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Becky Weeks - May 4th, 2024

How to Grow Cucumbers by the Bushel

How to grow cucumbers by the bushel

Cucumbers hold a cherished spot in home gardens, and for good reason. These versatile vegetables are not only a delight to eat but also a joy to grow. With their crisp texture and refreshing taste, cucumbers are a summer staple in salads, sandwiches, and pickles. What makes them even more appealing is how easy they are to grow! Whether you're an experienced gardener or a novice, cucumbers offer a rewarding and low-maintenance addition to your garden. In this guide, we'll explore the art of growing cucumbers, from selecting the right varieties to nurturing them into bountiful harvests.

Types of Cucumbers

Before we begin, it is important to note that there are a number of different types of cucumbers. While they are similar in their growing requirements, there are slight differences in their flavor profiles and cultural features that might make one more suitable for your garden or tastes.

Slicing Cucumbers are the most common type and are typically enjoyed fresh in salads or sandwiches. They are known for their refreshing, crisp texture and mild flavor.

Beit Alpha Cucumbers
, popular in Middle Eastern cuisine and sometimes called Persian cucumbers, are small, crunchy, and sweet cucumbers. They have tender skins and are often eaten fresh or used in salads and dishes.

Asian Trellis Type Cucumbers
are commonly used in Asian cooking and are prized for their unique flavor and texture. They are often slender, slightly ridged, and have a mild, sweet taste.

English Cucumbers
, also known as European or Dutch greenhouse cucumbers, are typically long, seedless, and have thin, tender skins. They are crisp and less bitter, making them ideal for fresh consumption.

Pickling Cucumbers
, such as Homemade Pickles or Boston Pickling cucumbers, are specifically grown for pickling. They are usually smaller, have thicker skins, and are chosen for their ability to maintain crunchiness when pickled.

Armenian Cucumbers
resemble cucumbers but are technically a melon of the species, Cucumis melo. Their elongated, cucumber-like fruit are known for their mild taste and crisp texture.

What are burpless cucumbers?

If you've been gardening for some time, you've undoubtedly come across the term "burpless" when describing a particular cucumber variety.  Gardening (or marketing) folklore has it that these varieties cause less burping when consumed, however the validity of this claim and its biological underpinnings are poorly understood.  Even cucumber breeders are in disagreement about the term, with some saying that it is related to the bitterness of the variety and others saying that "burpless" is simply a synonym for an Oriental or Asian-type trellis cucumber.  However, in what could be one of my all-time favorite experiments, cucumber breeders at North Carolina State University sought to get to the bottom of this by measuring the "burpiness" of different cucumber varieties.  They found that 1. Not everyone is susceptible to the embarrassing gassiness caused by cucumbers and 2. that the burpiness trait was unrelated to the bitterness of the variety.  It did seem that the oriental types produced little to no burping in the susceptible judges so this might be the way to go if you happen to find yourself in the "burp susceptible" category.

Beit Alpha Cucumbers

Beit Alpha cucumbers are parthenocarpic, meaning they can develop fruit without pollination.  This makes them ideal for greenhouses, high tunnels, and gardens with insufficient numbers of pollinators.

Site Preparation

Cucumbers are heavy consumers of soil nutrients, so providing them with fertile ground is crucial for a good harvest. Many old-timers still practice the long-held tradition of amending each cucumber hill with one to two shovelfuls of well-rotted manure prior to planting. This surplus in fertility boosts productivity leading to larger yields of fruit. Whether using manure, compost, or other fertilizers, aim for a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0.

Here are a few more factors to consider when preparing a site for cucumbers:

Sunlight: Cucumbers thrive in full sun, requiring at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily for optimal growth and fruit production. Inadequate sunlight can lead to poor fruit development and increased susceptibility to diseases.

Water Requirements: Adequate and consistent moisture is essential for cucumbers. They need moderate watering until flowering and heavy watering from flowering to harvest. Insufficient water can result in bitter-tasting and misshapen cucumbers.

