pale yellow fruit.
How to Store Fruit
Harvested cucumber fruit can be stored in a fridge for no more than ten days. Wrapping the fruit in cling film, or placing in an airtight bag, will help to keep the moisture in. This can help to increase the longevity of the cucumber slightly. For longer storage, or if you find yourself with a glut of the fruit, the cucumbers can be pickled.
This is a great way to cultivate the container cucumbers. As well as helping you to provide the right conditions, container gardening is also a great way to get the most out of your space.
Cucumber Frequently Asked Questions
Cucumbers are very popular, and this has led people to ask a host of very good questions surrounding them. We’ve picked out a few popular cucumber questions and outlined them for you below.
1. What are cucumber health benefits?
Cucumbers are very low in calories, and they come packed with minerals and vitamins with a higher water content. Eating cucumbers can lead to several potential benefits for your health, including balanced hydration, weight loss, lower blood sugar levels, and digestive regularity.
2. How can you set up an ideal growing environment for your cucumber plants?
Cucumbers do tend to grow best in the ground in your garden, but you can have success putting them in planters too. They like to spread, so you’ll have to train the vines to grow vertically on trellises if you’re short on space. Pick out a pot that is a minimum of 16-inches deep and wide. Put this pot in full sun with protection from any strong winds.
3. How many cucumbers does one plant produce on average?
If you plant your cucumbers with the intent of slicing them and eating them fresh, you’ll want to have two to three plants per person in your house. A healthy plant will usually produce around 10 six-ounce cucumbers each. Heirloom cucumbers usually produce between two and three-pounds per plant.
4. Is it a good idea to pinch off cucumber flowers?
If you want more leaf and stem growth, you’ll pinch off the flowers, especially when your plant is young. Remove the flowers from the bottom of your plant so the plant will produce more cucumbers on the top of the plant to keep them off the ground.
5. What is the average lifespan of a cucumber plant?
You’ll grow your cucumbers as an annual, so it won’t come back after it goes through a single growing season. Once it lives out the 70-day average lifespan, it’ll die. You can’t regrow it. Since this plant isn’t tolerant of light frosts, your plant will die immediately if the temperatures dip below the freezing mark.
Growing in pots is a great way to cultivate this popular fruit. A great option for gardeners with poor soil, it also helps you to provide the ideal conditions for the fruit. By growing undercover you can ensure that the plants enjoy the temperatures and also extend the season by up to four weeks.