How Do Cucumbers Grow? – Growth Habits & Commercial Grows

Cucumbers have two different growth habits depending on variety. They can be bush or vining cucumbers. Bush varieties grow into 2’x4′ sprawling plants that could use support. In greenhouses vining varieties are grown and trained up pieces of twine up to 15′ tall.

Most cucumber operations are harvested by hand but larger growing operations may have specifically designed cucumber harvesters like those in the video. These will only be used for pickling cucumbers and not fresh use cucumbers.

Cucumbers grown in the field and left to grow on the ground will look like a sea of short green foliage as in the video above. Having access to a cucumber harvesting machine like the one above could heavily influence a farmers decision because the cost of labor for hand picking is significant.

Other decisions cucumber farmers have to make is to use poles and twine or support of some kind to train the cucumber plants up and using black row covers and drip irrigation hoses.

Black row covers keep out weeds, increase soil temperature, and help soil retain moisture. Clear row covers increase soil temperatures more but let the sun in allowing weeds to grow underneath them.

Labor, equipment cost, and crop yield are all factors farmers have to consider. Here are two great articles on growing crops of cucumbers. The first is Cucumber Production, it has a sample budget for a one acre cucumber grow in Pennsylvania and the other is Field Cucumber Production Guidelines for Hawaii.

When picked by hand cucumbers will be picked several times a week for 3-8 weeks depending on how long the variety planted produces. Bush type cucumbers will produce for a shorter amount of time and vining type for longer.

The benefit of harvesting with a machine all at once include the field being freed up for another planting of cucumbers or a different crop and the cucumbers spend less time in the field so they have less chance of becoming blemished or rotten.

Do Cucumbers Grow On Vines, Trees, Or In The Ground?

Cucumbers grow on vines or into a sprawling bush like plant. Cucumbers that grow on vines can be let to grow on the ground or trained up trellises or other supports. Cucumbers do not grow on trees or under the ground.

There is a tree, Magnoia acuminata, that is commonly called the cucumber tree. It has fruits that look like a mix between a cucumber and pine cone when immature and mature into a dark red. The fruit of the tree is not edible.

You might also be interested in “Stages of Cucumber Plant Growth (Pictures & Tips Along the Way)

How Long Do Cucumbers Produce For?

It’s tough to know exactly how long cucumbers will produce for but the general rule is that vining variety cucumbers will produce for longer and produce more cucumbers than bush varieties.

Production for cucumbers can last anywhere from 2-16 weeks depending on the variety and season. Pickling cucumbers will produce for 2-6 weeks and fresh use/slicing cucumbers for 4-16 weeks.

For the longest producing cucumber choose a vining type cucumber and get it started indoors so it can produce all season.

How Do Cucumbers Grow In a Greenhouse?

Cucumbers grown in a greenhouse are always grown for fresh use and not for pickling. Slicing varieties are longer than varieties grown for pickling.

A common variety grown in greenhouses is the English cucumber that has very delicate skin. This cucumber is commonly seen in the grocery store wrapped individually in plastic to prevent bruising and cold damage.

In a commercial greenhouse a wire is put up going from one end of the greenhouse to the other about 10 feet above the plants. Then individual plant are run up to the wire using twine. Plants will naturally climb the twine but some training is done to make sure it stays climbing its assigned twine and plastic ties are used to strengthen the plant.

The most common method of greenhouse growing with cucumbers is the Umbrella System. In this system all side growth is pruned leaving just the main stem growth until the plant reaches the top wire. Then once the main stem reaches the wire the top most growth, or terminal bud, is removed and the last two lateral branches are allowed to grow sideways and down.

The growth from these lateral branches will be allowed to hang down up to 3 feet from the ground. The main stem will also produce fruit but the first 3-4 feet at the bottom will have been pruned to not allow more vegetative growth.

Another system that’s gaining popularity is the High-Wire System, sometimes called the Hire-Wire System because it’s more labor intensive.

In this system the top wire is set higher around 15 feet and the cucumber plants top bud is allowed to grow until the top of the wire and then pruned back keeping all growth along the main stem.

This system is thought to have a higher production rate than the Umbrella System. Here is an article comparing the two methods. Other methods include the V-cordon and the Lean-and-Lower method.

How Do Cucumbers Grow In the Field?

In this video YouTuber “How Does it Grow” visits a cucumber field grown with vining cucumbers staked up with posts and netting.

Cucumbers can be grown in the field and allowed to grow on the ground or supported. The cost of the support system, poles and plastic clips, and the labor to put up the support, train the plant up the support, and remove and store the support system is a serious consideration.

Consistently picking cucumber plants leads to higher yields. This is because once the cucumbers become mature the seeds will also have matured and this will send a signal to the rest of the plant that it can slow down production.

When a cucumber gets too big or starts to turn yellow it’s been on the vine too long and is past the best harvesting window. Slicing cucumbers are picked in the 6-10 inch range with a diameter of less than 2″. Pickling cucumbers should be picked in the 2-5″ length range.

Most cucumber fields are harvested by hand. They are picked 3-5 days a week depending on the weather and the production rate of the plants. Hot weather means more frequent picking.

After a female flower is pollinated it can mature into a harvestable pickling cucumber in 5 days. Slicing cucumbers take longer to mature but can go from a flower to harvestable cucumber in 15 days.

After being picked cucumbers should ideally be kept in the shade until they reach the packing house. Getting the cucumbers down to 50 degrees soon after harvesting will give them a longer shelf life. Cucumbers store best at 50-55 degrees Farenheit. Any cooler and the cucumbers will suffer cold damage.

How Do Cucumbers Grow In a Garden?

Cucumbers grown in the garden can be grown however the gardener likes. The best way to grow cucumbers in the garden is with a trellis.

A trellis uses vertical space and rows don’t need as much space between them. Growing cucumbers on a trellis will lead to them getting more sunshine and air flower. It also makes for better visibility of cucumbers as they’re growing which helps pick cucumbers in the optimal harvest window which keeps the plant producing.

Another cool thing about growing cucumbers in the garden with a trellis or a support is that you can use whatever you want to train the cucumber plant up. Here’s an article that is all about the benefits of using a trellis in a garden.

To learn more about where cucumbers are grown and where the cucumber plant originates from check out “Where Do Cucumbers Grow?“.

If you have any thoughts, questions, or comments on how cucumbers grow or anything else talked about in the article please post it below!

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