Pollination:  Cucumbers are typically pollinated by insects.  Poor pollination, arising from inadequate insect populations or extreme heat, can lead to misshapen fruit.  To promote pollination, plant companions nearby that are known to attract pollinators.  A full list of these plants can be found below.  If pollination woes persist, try growing a parthenocarpic cucumber variety, which does not require pollination for fruit set.

Container Gardening: As cucumbers have naturally shallow roots (seldom deeper than 2 feet) they are suitable for growing in containers. Just be sure to choose large containers, provide adequate soil fertility, and maintain regular watering to ensure success in container gardening.

Pickling Cucumbers

When growing cucumbers for pickling, uniformity is key.  Use companion plants to attract pollinators to your cucumbers and water liberally during fruit formation to encourage proper fruit development.

Sowing and Growing Cucumbers

Cucumbers, members of the Cucurbitaceae family, are relatively easy to grow once you get the conditions right. Here are some key aspects of their sowing and growing:

Seed Depth:  Plant cucumber seeds at a depth of 1 to 2 inches (13-25 mm).

Spacing:  Cucumbers are typically planted in hills, with 2-3 seeds sown in each hill.  This is also an opportunity to add extra fertility right where the plants will need it.  Space hills at least 3 feet in all directions.  Seeds sown along a trellis should be planted one every 18 inches.

Germination Soil Temperature:
  Cucumber seeds require a warm soil temperature, ranging from 80-95°F (27-35°C), for successful germination.

Days to Germination:  
You can expect cucumber seeds to germinate within 7-10 days.

Sowing Indoors: 
Recommended only for very short seasons.  Start your cucumber seeds indoors about 3 weeks before the last frost date in your region.

Sowing Outdoors: 
 (Preferred) Sow seeds outdoors about two weeks after the average last frost date.

Growing Up

Trellising cucumbers is a beneficial practice, as these vines naturally tend to climb and benefit from vertical support. Whether you're growing traditional vine or bush-type cucumbers, trellising helps maintain straighter and more uniform cucumbers, prevents rot and pest damage, and conserves garden space. It's not a strict requirement, but it results in better-quality fruits and higher yields. Just be sure to keep the trellised plants well-watered as they will not be able to utilize secondary roots, which normally develop along the stems.

Boston Pickling Cucumbers

Homemade Pickles is a popular American pickling cucumber that yields heavily. When growing this variety, one only needs a couple of hills to put up a year's worth of pickles.

Diseases, Pests, and Other Challenges

Cucumbers are susceptible to several diseases and pests, including cucumber beetles. These tiny insects can harm your cucumber plants, but growing bitter-free cucumber varieties can help mitigate this issue.  Heirloom bitter-free varieties that are less attractive to cucumber beetles include Poona Kheera and Lemon. Also pay attention to slow growth or yellowing leaves, as this could indicate nutrient deficiencies, and address them with a healthy dose of nitrogen. Additionally, monitor soil moisture and water your cucumber plants as needed.

The Bitter truth

Many gardeners have had the experience of biting into a slice of cucumber and finding it to be overwhelmingly bitter. Cucumber bitterness can vary due to the presence of compounds called cucurbitacins, which are genetically controlled and affect the taste of the fruit.  Contrary to popular belief, bitterness in cucumbers is not primarily caused by water deficiency, although drought and other environmental stresses can exacerbate bitterness in varieties that are prone to becoming bitter. Instead, this trait is genetically controlled, with its expression being largely determined by the bi and bi-1  genes.  Breeding efforts have reduced the amount of bitterness in most slicing cucumbers, however pickling cucumbers have retained the trait due to the fact that bitterness is usually lost during the pickling process.  For any cucumber variety, and particularly non-pickling types, seed savers should take note to avoid saving seeds from bitter cucumbers as the trait is heritable and will be passed down in the seed stock.

