No ground for growing? You can still pick fresh cucumbers for your cold salad. Cucumber vines may get tangled and unruly in containers, but other than that cukes are well suited to container growing.
Cucumber is a creeping vine that roots in the ground and climbs up trellises using tendrils. If not supported, it grows horizontally, sprawling along the ground.
Scientifically, the cucumber is a fruit, a type of pepo berry with a tough rind and no internal divisions. But, much like tomatoes and squashes, most people regard and eat it as a vegetable.
Cucumbers have a mild, refreshing taste and consist of up to 90% water. The fruit provides various nutrients and is low in fats, calories, sodium, and cholesterol.
What are the Different Types of Cucumbers?
Pickling and Slicing are the two major cucumber varieties. While Bush and Vining are the two major styles.
Pickling cucumbers are small and better for making pickles. Slicing cucumbers, on the other hand, are large and better for making salads, or for eating fresh.
|Well known varieties include:
||Well known varieties include:
Bush and Vining refer to the styles in which form the cucumbers assume.
Bush varieties are more compact, while vining varieties spread out in long vines.
Bush varieties are better suited for pots and containers. They are also more robust and adapt well to containers. But they will still need extra support through trellises and teepees.
What are the Best Cucumber Varieties for Growing in Containers?
Traditionally, cucumber vines grow in tangled masses over a large area. But with the use of containers, you can train the vines to climb a trellis or other supporting structure.
This reduces the likelihood of infection with soil-borne fungal diseases and pests.
The most popular cucumbers for container gardening include:
- Sweet Success
- Salad Bush
- Bush Slicer
- Early Pik
- Salty and Crispy
These varieties sure do get a massive thumbs up from gardeners from around the world.
How to Choose the Right Container to Grow Cucumbers
Cucumbers have deep root systems and need containers full of fertile soil that are at least 16 inches deep and 12 inches wide.
A large container allows the plant to develop extensive root systems. This, in turn, can lead to vigorous growth and increased yields.
A good rule of thumb to remember is, bigger is always better! Experts say that as little as an extra two inches in depth can double your harvest.
Self-watering planters are even better as they ensure your cucumbers won’t dry out. But, you will still need to monitor the soil’s moisture levels.
A pot of 20 inches in diameter can grow four to six cucumber plants. You can grow two to three plants in a five-gallon pail or one bush-type cucumber in a deep 10-inch pot.
Rectangular planters and window boxes are great for growing cucumbers too. But you will also have to set up trellises for the plants to climb upon.
What are the Ideal Conditions for Growing Cucumbers?
Other than picking the right containers, you will also need to ensure the following conditions for healthy cucumbers:
Fill your container three-quarters full with high-quality, well-drained soil mix. Don’t use regular garden soil. It is dense, slow to drain, and may contain pests and diseases. Soil rich in organic matter is ideal for growing cucumbers.
In order to grow, cucumbers need a soil pH of between 5.5 and 7.0. Should the soil pH fall below 5.5, adjust it using lime.
Cucumbers are warm-weather plants. They thrive in warm sunny locations with little to no high wind exposure.
Only plant them outdoors when the weather warms up, perhaps one or two weeks after the last spring frost. Remember, the ideal temperature for growing cucumbers is between 65 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
The cucumber fruit is over 90 percent water. Regular and deep watering is essential for growing healthy cucumbers.
But, when watering, remember to keep the leaves dry to avoid fungal infections due to moisture.
Additionally, you can also use a light layer of mulch around the base of the plant to improve moisture retention.
Cucumbers Need Fertilizer
Add an all-purpose, slow-releasing fertilizer to your potting soil when planting your cucumbers.
During flowering, side-dress the growing cucumbers with aged manure and follow it up with a balanced liquid fertilizer. Female flowers will appreciate the extra nutrients.
How to Plant Cucumbers in Containers
Step1: Install the support structures for the growing cucumbers in the pots. You don’t want to damage the growing cucumbers during or after germination. So it’s better to set these up beforehand.
Alternatively, you can set up the trellis behind the container.
Step 2: Mix in a one-inch layer of compost in the planting pot and ensure the soil is nice and loose up to at least 8 inches deep.
Step 3: Plant a cluster of 6-8 seeds about one and a half inches deep in the pots. Don’t cover them too much, or they will struggle to grow and break the surface after germination.
Step 4: When the seedlings have two sets of leaves, select two or three of the healthiest plants and pinch or snip off the others at ground level.
