Cucumber vines (Cucumis sativus) grow rapidly from seed to harvest in just 50-70 days, starting with a small sprout and ending with a bountiful crop that produces for weeks in summer. This warm-season annual vegetable in the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes melons and squashes, will germinate once the soil temperature reaches 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The plants then begin to vine and flower very quickly. If you're hoping to harvest your very own cucumbers from the vegetable garden for pickling, slicing, or dicing, here's what to expect when growing cucumbers.
How Long Does It Take Cucumbers to Grow From Seeds?
The first stage in the cucumber life cycle is the plant emerging from seed as a seedling. Seeds of vining cucumber cultivars such as Boston Pickling and Lemon Cucumber are sown either four to five seeds per hill of soil or 2 to 3 feet apart in a straight row. Add organic matter such as compost to your garden soil. Seed germination, or sprouting, occurs fairly fast. Watch for the two-leaved seedlings of this cucurbit to emerge above the soil three to 10 days after sowing the seeds.
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A seedling's first two leaf-like structures are called cotyledons and are round with smooth edges. The next leaves are true leaves with the characteristic cucumber heart shape and sharp-edged margins. The soil should remain moist at all times as the seedlings begin to grow — a layer of mulch can help retain moisture. To test for moistness, put your finger in the soil. It should not be dry beyond the first finger joint. As seedlings reach 4 inches in height, remove some of them so the remaining ones are 1 1/2 feet apart.
There are two primary types of cucumbers: bush cucumbers and vining cucumbers. Each bush variety of cucumber requires 2 to 3 square feet of space, and the vine type can reach to 6 feet in height. Trellis systems or tomato cages can be used to support plants that are the vine type. Sow cucumber seeds every two to three weeks until three months before your area's first average annual frost date to have a continuous harvest of cucumber fruits as summer progresses.
When Do Cucumbers Flower?
Cucumbers produce two kinds of bright, golden-yellow flowers: male and female. The first flowers that emerge are male and do not produce fruits, falling off after pollination is complete. Female flowers emerge within one to two weeks.
Cucumber plants are not self-pollinating; they require bees or other pollinators to carry their pollen from male flowers to female flowers. Insecticides applied at the cucumbers' flower stage of growth can kill the pollinators, interfering with the process of pollination.
When Will My Cucumber Plant Produce Fruit?
After female cucumber flowers have been pollinated, they swell at their bases and begin to develop into fruits if fertilization is successful. You can harvest cucumbers 50 to 70 days after the seeds were sown, depending on the variety and weather conditions.
Pickling cucumbers are ready to harvest when the fruits reach 3 to 4 inches in length. The harvest typically lasts seven to 10 days for those varieties. Longer varieties of slicing cucumbers are ready for harvest when they are 7 to 8 inches long, and their harvest time may continue for as long as four to six weeks.
When Do You Pick a Cucumber?
At peak harvest time, cucumber fruits should be picked every two days. Fruit production lasts longer when the fruits are picked regularly. Fruits left on the vines become bitter, and their skins turn tough.
A mature cucumber plant generally produces about 5 pounds of fruit or about 10 fruits that are each 6 ounces. Heirloom varieties, however, produce about 2 to 3 pounds of fruits per plant.
Cucumber Post-Harvest Care
When harvest is complete, pull the cucumber vines or bushes out of the soil, and put them into the compost bin or pile. Long vines can be cut into 1- to 2-foot lengths for speedier decomposition. Vines or bushes left on the ground to decompose may attract pests or diseases to the garden.