Like many vegetables and fruits, cucumbers always taste better when they're home grown. Growing cucumbers in containers is easy and hugely rewarding, provided you grow the right variety. But there are a few things that are helpful to know.
As is true with growing most vegetables and fruits in pots, bigger is much better. Bigger containers (12 to even 24 inches in diameter) hold more potting soil, which in turn retains water for a longer period of time. And cucumbers depend on a consistent level moisture. A self-watering container will work well. It's also possible to grow cucumbers in a straw bale garden, though it's important to know the pros and cons of straw bale gardening before you start. You should plant one or two cucumber plants per square foot of potting soil.
Your cucumber container garden requires at least six to eight hours of full sun per day. Many gardeners tend to overestimate how much sun an area gets, so it's beneficial to monitor an area before you place your container there. Use either a sun calculator or a watch to record how many hours the sun reaches that specific area.
Always purchase a good quality potting mix, ideally one that's made for vegetables, to grow cucumbers in containers. Note whether the soil already has fertilizer mixed into it. If so, do not amend the soil with your own fertilizer when planting.
Cucumbers are heavy feeders. It's helpful to add a slow-release, all-purpose fertilizer into the potting soil before planting (if your soil doesn't already have food in it). Then, feed the plants with a diluted, liquid fish emulsion/seaweed combination every other week during the growing season.
Cucumbers need warm soil to thrive, and they grow best when soil temperatures are between 70 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not plant cucumbers until the soil temperatures are at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on how protected the containers are and the material from which they are constructed, you might have to wait until two weeks after the last frost in your area for planting. Some container materials heat up more rapidly than others. For instance, black plastic pots retain heat and can reach the desired temperature sooner than other materials.
Starting Cucumbers From Seeds
Cucumbers are easy to start from seeds in a container. If you live in a cold climate and want to get a jump-start on the season, you can start seeds indoors. Cucumbers have fairly large seeds, so sow them 1/2 to 1 inch deep. To make sure the seedlings receive enough light after germination, place them under grow lights. Be careful when transplanting the seedlings. First, you must harden off your seedlings to gradually acclimate them to outdoor conditions. When transplanting them into their final container, be very delicate because cucumbers don't like their roots to be disturbed.
There are several reasons to grow your cucumbers on a trellis. First, if the vines are left to sprawl all over the ground—and most varieties of cucumber will sprawl a lot—the cucumbers will become dirty and susceptible to damage by pests. Second, trellised cucumbers are easier to find and harvest, and their foliage receives more exposure to sunlight. Make sure you choose a sturdy trellis because once the trellis is covered with cucumber vines, it could easily topple over on a windy day. Locate the container in a wind-protected spot, and consider securing it to the ground with rope or cords.
A successful crop of cucumbers depends on consistent and ample moisture; the container soil must be moist but not wet. Check for moisture by sticking your finger up to the second knuckle into the soil. If the soil is moist at your fingertip, the container does not need water. If the soil is dry, add water very slowly until it flows out of the container's drainage hole. Make sure the soil is absorbing the water. If the soil is very dry, it can retract from the walls of the container, and the water can run down the sides of the container before the soil has a chance to absorb it
Cucumbers can grow ridiculously fast, especially in warm weather. They can go from tiny to enormous in just a few days. Almost all cucumbers become bitter and seedy if left on the vine too long, so check your plants often for ripe cucumbers. Many varieties can be picked small, and some are tastiest when they are petite. Check the plant label or seed packet to determine the optimal size for harvest. Use garden pruners or scissors to harvest the fruit. If you pull the cucumbers off the vine, you risk damaging the vine. Harvest often because the more you harvest, the more you will encourage production. If you find an overgrown or damaged cucumber, remove it from the vine and discard it.
There are two main types of cucumbers, bush and vining, with many varieties to choose from for both types. Bush cucumbers tend to be shorter and more compact, and they have smaller yields. To increase yields and extend the harvesting season, plant bush varieties in succession—planting a new crop every two weeks to every month. Before you make succession plantings, determine how many days it will take for specific varieties to be ready for harvest.
- Diva: This variety is parthenocarpic, which means it does not need to be pollinated to develop fruit. 'Diva' is delicious, a great producer, and disease resistant. Plus, it has foliage that isn't attractive to cucumber beetles. It takes 58 days to maturity.
- Lemon Cucumber: This cucumber is small and yellow, sweet and round. It's good for eating or pickling, and it has a fairly long maturity time of 65 days.
- Northern Pickling: These are small, sweet cucumbers that grow on compact vines. They have a short time to maturity at 48 days, so this is a good variety to use for late-season planting.