Lemon Cucumbers

Lemon cucumbers are popular for their bitter-free skins.  This trait gives them an excellent flavor and also makes them less susceptible to cucumber beetles.

Harvest and Storage

Cucurbits are known for their rapid growth and are one of the fastest crops to go from sowing to fruit production. The actual time from planting your cucumber seed to harvesting cucumbers will vary, but it typically occurs around two months after sowing.   Here's how to harvest and store your cucumbers when that exciting day comes:

Determining the right time to harvest your cucumbers is essential for their flavor and quality. Smaller cucumbers usually taste better than larger ones. Check your cucumber vines daily, as the fruits grow rapidly. Harvest them when they are still dark green, as yellowing at the blossom end indicates overripeness.

To keep cucumbers fresh, store them in the refrigerator's crisper drawer for up to a week in a plastic bag. For longer storage, pickle them in sealed glass jars to enjoy their crispness and flavor year-round.

Straight Eight Cucumbers

Cucumbers should be harvested while they are still dark green in color.  These smaller cucumbers will have thinner skins and soft, undeveloped seeds.  Avoid harvesting cucumbers that have yellowed as these tend to be overripe.

Companion Plants

Companion planting with cucumbers is a fantastic way to enhance your garden's productivity and reduce the need for pesticides. Here's a selection of companion plants that work well with cucumbers:

Beans and Peas: Legumes like beans and peas have nitrogen-fixing capabilities, improving soil quality and increasing your overall harvest. They share similar growth requirements, making them excellent companions for cucumbers.

Corn: Cornstalks provide sturdy support for vining cucumbers to climb, potentially eliminating the need for additional trellising. Consider cucumber varieties with smaller fruits to prevent overwhelming your corn plants.

Dill: Growing dill near cucumbers attracts pollinators, resulting in larger cucumber harvests. Dill also acts as natural pest control by attracting beneficial insects like parasitic wasps.

Marigolds: Marigolds are natural pest repellents, deterring insects like thrips, white flies, and squash bugs. Planting marigolds alongside cucumbers can help keep your garden pest-free.

Nasturtium: Nasturtiums also serve as excellent natural pest control. They attract beneficial insects, including ladybugs, and can be used as trap crops to divert pests like aphids from your edible veggies.

Root Vegetables: Pairing cucumbers with shorter root vegetables such as carrots and beets optimizes garden space and helps control weed growth. Succession planting root vegetables throughout the season is a smart approach.

Borage: This often-overlooked herb produces edible flowers and leaves with a cucumber-like flavor. Planting borage in your garden can simplify cucumber care, repel common pests, and boost pollinator activity.

Chives: Plant flowering chives near cucumbers to repel cucumber beetles, a common cucumber pest. The scent of chive flowers attracts pollinators like bees, benefiting your cucumber plants.

Oregano: Oregano's strong aroma repels aphids, squash bugs, and sap-sucking pests, making it an excellent cucumber companion plant. It's easy to grow and a perennial in some zones.

Sunflowers: Sunflower stalks provide natural support for vining cucumbers and attract pollinators like bees, resulting in larger cucumber harvests. Interplanting sunflowers with cucumbers is a smart choice.

View our full selection of cucumber companions

Muncher Cucumbers

Muncher is one of our kids' favorite varieties.  With their thin, spineless skins, and sweet, refreshing flavor, these little cukes are perfect for afternoon snacks.

Saving Seeds

Cucumbers are outbreeding plants, and different cucumber varieties can cross-pollinate with one another. To save cucumber seeds, isolation by at least half a mile is recommended. If you're growing different cucumber varieties and want to prevent cross-pollination, you can practice hand-pollination to maintain purity. A reliable technique is to use two or more male flowers to pollinate each female blossom. Hand-pollination works best during 11-hour days when cucumber vines produce a higher number of female flowers.

