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Your Guide to Growing Cucumbers in Containers

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There’s nothing better than eating homegrown vegetables, owing to how fresh and chemical-free they are. Cucumbers are specially effortless to grow at home in small containers. Moreover, they make an excellent fruit to consume in the hot summer months. 

Growing cucumbers in containers are even a great way to reduce the problem of pests and diseases. All that is required is to give the plant sunshine and consistent moisture. 

This guide aims to explain in detail the process for growing cucumbers in containers. 

Cucumbers in Container

Types of Cucumbers

Before you start planting cucumbers, it would be helpful to know what kind of cucumbers would suit your needs the best. There are mainly two varieties of cucumber – pickling and slicing. Pickling cucumbers are good for making pickles, while slicing cucumbers are larger and used in salads or for eating fresh.  

Types of Cucumbers

Bush and vining are the two styles of cucumbers. Depending on where you are planning to cultivate the plant, the particular cucumber style can be selected. Bush cucumbers are perfect for growing in containers due to their short and sturdy vines. They are even more robust and adaptable to containers as compared to vining varieties. 

Vining varieties, on the other hand, are unsuitable for growing in containers as they have long, spreading out vines. A few famous cucumber varieties for growing in containers are salad bush, sweet success, early pink, and salty and crispy. 

Requirements for Growing Cucumbers in Containers

Growing cucumbers in containers are highly productive since it helps save up on garden space while providing a good growing environment for the same. However, there are a few requirements for growing cucumbers in containers. These imperative requirements are:

Size of the Container

Cucumbers have a deep root system, thus explaining their need to be planted in larger containers ranging from 12-24 inches in diameter. Other than giving space to the roots to grow out, larger containers can hold more soil. This allows the pots to retain more water for longer periods. 

Since cucumbers depend on consistent moisture, having larger containers helps. If the containers are too small, they will hold lesser soil and make the moisture dry out faster. You can consider an earth-box or self-watering container to grow the cucumbers. Ultimately, the container you use should be able to hold at least 5-7 gallons of potting mix with good drainage properties. 

The most common materials for containers include plastic, wood, fabric, and metal. Fabric planters are one of the best options since they are free-draining, thus eliminating the need for drainage holes. 

Sunlight and Temperature

To thrive, a cucumber plant requires at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Using a sun calculator for the area the cucumber plant grows in is a smart way to measure this rating. Since these are warm-weather plants, they do the best in sunny locations. 

Sunlight and Temperature

Ensure that the area is non-windy and has a temperature ranging between 65 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Soil Temperature

Cucumbers require warm soil to thrive, and they grow best at temperatures ranging from 70 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Cucumbers should not be planted until the soil temperature reaches at least 70°F. You may need to wait two weeks after the last frost in your region, depending on how well-protected the containers are and the materials used to create them.

Certain container materials heat up faster than others. For example, black plastic pots or earth-boxes with a soil cover retain heat better than other materials and can achieve the appropriate temperature quicker.

soil temperature
Image: calgaryherald.com

Moisture

The main way to keep cucumber plants healthy is to develop a good watering sense. However, you should ensure that the container soil remains moist but not wet. Check this by sticking your finger up to the second knuckle, into the soil. If the soil seems moist to touch, do not water the plant. But if the soil is dry to touch, add water at a slow pace until it starts flowing out of the drainage holes. 

Other than that, try to water the plant during the day as plants use more water when it’s bright. The reason for this is that they’re actively transpiring and photosynthesizing during the morning. 

Even check to see if the soil is soaking up the water. If the soil is particularly dry, it may withdraw from the container’s walls, allowing water to flow down the container’s sides before the soil has a chance to absorb it.

However, try to keep the leaves dry while watering to avoid fungal diseases caused by dampness. You may also increase moisture retention by applying a small layer of mulch around the base of the plant.

Potting Mix

Purchasing a high-quality potting mix is important to keep your plants healthy and maintain their moisture levels. Ordinary garden soil does not allow cucumbers to thrive, thus it is important you get an effective potting mix

Use organic potting soil that is free of fertilizers and wetting agents. If the potting soil already has fertilizer mixed in, don’t add any more. Additionally, before you plant the cucumbers, supplement your potting soil with an all-purpose fertilizer if it doesn’t already include pre-mixed fertilizer.