It is tempting to pull out the extras and plant them elsewhere, but you should NOT do that. Pulling out the seedlings will damage the roots of the remaining plants.
Step 5: Water the growing cucumbers regularly to maintain even soil moisture. Aim for irrigation equal to an inch of rainfall every three to four days.
Never let the soil dry out, or the plant will wilt.
Step 6: Train the cucumber vines to climb the support as they grow. You can do this by helping the vines twine around the support.
For vines that need help attaching to the support, you can gently tie the plant in place with soft, clean cloth strips.
Step 7: Increase mulch as the vines mature to help the soil better retain moisture.
Step 8: Fertilize the plants every 2-3 weeks using a diluted liquid fertilizer at the root zone when watering. Take care not to overfeed the plants though, this can cause lush foliage, but few flowers and fruits.
Can you Grow Cucumbers from a Cucumber?
The short answer is no. If the plant is a hybrid variety then the fruit will be less likely to produce the same as the original parent. And, if it does manage to grow, then the fruit may not set, or it might end up reverting to a different version of a previous plant.
Whereas if you choose an open-pollinated cucumber then the seed will eventually grow into a new plant, but it may take longer than expected for the seed to germinate.
How to Care for Potted Cucumbers
Cucumbers need warm and full sun. Ensure your plants get at least six hours of sunlight daily. This ensures they are strong, and boosts yields.
Keep in mind that that soil mix in potted plants dries out quicker than garden soil in the ground. Cucumbers like soil that contains organic matter and nutrients. The size of the containers and the spacing between the plants will also influence the amount of water needed.
Environmental conditions such as humidity, temperature, and wind will also influence the watering needs of the plant.
Best practice dictates that you should check the soil’s moisture content daily. You can do this by poking your finger into the top two inches of soil. If dry, give it a slow and even watering until water flows out the bottom of the container.
Note that it is much better to water the plants in the morning than in the evening.
What is the Best Time to Harvest Cucumbers?
Cucumbers grow very fast. Usually, it takes about twelve weeks from planting cucumbers to harvesting the first fruit of the season.
You will know it’s time to harvest the cucumbers, depending on their sizes. You can check your plant tag or seed packet for the ideal harvest size.
Depending on the type of cucumbers you are growing you can expect to harvest the fruit when they reach anywhere between four to 13 inches long.
Typically the fruit used for pickling is only a few inches long, while the fruit from salad varieties can be much longer.
Most cucumbers get bitter and seedy as they become overripe. So check your plants regularly for ripe cucumbers. Often the fruit is even tastier when small.
The best time to harvest cucumbers is in the morning before it gets too hot. The female flowers are easy to see as they have a slight bulge at their base which is the embryonic fruit.
When picking the cucumbers, avoid pulling them off the vines as this can damage the plant. Instead, use a pair of garden clippers, a sharp knife will also work.
Pick only what you can eat unless the fruit is getting too big. Remember, the more fruit you harvest, the more you will have.
Container-Grown Cucumber Pests and Diseases
Growing cucumber plants is often easy without much to worry about. However, there are a few things you ought to watch out for:
Powdery Mildew is a disease that presents like white powder sprinkled on the leaves of the cucumber plant. It occurs in humid conditions and when the plants are under stress.
Provide good air circulation to help prevent infections. And if you spot the disease, remove any affected leaves or fruit. If the infection persists, try either one of these home remedies:
- Mix one teaspoon of baking soda with a drop of dish soap and a quart of water. Spray the solution on the plants.
The mixture raises the leaf surface pH making it less hospitable to mildew spores
- Mix one part cow’s milk with nine parts water and use the solution as a foliar spray after each rain.
The enzymes in the milk dissuade the growth of fungus.
The yellow and black cucumber beetles are fast and destructive. They can munch through leaves and fruit. Thankfully, they are easy to control.
Spray them with neem oil, and destroy the orange eggs they lay on the underside of leaves to control them.
Squash bugs are large, brown or grey insects that feed on the juices from the leaves and also from the stems of cucumbers. Fortunately, they are quite slow and easy to pick and dispose of in soapy water.
Another way to prevent bug infestation is to cover your seedlings with garden fabrics until they start to flower. Some pests are carriers of diseases. That makes pest management all the more critical.
Growing any plant in your garden can be a challenging, yet rewarding undertaking. With so many variables and unknowns, every summer day can be challenging to know whether you are on the right track.