Cucumber seed production involves growing cucumbers to full maturity. The fruits should ripen, changing from green to pale yellow or deep orange, depending on the variety. Each hand-pollinated cucumber can yield hundreds of seeds. After ripening, the cucumbers are cut open to scoop out the flesh and seeds, which are then fermented to remove the gelatinous sack encasing the seeds. Fermentation typically takes one to three days, depending on the temperature. Once fermentation is complete, the clean seeds can be separated, rinsed and dried for long-term storage. Cucumber seeds have a long shelf life and will remain viable for ten years when stored under ideal conditions.


Whether pickled, sliced, or my personal favorite, marinated with red onions in sugar and vinegar, cucumbers are a delicious addition to any garden. With their ease of care and productive growth habit, growing cucumbers can be a rewarding endeavor for novice and seasoned gardeners alike.  Remember to save seeds for future plantings, and experiment with companion plants to create a thriving and diverse garden. 

This comprehensive guide provides all the information you need to successfully grow cucumbers, from planting the seeds to enjoying fresh, homegrown cukes. In just a couple months, you could be harvesting crisp cucumbers from your own patio or garden. Now, let’s get growing!

Becky Weeks

Becky Weeks, Ph.D.

Geneticist, Gardener, Founder of Thresh Seed Co.

Becky is a geneticist with a passion for gardening. Prior to starting Thresh Seed Co., she spent fifteen years researching plant genetics and development, later applying those principles to aid in the breeding of commercial corn and soybean varieties. She lives on a farm in Iowa with her husband and three children, where she enjoys growing just about anything and experimenting with the breeding of new vegetable varieties.

featured in this article:

Boston Pickling Cucumber
Boston Pickling Cucumber
Boston Pickling Cucumber
Boston Pickling Cucumber Seeds
Boston Pickling Cucumber
Boston Pickling Cucumber
Boston Pickling Cucumber
Boston Pickling Cucumber
Boston Pickling Cucumber Seeds
Boston Pickling Cucumber

Boston Pickling Cucumber

$ 3.69

Boston Pickling is a popular heirloom cucumber dating back to 1877.  Vigorous vines produce a bounty of three to seven-inch-long cucumbers with a nice uniform shape and smooth, green skins.  Boston Pickling cucumbers have an excellent flavor and crispness making them perfect for pickling.  They are also one of our favorite varieties to use for making cucumber and onion salad.  55 days to harvest.  25 seeds per packet.

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Lemon Cucumber
Lemon Cucumber
Lemon Cucumber
Lemon Cucumber
Lemon Cucumber
Lemon Cucumber
Lemon Cucumber
Lemon Cucumber
Lemon Cucumber
Lemon Cucumber

Lemon Cucumber

$ 3.69

Also known as Apple Cucumber, Lemon is a very old heirloom cucumber variety dating back to 1894.  This unique variety produces vibrant, globe-shaped cucumbers that resemble lemons.  Popular for their bitter-free skins, a trait that also makes the vines resistant to cucumber beetles, Lemon cucumbers are ideal for both pickling and fresh eating. We prefer to pick them young, when the skins are a canary yellow color.  Plants are extremely productive, and cucumbers are easy to spot on the vine.  Harvests begin 65 days after sowing.  Each packet contains a minimum of 25 seeds.

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Straight Eight Heirloom Slicing Cucumber
Straight Eight Heirloom Slicing Cucumber
Straight Eight Heirloom Slicing Cucumber
Straight Eight Heirloom Slicing Cucumber
Straight Eight Heirloom Slicing Cucumber
Straight Eight Heirloom Slicing Cucumber

Straight Eight Heirloom Slicing Cucumber

$ 3.69

Straight Eight is an heirloom variety of cucumber introduced by Ferry Morse in 1935 and named an All-America Selections Winner that same year.  Named for its smooth, straight, 8-inch-long cucumbers, Straight Eight has been an American favorite for generations.  Healthy, vining plants are early, vigorous and highly productive.  Tolerant of mosaic virus.  Harvests begin approximately 52 days after sowing.  Each packet contains a minimum of 25 seeds.

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