Want to learn how to grow and harvest cucumbers? Whether you want to make cucumber salad or pickles, knowing when and how to harvest cucumbers from your garden is key – here’s everything you need to know!
Cucumbers are one of the easiest-to-grow vegetables. Give them sun, water, and support, and they will do the rest to fill your harvest basket with fresh, tasty veggies. You may just be planning your garden or planting seeds now, but before you know it, it’ll be time to pick those cucumbers to use in salads or make pickles.
Here’s what you need to know about growing and how to harvest cucumbers to get them in their prime.
Two Types of Cucumber Plants
First, it’s important to know that there are two different kinds of cucumber plants that you can grow: bush cucumbers and vining cucumbers. They grow differently.
These plants are more bush-like, stay in one place, and are perfect for small gardens or for growing in containers.
On the other hand, these varieties of cucumbers grow vigorously and yield large numbers of crops. While they can grow along the ground, they do best when supported and trained to grow up a trellis.
Cucumbers Varieties for Different Purposes
In addition to these differences, you’ll notice that ripe cucumbers are either small and bumpy or large slicing varieties.
The small varieties are best for pickling (although you can eat them raw), while the larger varieties have a higher water content which makes them unsuitable for the pickling process. Instead, slice and eat them fresh or put them in your water – they’re delicious!
How to Grow Cucumbers
Before we can cover when or how to harvest cucumbers, we need to know how to grow them! Here’s a quick rundown of how to successfully grow cucumbers in your garden.
When to Plant Cucumbers
Cucumbers need a long growing season – most varieties are ready to harvest around 50-70 days after planting the seeds. But, the soil needs to be 70 degrees for cucumber seeds to germinate and they’re very susceptible to frost damage. For these reasons, I don’t recommend planting (or transplanting) them outside earlier than 2 weeks after the last frost date.
If you live in an area with a short growing season, that timing can be a little tricky, so I recommend starting the seeds indoors about 3 weeks before you want to transplant them into the ground.
Tips for Growing Cucumbers
Cucumbers need sun and lots of consistent watering. Follow these quick tips for robust yields of delicious cukes.
- Your plants will need at least 1 inch of water per week, and even more when it’s really hot. Using a soaker hose to water close to the ground will reduce evaporation and prevent water from getting on the leaves which can cause leaf diseases.
- Plan a watering routine that’s consistent because inconsistent watering causes bitter-tasting cucumbers.
- If you want to use trellises to train your vines to grow vertically, set them up before your plants need them so you avoid damaging your seedlings or vines.
- Mulch the ground to retain more moisture.
When to Harvest Cucumbers
Once your cucumber plants mature and start to produce, you can end up with lots of ripe cukes quickly. Make sure to check your plants daily so you catch them at their peak.
Tip: It’s crucial to pick your cucumbers when they are ready. If you wait too long, they’ll develop a bitter flavor.
How do you know when to harvest cucumbers? They’re ready to harvest when they:
- Have a nice uniform green color – the color may vary slightly so check your seed packet for more details. If they’ve turned yellow, they’re past their peak.
- Are firm to the touch
- Are the right size – at least 2 inches long for pickling varieties and 7-8 inches for slicing varieties. Check your seed packet for more details.
- Have girth – ripe cucumbers are about 1.5” in diameter.
If you’re still not quite sure, pick one and slice it up to taste it. You want a crisp texture with soft seeds.
How to Harvest Cucumbers
When your cukes are ready to harvest, you’ll likely have some to pick almost every day, so check your vines frequently. Use these helpful tips to make sure you get the best harvest possible.
Check Plants Daily
Checking your plants every day is the key to having healthy plants and bountiful yields.
Keep a close eye on your plants and be on the lookout for:
- Stunted (not growing) cukes, or fruits with rotten ends
- Cucumbers that are past their prime
- Powdery mildew – occurs when leaves get wet (you will need to apply a fungicide to remove)
- Aphids, cucumber beetles, or other pests.
Pick and discard any stunted, rotten, or overripe cucumbers to help the plants dedicate their energy toward maturing fruit you’ll harvest.
Fun fact: the more cukes you pick, the more your plant will produce! The reverse is also true – if you don’t harvest your cucumbers, your plants will produce less.
I recommend checking your plants and harvesting your cukes in the morning before the vines get hot.
During the peak season, you’ll likely be picking multiple cucumbers almost every day. Continue to check your plants daily even during the off-peak season to make sure you harvest cucumbers before they get overripe.
When harvesting cucumbers for making pickles, a good rule of thumb is to harvest at about 2 inches long for making sweet pickles and about 3-4 inches long for making dill pickles.
Tips to Properly Harvest Cucumbers
Instead of pulling or twisting cucumbers off the vine (this may damage your plants), use pruners or garden shears and cut the stem leaving about ½” of the stem still attached to the fruit. This helps keep the end of the cucumber from rotting in case you don’t use it immediately.
Burpless and English cucumber varieties tend to bruise easily thanks to their thinner skins. When you harvest them, make sure to gently place them in your basket or container.
You may be surprised to learn that cucumbers can be prickly! Wear gloves when you harvest cucumbers and rub a soft cloth or vegetable brush on your cukes to remove the spines.
Pinch off remaining flowers on your vines about 30 days before your expected first frost so that your plants can focus their energy on ripening the cucumbers that are currently growing.
How to Store Harvested Cucumbers
Once you harvest cucumbers for the season, it’s time to enjoy them! Eat them fresh, make pickles, or try one of these other ideas for using up those cukes!
Your cucumbers won’t continue to ripen after you pick them, unlike many other vegetables and fruits.
Store your pickling cucumbers in a cool dark place for up to 5 days before making pickles.
Slicing cucumbers will taste best right off the vine, but you can store them in the crisper bin of your fridge for up to 7 days.
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Or check out all our vegetable gardening posts!