It’s easy to grow delicious, crisp cucumbers in pots or containers! Here’s how to plant, grow, and harvest amazing, crunchy cucumbers in containers.
Cucumber is a great vegetable for small-space gardeners–in fact, it’s one of the 5 Best Vegetables for Container Gardening. Cucumbers are easy to grow, produce tons of vegetables (technically, they are fruits) and they come in many delicious varieties.
Here’s everything you need to know about planting, growing, and harvesting cucumbers in containers.
Growing Cucumbers in Containers
How much sun do cucumber plants need?
The great part about growing cucumber in containers is that you can place your pots anywhere in your yard, to get the best sunlight. Cucumbers need 6 or more hours of sun each day for maximum growth.
However: too much sun for too long will prevent fruit from setting. If temperatures exceed 90F for more than 3 days, move the planter so they get afternoon shade–or consider a rigging up a shade cloth to keep the plants cool.
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Do cucumbers need a lot of water?
Cucumbers have shallow roots and require regular watering, especially during flowering and fruiting. You may need to water daily–stick your finger in the soil before watering.
If the soil is damp or wet about two inches below the surface, you don’t need to water. If the soil is dry, then water the base of the plant gently with a rain wand (I love my Dramm Rain Wand) or a watering can. Don’t water the leaves because it can encourage powdery mildew, which can ruin your plants.
Mulching is helpful in retaining moisture and keeping weeds down. If plants don’t get enough water, cucumbers may be curved and bitter.
What kind of soil should I use?
Please don’t scoop up a bunch of dirt from your yard for your container of cucumbers. Garden soil is too dense and could have fungus, microbes, seeds, bugs, or other critters that will damage your plants.
It’s important to choose the right soil for your container garden, so your vegetables will grow well. Because the plants are growing in a confined space, you want to be sure the soil is the very best it can be. Here’s how to choose the best soil for your container garden.
Planting & Spacing
You’ll want to use a container that’s at least 15 gallons for your cucumber plant. I particularly like this planter from Bloem which has a self-watering insert. If you think you’ll need to move your pots during the growing season, you can also get this nifty rolling saucer to put under the planter.
Plant your cucumber seeds or seedlings in the spring, when soil temperature is between 70-85°F. Not sure when you should plant? You need a vegetable planting schedule that’s customized for your area and climate. Click the image to get one for your garden.
If you’re planting from seed, make a hole about 1” deep, plop the seed inside, and pat the soil over gently. Your seeds will sprout in 7-10 days.
If you’re planting a seedling, make a large hole about 2” deep, loosen the roots of the seedling, and place into the hole. Fill the hole with soil and pat gently. Give them a little bit of EB Stone Sure Start to get them started with extra nutrients.
All squash plants have large leaves and really like to spread out. Plant one cucumber plant per pot, so there’s room for the roots to grow and for the leaves to spread.
Cucumbers need a trellis to climb on. This will keep the fruit off the ground and away from critters. The cucumbers will also grow straighter, and air flow will help prevent mildew. A tomato cage is easy and will fit neatly in your 15-gallon container.
What kind of cucumber grows best in a container?
Not all cucumber plants will grow well in containers. You want a compact variety that won’t make giant, six-foot vines. Here are the best varieties of cucumber to grow in containers.
Can I plant a cucumber from the store to grow more cucumbers?
Sadly, no. Most store-bought cucumbers are hybrids, which means the seeds–even if fertile–will not grow true and the plant will not set fruit. Better to spend a few dollars and get a packet of Tasty Green cucumber seeds.
Cucumber Pests and Diseases
There are a few kinds of bugs that like to attack cucumbers. Common pests include slugs and snails, cucumber beetles, and aphids.
Snails and slugs can be exterminated in a variety of ways. Here are mine, in order of preference:
- Offer your kids a bounty for every one they squish. Send them out hunting at dusk with a flashlight for best results.
- My aunt glued a row of pennies along the top edge of all her raised beds to keep the snails out. Apparently, the copper reacts with the snail’s slime to produce a mild electric shock. I haven’t tried this to be sure it works, but it does make a great conversation starter.
Aphids are common, and relatively easy to manage with natural methods. Read more about natural ways to get rid of aphids.
Cucumber beetles look like yellow ladybugs, but can be differentiated by their long antennae.
They can spread squash mosaic virus, and are generally bad news. An infestation in a home garden is rare but difficult to control. The UC Department of Agriculture gives some insecticide recommendations here.
Downy mildew and powdery mildew are caused by different fungi, and are hard to treat. It’s best to prevent them by keeping the leaves dry. Water at the base of the plant rather than with an overhead sprinkler. Work with the plants and harvest after the morning dew has dried.
It takes cucumbers about 60 days to grow from seed to harvest size.
Slicing cucumbers should be harvested when between 6-8 inches long, and pickling cucumbers when less than 3 inches long. Cut the stem, rather than pulling, when the fruit is at the right size.
Don’t leave overgrown cucumbers on the vine, as that will tell the plant to stop producing.
If you grow more cucumbers than you can eat, share your bounty with your local food bank! Food banks don’t often get donations of fruits and vegetables, and their clients will welcome the fresh food. You can find your local food bank at Feeding America.org.