Last Updated on September 30, 2021
Cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is a green vegetable native to India but a popular ingredient in various cuisines around the world.
Although they’re widely considered as vegetables, cucumbers are technically fruits. They belong in the same family as watermelons and pumpkins, which explains their watermelon-like and somewhat bitter taste.
Cucumbers come with a cocktail of health and nutritional benefits.
The vegetables are rich in dietary fiber and high in water content. That combination might aid digestion as well as promote rehydration and weight loss.
Cucumbers also contain several antioxidants, including beta-carotene, flavonoids, lignans, and triterpenes. These compounds work synergistically to prevent disease by combating oxidative stress induced by the over-accumulation of free radicals in body cells.
Like most fruits and vegetables, cucumbers undergo rigorous growth before they can attain full maturity. That growth takes place in multiple stages.
If you’re aspiring to have cucumbers in your home garden, it’s imperative that you understand all these phases. That’s because each stage contributes immensely to the overall growth and development of your cucumber plants.
Table of Contents
The following are the major phases in a cucumber growth cycle.
Stage One: Germination
Germination is the first stage in a cucumber’s growth cycle.
Cucumber seeds typically germinate within 7 – 10 days of planting them. However, this timeline isn’t as rigid as it may sound. Some cucumber seeds may germinate in as fast as three days. Others might take as long as three weeks to emerge from the soil.
Perhaps the key thing to note here is that the duration cucumbers take to germinate is determined primarily by soil temperature and moisture content. Cucumber seeds will germinate faster in warmer soil temperatures (preferably 70 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit) and high-moisture conditions than in colder temperatures and drier conditions.
Seed quality is another crucial factor that affects the duration of cucumber germination. That underscores the importance of investing in high-quality cucumber seeds from trusted suppliers.
Lastly, the germination rate of your cucumber plants may be affected by how deep your plant the seedlings. Experts recommend planting cucumber seeds no deeper than 1 ½ inch. If you plant the seeds deeper than this, the shoots may experience difficulties breaking out of the seed’s outer coat and through the soil.
Besides the duration of cucumber germination, there’s also the aspect of germination rate.
Again, this depends on the quality of cucumber seeds. While some seeds can register a germination rate as high as 70%, others may only attain a 10% growth rate. The best way to ensure an impressive germination rate is to practice bulk planting. That’s regardless of the quality of cucumber seeds you plant.
Stage Two: Seedling
The seedling stage is marked by the appearance of the first set of immature cucumber leaves. These leaves are known as cotyledons.
After the cotyledons emerge, true leaves begin to develop. It’s at this point that your young cucumber plants can now make their own food through photosynthesis.
As photosynthesis picks up, the cucumber seedlings start to develop the vines and other true leaves.
It’s important to monitor the vines closely. Once they become long (at least one foot) and strong enough, it’s best to keep them off the ground. That helps to prevent disease and ground pests, while also allowing the cucumber plants to hang straight.
The best way to keep your young cucumber plants off the ground is by tying them loosely to a sturdy wooden trellis. If a wooden trellis is hard to come by, you can tie the vines to a nearby fence, netting material, or metal garden cages.
Needless to mention, it’s important to handle the young cucumber plants with gentle hands. Also, avoid touching the plants when they’re visibly wet as that might break their tender vines.
Stage Three: Vegetative Growth
This is the phase between the seedling stage and the flowering stage.
Much of the work here involves tending to your cucumber plants to ensure optimal growth and development.
First, start by removing some of the seedlings. This should ideally happen when the seedlings are about 4 inches tall. The remaining seedlings should preferably be 2 – 3 feet apart.
Next, be sure to maintain other ideal growth conditions. That includes watering the cucumber plants as required, checking for pests and diseases, and nourishing them with fertilizer regularly.
If growing cucumber indoors, you may need to invest in additional accessories like grow lights and fans.
Note that like most garden plants, cucumbers need at least eight hours of direct sunlight or up to sixteen hours of artificial light (if growing indoors). The plants also require adequate air circulation for efficient gaseous exchange.
Stage Four: Flowering and Fruit Formation
As cucumbers grow, the plants develop two varieties of bright, golden-yellow flowers – male and female blossoms. These blossoms are known as staminate and pistillate, respectively. Plants that develop both male and female flowers are called monoecious plants.
Staminate are usually the first set of cucumber flowers to blossom. They generally drop from the plant almost immediately after pollination.
Pistillate blossoms develop shortly after the staminate emerge, sometimes within one or two weeks. But unlike staminate, pistillate blossoms don’t drop off the cucumber vines. Instead, they develop into cucumber fruits.
While cucumber is a monoecious plant, it’s worth noting that the staminate blossoms are fairly inefficient at carrying out the all-too-important task of pollinating the pistillate. In most cases, pollination is facilitated by external agents like bees and wind. Therefore, it’s important to avoid applying insecticides directly on cucumber flowers as that may kill the pollinators.
Also, remember to water the plants regularly and apply sufficient nitrogen-based fertilizers during the flowering and fruit formation stage.
Stage Five: Harvesting
Cucumbers are generally ready for harvesting within 50 and 70 days from germination. But as you shall find, that largely depends on the variety.
The best time to harvest cucumber is when the outer skin is still green. Don’t wait till the skin turns yellow unless you’re growing the yellow-skin cultivar.
Overly ripe cucumbers are discouraged as they tend to have a tough texture. Plus, they produce a bitter taste.
The best way to harvest cucumbers is by snipping them from the vines. Avoid ripping the fruits forcefully from the plant as that could damage the tender vines.
Also, considering that cucumber is a relatively fast-growing plant, it’s recommended to stagger planting every few weeks. That will guarantee a steady supply of cucumber throughout the year.
Evidently, growing cucumber isn’t as difficult as some people may imagine. It largely comes down to understanding the plant’s various growth phases and maintaining ideal conditions for each growth stage.