Potting Mix

Fertilizer

Since cucumbers are heavy feeders, you will benefit from adding a slow-releasing fertilizer to your potting mix. Try and add fertilizer to the potting mix before planting the cucumbers and follow up with feeding the plants diluted, liquid fish emulsion.  

Use a time-released pelleted fertilizer to fertilize the seedlings when their first true leaves develop. The ideal NPK ratio is 1-1.5-3. Then use a low-nitrogen, high-potassium fertilizer weekly to keep on track. Also, follow the plant kind and pot size recommendations on the label. 

You can even use fertilizers with a 5-10-2 proportion of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium to strengthen the growth of plant yields. 

Starting from Seeds

It is easiest to grow cucumbers starting from seeds in a container. Start growing them indoors if you live in a chilly location and want to get a head start on the season. Cucumber seeds are big, so plant them 1/2 to 1 inch deep. Place the seedlings under shop lights with one warm and one cold bulb after germination to ensure they get adequate light. 

If you’re growing cucumbers inside, be cautious about transplanting seedlings. You must first harden off the seedlings to gradually acclimatize them to the outside environment. Keep in mind, cucumbers don’t want their roots disturbed, so be careful while transferring them into their ultimate container.

Starting from Seeds

Use a Trellis 

Trellising is the process of keeping plants off the ground to improve production and increase usable space. There are multiple reasons why you should trellis the cucumber plant. A few of these reasons are: 

  • Sprawling vines over the ground can spread fast and make cucumbers susceptible to dirt and damage by wildlife
  • Trellised cucumbers are easier to find and harvest since their foliage receives more sunlight

When choosing a trellis, make sure it is sturdy since the cucumber vines are prone to toppling over on a windy day. Even ensure to place the container in a wind-protected spot and secure it to the ground with rope or cords if it’s not protected.

Harvesting 

Cucumbers are fast-growing plants, particularly when they are planted in warm weather. Since they grow so fast, one needs to be aware of harvesting them. To elaborate, cucumbers become bitter when left on the vines for too long, so it is important to regularly check the plants to see if any cucumbers are ripe. 

Not to mention, some varieties of cucumbers simply taste better when they are petite. Thus, it is advisable to pick such cucumbers when they are still small. To figure the size at which cucumbers should be picked, check the plant label or seed packet. 

Harvesting cucumber

As for the process of harvesting, it can be done using a garden clipper or scissors. Be sure not to pull the cucumbers off the vine as it risks damaging the fruit. Lastly, try to harvest the plant often since more harvesting encourages more production. 

By providing cucumber plants with the above-mentioned requirements, you are guaranteed their healthy growth. 

Step-By-Step Tutorial for Growing Cucumbers in Containers

Whether you are a beginner DIY gardener or a skilled one, you can never be too sure when it comes to growing something new. Therefore, it is important to be sure of the steps required for planting cucumbers before you start. 

To make matters easier for DIY gardeners, here you go – follow these steps for growing cucumbers in containers: 

Step 1

Take a container as per the requirements and install support structures for growing the cucumbers. Installing these support structures after you have planted may result in damage to the plant, therefore it is better to set these up beforehand. The trellis can even be set up behind the container.

Step 2

After setting up the container, you should mix in a one-inch layer of compost in the planting pot. The soil you mix should be loose up to a depth of at least 8 inches. 

growing-cucumber-in-containers

Step 3

Take the cucumber seeds and plant them in a cluster of 6-8 seeds about one and a half inches deep into the pot. But, avoid covering them too much since they might struggle to grow and break the surface during germination. 

Step 4

As you see the seedlings develop two sets of leaves, select 2-3 of the healthiest and snip off the others at ground level. It may be tempting to pull out the extras and plant them elsewhere, but that should be avoided. This is because pulling out the seedlings will damage the roots of the remaining plants. 

cucumber-growth

Step 5 

Since the cucumbers are all planted now, it is important to ensure they get enough moisture. Thus, water the growing cucumbers regularly to maintain even soil moisture. Additionally, aim for irrigation that is equal to an inch of rainfall every 3-4 days. Remember to never let the soil dry out completely, as it will cause your plant to wilt. 

