Cucumbers are a versatile vegetable that can be enjoyed in many different ways.
These vining plants offer crisp, cool fruits through the warmest months.
Cucumbers are relatively easy to cultivate, provided they’re given a good start, consistent care, and the right conditions to thrive.
Cucumber Varieties in Australia
Australia’s diverse climate allows a wide range of cucumber varieties to be cultivated.
These include the common green slicers in salads and the smaller gherkin types used for pickling.
Burpless varieties are sweeter and have thinner skins than other types.
They are named for their ability to be digested without causing the discomfort that some other cucumber varieties might.
The Lebanese and Burpless Tasty Green are popular choices for home gardeners.
Also known as telegraph cucumbers, these are long, thin, and seedless.
They are typically grown in greenhouses and are common in Australian supermarkets.
These are the most common types commercially grown for fresh consumption.
Varieties like Beit Alpha and Lebanese cucumbers are popular in Australian gardens due to their sweet flavour and thin skins, making them perfect for salads and snacking.
Varieties such as the Boston Pickling and County Fair are smaller and have a bumpy texture, which allows them to absorb pickling solutions well.
These are typically harvested when they are 10–15 cm long.
Unique to Australia and New Zealand, apple cucumbers are round and yellow with a mild taste and crunchy texture.
The Crystal Apple variety is a heritage favourite, cherished for its tender skin and sweet flesh.
There are also specialty varieties like the Armenian or Yard Long cucumber.
They are known for their unusual shapes and sizes.
On the other hand, Lemon cucumbers are yellow and round, resembling a lemon.
When to Plant Cucumbers
Cucumbers are a warm-season crop, so you’ll have to wait until the weather has warmed up before planting them.
In most climates, this means planting cucumbers in the spring after the last frost has passed.
When to sow your cucumber seeds
If you are starting cucumbers from seed, sow them indoors 4–6 weeks before the last frost date.
The soil temperature for germinating cucumber seeds should be at least 21°C.
This can be achieved with the help of a heat mat.
Once the seedlings have grown strong and the outdoor soil temperature is consistently above 16°C, they are ready to be transplanted outdoors.
This is usually about 2–3 weeks after the last frost has passed.
When to plant cucumber seedlings
Plant cucumber seedlings outside when all danger of frost has passed and daytime temperatures are consistently above 21°C.
This is typically a few weeks after sowing the seeds indoors or about a week or two after the last expected frost date.
How Long Does it Take for Cucumbers to Grow?
Cucumbers typically take between 50–70 days from seeding to harvest, with the exact time depending on the variety and growing conditions.
After germination, which takes about 3–10 days, the plants undergo a rapid vegetative growth phase over the next 3–4 weeks.
The first flowers appear shortly after, with fruits developing 10–14 days following successful pollination.
Gardeners can generally start to harvest cucumbers as soon as they reach a suitable size and firmness.
This is typically done when they exhibit full colour and a crisp texture.
Where to Grow Cucumbers
Cucumbers can be grown in the ground or in pots.
If you are growing cucumbers in the ground, choose a sunny spot with well-drained soil.
However, if you choose to grow cucumbers in pots, use a pot that is at least 30cm deep and has drainage holes.
How to grow outdoor cucumbers
Growing cucumbers outdoors allows you to enjoy the freshness of home-grown produce right from your garden.
- Choose a suitable variety: Vining varieties such as Marketmore or Cucumber Burpless Tasty are ideal for outdoor cucumbers. They can spread out and take advantage of garden space.
- Prepare the garden bed: Choose a sunny location with at least 6–8 hours of sunlight daily. Amend the soil with compost and well-rotted manure.
- Sow your seeds: Plant cucumber seeds about 2cm deep and 45cm apart. Rows should be spaced about 1m apart to give vining cucumbers room to grow.
- Care for your seedlings: Thin seedlings to the strongest plant if you sowed multiple seeds per spot. Water regularly, aiming for about 2cm per week.
