How to grow cucumbers – from seed, in pots, vertically or in your vegetable patch

Grow cucumbers from seed in a pot, up trellis or in a garden patch. Plus, what to do with the flowers...

how to grow cucumbers
(Image credit: Getty)

Get the lowdown on how to grow cucumbers and you can swap store-bought vegetables for those fresh from your backyard or greenhouse instead. Results? Flavor that’s far better, a vitamin and mineral-packed food for your plate, and the satisfaction of having grown your own food.

We’ve called them veggies but strictly and botanically speaking, like a tomato, a cucumber is a fruit. Bottom line, though, we all know we’re talking about the fresh crisp ingredient that brings so much to meal times.

You may be thinking, but I don‘t have a greenhouse, so I can’t grow cucumbers. If so, we’re the bearers of good news. There are actually two main types of cucumber and while some need to be grown in a greenhouse, there are so many outdoor varieties that are perfect for all types of vegetable garden, so greenhouse-owning is definitely not compulsory. Small garden? No problem. You can even grow cucumbers in containers. If you want to find out how to grow cucumbers in your backyard, just read on for everything you need to know. 

When should you plant cucumbers?

Cucumber seeds can be sown indoors, in a warm greenhouse or in a propagator between March and April. When the weather is warmer you can directly sow outdoors in a pot or the ground, usually between May and June. This can vary on cucumber varieties so always check the recommendation on your seed packet too!

How to grow cucumbers from seed

  1. Choose seeds according to whether you’re going to grow the cucumbers in a greenhouse or outdoors.
  2. Sow the seeds into a seedling tray, two seeds per compartment. Water well and place in a sunny spot indoors.
  3. When seedlings are about two centimetres tall, remove the weaker one. Transplant into small growing pots (or make or your own by making holes in yoghurt pots).
  4. After about four to six weeks, your cucumber plants will have leaves. At this point, you can either leave them to grow indoors or, for owners or starters of outdoor gardens, transplant them into your garden. Do this only when the weather is warm, including at night, so realistically, from late May onwards. If planting outside, harden them off first, putting them outside for a few hours at a time at first.
  5. Garden cucumbers can be left to to develop a trailing habit, like marrows. Indoor ones will need cane supports or a trellis, and regular de-flowering (more on this below).
  6. Once small cucumbers begin to form, feed the plants twice weekly with a vegetable fertilizer. Make sure it has at least twice the amount of potassium as nitrogen – a nitrogen-rich fertilizer will just give you a luscious green plant with no vegetables.

Grow cucumber vertically: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

(Image credit: Markus Spiske on Unsplash)

Can you grow cucumbers in pots?

You can grow cucumbers in pots, as part of your container gardening plant selection with flowers and herbs as well as vegetables (as we mentioned, we know they’re fruits really).

You might prefer to choose what are called ‘bush’ cucumbers for containers, which won’t require any trellis. You can go for cucumbers that fall into the ‘vining’ category instead, but be aware that these need larger containers – we’re talking 18 inches (46cm) in diameter and bigger to provide sufficient depth for the roots. These vining cucumbers need trellis support. 

The containers also need to have good drainage created by drainage holes. Use a high quality potting soil rich in organic matter as well as feeding them regularly with fertilizer. 

Position containers in a sunny location out of the wind, and make sure you keep your container cucumbers well watered.

Fan of vertical gardening ideas? Cucumbers are ideal for a vertical garden and growing them this way up a trellis, small pergola or other structure could help them avoid becoming diseased. Of course, you’ll need to go for vining varieties for a vertical garden, as bush cucumbers won’t climb. Train the vines to climb a trellis or netting.

How long does it take to grow cucumbers from seed?

To grow cucumbers from seed normally takes around 12 weeks. That’s from the time you plant them until you harvest these delicious salad veggies. 

You can check seed packets to see how long the particular seeds you’re interested in take from sowing to cropping, as the time taken does vary. Be aware, too, that factors like the weather will have an influence.

Should I pick the flowers off my cucumber plants?

If you grow cucumbers indoors, you will need to remove male flowers regularly, or your cucumbers will taste bitter and go to seed. Not sure which is male and which is female? Male flowers have short stems, unlike the bulbous stems of female ones. You can also choose a female-only variety if growing indoors.

However if you're growing cucumbers outdoors, both male and female varieties should be pinched off. And yes, much like with zucchini flowers, you can eat them! Remove the stem, then toss them raw in a salad, fry them off with pasta, or stuff them with a soft cheese, dip them in a light tempura batter and deep fry them – delicious.

What cucumber variety is best?

Now, growing cucumbers is fun, but you also want them to taste good. There are two varieties in particular that we recommend: La Diva and Goblin. Both have a pleasantly textured skin that's not too hard to eat. Both will give you a superb, sweet flavour that's nothing like the watery large cucumbers sold in supermarkets. 

Start your salad prep 🙌

Anna is a professional writer with many years of experience. She has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. She covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design.