Step 6 

Cucumber plants need to be trained to climb the support as they grow. This can be done by helping the vines twine around for support. If the vines need to get attached for support, then gently tie the plant in place with a soft, clean cloth strip. 

Step 7

As you see the vines growing, start increasing the mulch to help the soil retain moisture better. 

Step 8

Fertilize the plants every 2-3 weeks by watering them with a diluted liquid fertilizer at the root zone. However, be careful not to overfeed the plants, since this may result in lush foliage but few blooms and fruits.

Bonus Read: It is important to use good quality fertilizer to ensure healthy growth. Check our recommendations for the best fertilizers of 2021

Following these steps and taking good care of your cucumber plant is essential to its growth. Like all plants, cucumber plants thrive on sunlight, water, and nutrients, so be sure to give them enough of the same. Remember, deprivation will kill these plants slowly. 

Growing cucumbers in containers is comparatively risk-free and resistant to pests and diseases. Yet, there are some you should watch out for. Here, learn about the different pests your plant is prone to and how to avoid them: 

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is a fungus that affects a wide variety of plants. It can be identified by light grey or white powdery spots found on or underneath infected leaves, or on stems, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. 

This fungus thrives in a warm and dry climate, although it does need a little humidity too. Moreover, little sunlight and poor air circulation are two other factors that contribute to conditions that encourage powdery mildew. 

If left unchecked, powdery mildew can turn out to be a serious problem. A few ways to control powdery mildew before it occurs are:

  • Regular pruning of your plant to improve airflow within the plant
  • Place the container in proper sunlight
  • Keep the plant healthy by removing dead or diseased foliage
  • Do not overfertilize when you see new growth
  • Disinfect pruning shears after using on an infected plant 
  • Treat with organic fungicide regularly

After following these ways to control the diseases, if the infection persists, then follow any of these additional remedies:

  • Take a teaspoon of baking soda and mix it with dish soap and a quart of water, and then spray the solution on plants 
  • Mix 9 parts water with one part cow milk and use the solution as a foliar spray after each rain 
  • Using sulfur-containing fungicides can help in both, preventing and treating powdery mildew

If the problem of powdery mildew seems to be persistent with your cucumber plant, look for disease-resistant varieties. 

Bonus Read: Learn these tips on cleaning garden tools to prevent infecting your plants with unhealthy and infection-carrying equipment.

Cucumber Beetles 

Cucumber beetles are small, striped or spotted beetles often found in cucurbit crops (squash, cucumber, pumpkins). A symptom of cucumber beetles infestation is finding stems that are eaten off, and are yellowing and wilting leaves with holes. 

To get rid of cucumber beetles, follow these steps:

  • Inspect the cucumber plant for the presence of the beetles, be especially careful when the plant is a seedling 
  • To trap the beetles and other pests, use sticky yellow traps 
  • Beetles should be knocked to the ground and caught using a piece of cardboard put beneath the plant
  • Alternatively, suck up the beetles using a portable vacuum
  • Though they’re difficult to pluck by hand, wearing gloves covered in petroleum jelly makes the task a lot simpler
  • Cover seedlings with row cover, but remove them for several hours each day during the blooming time to allow for pollination

Prevention of cucumber beetles is the foremost way to ensure the health of the plant. Regularly spraying the plant with neem oil can help with prevention as well. 

Squash Bugs 

Squash bugs are big, brown, or grey insects that feed on cucumber fluids from both, the leaves and stems. They are, however, sluggish and simple to pluck and dispose of in soapy water.

Covering your seedlings with garden textiles until they start to blossom is another technique to keep bugs away. Some pests are disease vectors. This emphasizes the need for pest management.

Conclusion 

Cucumbers make a delicious summer fruit, and growing cucumbers in containers is not a particularly tough task. Besides, any plant you want to grow may seem to be difficult but is a rewarding task. By reading up on guides and tutorials like this one, your path to becoming an avid DIY gardener becomes clearer. 

Bonus Read: Discover these 11 other fruits trees that can be grown indoors.  

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