- Support the cucumber vines: Install trellises or stakes early so you don’t disturb the roots later on. Guide the young plants onto the supports as they grow.
- Mulch and feed regularly: Apply mulch around the plants to help the soil moist and suppress weeds. Use a balanced fertiliser after the cucumber plants have blossomed and set fruit.
- Watch them grow: Watch your cucumbers grow and check them regularly for signs of pests or diseases.
- Harvest cucumbers when they are firm and have a uniform colour.
How to grow cucumbers in a pot
Container gardening offers a versatile solution for urban gardeners or those with limited space.
- Choose the right container and variety: Use a large pot, at least 30cm deep and wide, with good drainage. Bush or dwarf cucumber varieties like Pot Luck or Bush Slicer are perfect for container growing.
- Buy or make a potting mix and plant the seeds: Fill the pot with a high-quality potting mix rich in organic material. Plant 2–3 seeds per container, then thin to the strongest seedlings.
- Choose a prime spot: Place your cucumber plant pots where they will receive plenty of sunlight or full sun.
- Water and feed regularly: Potted cucumbers need more frequent watering to keep the soil evenly moist. You will also need to use a balanced liquid fertiliser every 2 weeks, as nutrients can leach out of pots more quickly.
- Support and monitor your growing cucumbers: Like outdoor cucumbers, potted plants need support like a small trellis or stake. Watch for signs of pests or over/underwatering.
Growing greenhouse cucumbers
Greenhouse growing enables you to extend the cucumber growing season, providing a controlled environment that can yield high-quality cucumbers.
- Choose parthenocarpic varieties: Some cucumber varieties don’t require pollination as they grow only female flowers and can produce fruit without fertilisation (parthenocarpy). These include Beit Alpha and Mini or Dutch Greenhouse.
- Set up your greenhouse: Keep the greenhouse temperature above 16°C at night and between 21–27°C during the day.
- Plant cucumber seedlings or seeds: Plant seeds in individual pots or directly into beds prepared with rich, well-draining soil.
- Support and train young plants: It’s funny wording, but it just means installing vertical strings or trellises for the cucumber plants to climb up as they grow.
- Manage humidity and ventilation: Keep the greenhouse ventilated to manage humidity and prevent diseases.
- Pollinate if needed: Even though many greenhouse varieties don’t require pollination, gently shaking the plants can help the pollen to distribute for those that do.
How to Harvest Cucumbers
Pick cucumbers when they are medium-sized, firm and the skin is a bright, even green.
Cut the stem above the fruit with pruning shears.
Don’t pull the fruit off the vine.
How to Care for Cucumbers
Caring for cucumbers goes beyond simply planting and watering.
They need consistent care and the right conditions to flourish.
Water cucumbers deeply, providing at least 2cm of water per week.
In hotter temperatures or if you notice wilting, increase watering frequency.
Always water at the base of the plants early in the morning to reduce evaporation and allow foliage to dry, which helps prevent fungal diseases.
Use a balanced liquid fertiliser every 4 weeks or go for a slow-release fertiliser at planting time.
Once the plants start flowering and setting fruit, switch to a low-nitrogen, high-potassium fertiliser to promote growth and fruit development.
Lay organic mulch, such as straw or wood chips, around the plants to conserve moisture, keep the soil cool, and suppress weeds.
Keep the mulch a few centimetres away from the plant stems to prevent rot.
If you’re growing vining cucumber varieties, provide a trellis or stake for support to grow vertically.
This keeps the fruit off the ground and promotes better air circulation.
Use trellises or cages for vining cucumbers — this will also help maximise their growing space and improve air circulation.
Gently tie the vines to the support or weave them through the trellis as they grow.
Weed regularly around your cucumbers. Weeds compete for nutrients and water and can harbour pests and diseases.
Pull weeds by hand or use a hoe, being careful not to disturb the cucumber plant’s roots.
