Do you want to enjoy the freshest cucumbers, but don’t have a large garden? Grow them in pots! The convenience and flexibility of container gardening make it perfect for adding freshness to a porch, balcony, or even windowsill.
Whether your goal is nutrition with minimum fuss or simply pride of labor, growing veggies can be an incredibly rewarding experience. To get key advice you need for successfully cultivating cucumbers inside a small space, learn these eleven key tips for growing cucumbers in pots!
When to Plant
It’s best to wait until the warm weather has arrived and the soil temperature is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. You can start your seeds indoors about four weeks before the last frost of the season, so they have time to germinate. Cucumbers may seem hardy, but they are quite sensitive to frost. A little nip in the air can quickly leave them weak and lifeless. When it’s warm enough outside (70 degrees Fahrenheit) you can move your potted cucumber plants outside.
Alternatively, you may opt to grow your cucumbers indoors, all year round! Optimal indoor temperature for cucumbers is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use a heating pad or keep them on a sunny windowsill.
Choose Your Variety
There are several varieties of cucumber plants that you can grow in containers. To decide which type is best for you, it’s important to understand the difference between bush and vining types.
Bush types are ideal if you don’t have much space, as they typically grow only two to three feet long, making them perfect for small pots or hanging baskets. They produce small, tasty fruit. Vining cucumbers require more room as they can grow up to 12 feet. You will need a trellis to keep them upright and growing in a container.
Some varieties of bush cucumbers are ‘Patio Snacker’ which is a slicing cumber variety and ‘Picklebush,’ a pickling cucumber.
Some popular vine cucumbers are ‘Diva,’ a slicing cucumber, and ‘Pick a Bushel Hybrid,’ a pickling cucumber.
Cucumber connoisseurs know that the difference between pickled and sliced cukes lies in their texture. Pickling cucumbers show off bumpy skins, while slicing varieties have smooth finishes with thin peels perfect for thinner cuts. Lucky, multiple sizes of slicing cukes can be used as pickling cucumbers depending on your flavor craving!
Get the Right Pot
When it comes to planting cucumbers in pots, size matters. The pot you use should be at least 16 inches deep and 14 inches in diameter. This gives your cucumber plants plenty of room for their roots to spread out so they can grow healthy and strong.
Ceramic or plastic are the best materials for these types of containers as they keep moisture better than other materials such as terracotta.
Whatever you choose, ensure the pot you use contains holes in the bottom so excess water can drain out. You can also use a grow bag if desired but be aware the evaporation rate will be higher. Rectangular planters work well for growing cucumbers too, as long as they are deep enough and have drainage holes in the base.
Pro Tip: To make sure your plants are well-nourished, line the bottom of their container with a piece of fiberglass screen. This not only retains soil but also keeps pesky bugs away from your cucumbers! For a biodegradable option, line your containers with coffee filters!
Select the Right Soil
A potting mix with lots of organic matter is ideal for cucumbers. Look for soil specifically designed for vegetables. If you can’t find one, use a mixture of half compost and half potting soil. Buy premium potting soil as less expensive varieties tend to break down quickly and don’t leave adequate room for the roots to breathe.
In lieu of expensive potting mix, you can also combine two parts peat with equal amounts of vermiculite or perlite, and one part sand. The addition of the heavier sand helps retain moisture and nutrients such as nitrogen, magnesium, and calcium for your plants.
Avoid using garden soil altogether as it compacts too much and will inhibit air and water from reaching the roots.
Don’t Forget the Trellis
Trellising your cucumber vines will give them the support they need and help you avoid common diseases and pest problems by keeping them off the ground and allowing air circulation.
For bush-type cucumbers, a large tomato cage can do the trick. For vining cucumbers, however, you’ll want to use a larger support system. A trellis that is ten feet tall works well, as does a welded wire panel or pea net of string with four-inch openings so the fruit doesn’t get stuck.
No matter what type of cucumber you’re planting, you’ll have an easier time with a proper trellis. It will help the cucumbers grow and give you fewer problems down the line.
The Right Fertilizer
A slow-release fertilizer like a 5-10-15 is ideal for vegetables. Mix this into your soil before planting your seeds and so your cucumber plants will receive all the nutrition they need as they grow. You may also want to consider adding liquid fertilizers every two weeks, depending on the label instructions.
Do not overfertilize your plants. Overfertilizing may lead to stunted growth of the fruit. Some signs of overfertilization are wilting or yellowing of the leaves, rotting roots, and leaf drop. You may also notice an increase in pest activity.
To ensure your cucumber plants thrive, they need at least six to eight hours of bright, indirect sunlight each day.
For those without a place to provide this type of lighting, you can use grow lights. To use artificial light, position it four inches above your cucumber plant and raise it as needed so that it remains four inches above the top of the plant. If you are growing cucumbers under a grow light, your plants will need 12 hours of artificial light per day.
Watering cucumbers in pots is slightly more involved than watering them in the ground. The soil in containers dries out much faster, so keep a close eye on your cucumber plants to ensure they’re getting enough water. Aim to keep their soil evenly moist but not soggy. If your cucumbers don’t get enough water, it can result in bitter-tasting fruit.
When watering your cucumbers, avoid getting the plant’s foliage or fruit wet as this can lead to diseases. Instead, water around the base of the plant and into the soil itself. It’s also best to water your cucumbers in the morning so that they have a chance to soak up the moisture before nightfall.
Once your cucumber seedlings are growing strong, it’s time to add a layer of mulch. Lay 3 inches of straw or hardwood chips around the plant but not directly touching the stems. This will help retain moisture and provide temperature regulation for the soil. Plus, it looks great too!
To harvest, cut the stem 1/4 inch above the cucumber when taking it off the vine. Pulling on the vine can harm it and impact future harvests.
The timing of the harvest depends on what type of variety you have planted in your pot. If you have planted pickling cucumbers, harvest them when they are 3 to 4 long. For slicing bush cucumbers, some varieties will require smaller cucumbers that are picked at 3 to 4 inches, while others need to be 6 to 8 inches long. Don’t let your cucumbers get too big or turn yellow, as they won’t be as tasty.
Disease and Pests
Keep an eye out for signs of disease or pests, such as powdery and downy mildew, cucumber beetles, and squash bugs. Take steps to address problems as soon as they arise. Baking soda, Neem oil or insecticidal soap is a good option for pest and disease control.
Cuke Can Do It
Hopefully, these tips for growing cucumbers in pots have you feeling inspired and ready to get gardening! Even if you don’t have a lot of space, it’s easy to enjoy the pleasure of harvesting your own fresh veggies. With a little care and attention, you can have homegrown cucumbers on your table all summer long.
Do you have other tips for successfully growing cucumbers? Share this article with your fellow green thumbs and leave a comment below!