How to Pollinate Cucumbers
Most cucumber varieties are monoecious, with female and male flowers in the same plant.
They need help from pollinators to produce fruit.
Option 1: Attract pollinators
Plant flowers that attract bees or release a pollen mixture early in the morning when bees are most active.
Option 2: Hand pollination
If you lack bees for natural pollination, you can hand-pollinate.
Transfer pollen from male flowers (they don’t have fruits at the base) to female flowers (with a tiny fruit at the base) using a small paintbrush or your finger.
Common Pests or Diseases in Cucumbers
Navigating the challenges of pests and diseases is an important part of growing cucumbers.
These issues can significantly impact plant health and fruit yield.
Aphids are tiny, sap-sucking insects that can cause cucumber leaves to curl and stunt growth.
They also excrete a sticky substance called honeydew, which can lead to sooty mould.
Spray plants with a strong jet of water to dislodge aphids from cucumber plants.
Apply neem oil, insecticidal soaps, or introduce natural predators like ladybugs or lacewings.
Bacterial wilt is a disease spread by cucumber beetles that cause plants to wilt and die rapidly without yellowing.
You will need to control cucumber beetles first, then remove and destroy the affected plants to prevent the spread.
Cucumber beetles are small, yellow beetles with black stripes or spots.
They can spread bacterial wilt and damage cucumber plants by eating the leaves and flowers.
Use organic pesticides or bring in ladybugs if you suspect you have cucumber beetles in your garden.
Powdery mildew is one of the most common fungal diseases cucumber plants get.
It presents as white, powdery spots on leaves and stems, which can lead to reduced yield.
You can treat powdery mildew by improving air circulation around the plants and by avoiding overhead watering.
Fungicides can also be applied at the first sign of the disease.
These tiny mites cause yellow speckling on leaves and can create fine webs on your cucumber plants.
They thrive in hot, dry conditions. So, you’ll need to increase the humidity around the plants.
You can also try blasting them off with strong jets of water.
Squash vine borer
Squash vine borers are the larvae of a moth that burrow into the stems of cucumber plants.
It causes plants to wilt and die suddenly.
Wrap the base of your cucumber vines or plants with aluminium foil to prevent the moth from laying eggs.
If infestation occurs, slit the stems and remove the borers.
Cucumber Companion Plants
Here are some of the best companion plants for cucumbers.
The lovely marigold is perhaps the number 1 plant we recommend to have in home gardens.
They’re all-rounders — lovely to look at, great at pest control and attractive to pollinators!
These bright flowers can repel pests that could otherwise harm cucumber plants, such as beetles.
Like marigolds, nasturtiums are excellent at controlling pests in your garden.
They act as a trap crop, luring aphids away from cucumbers.
Their vibrant blooms also attract pollinators, leading to a more bountiful harvest.
Don’t dilly dally and grow this herb with your cucumbers.
Dill can attract beneficial insects that prey on cucumber pests, such as wasps and ladybugs.
It can also enhance the flavour of your cucumber plants while still in the garden.
Legumes, such as beans and peas, fix nitrogen in the soil.
This can be beneficial to nitrogen-loving cucumbers and help them grow vigorously.
Planting legumes also means you won’t have to feed your (established) cucumber plants as often.
Root vegetables, particularly radishes, are excellent companion plants for cucumbers because they do most of their growing underground.
Their roots and produce won’t compete for space with cucumber plants.
Plus, you’ll get to grow enough veggies to make a colourful salad!
While cucumbers need a lot of sunlight to grow, they shouldn’t be overexposed to it all the time.
Tall plants like corn can offer shade for cucumbers in especially hot climates.
Plant Seeds in the Heads of Gardeners
Growing cucumbers at home requires some knowledge, patience, and care, but the process can be greatly rewarding.
By planting these seeds of gardening wisdom, you’ll nurture both your garden and your skills and be on your way to becoming a seasoned gardener.