How to Space Your Cucumbers for the Biggest Harvest
Even in the best soil, improperly spaced cucumbers struggle to produce. Planted too closely, they grow leaves instead of fruit. If they're too far apart, bees may not pollinate them. With just-right spacing, however, cukes just keep on coming.
Planning Your Planting
With stems reaching up to 10 feet (3 meters) long, vining cukes cover as much as 25 square feet of space when sprawled over the soil. Bred to stay small, bush cucumber vines seldom need more than 3 square feet (.28 square meters). Regardless of which you choose, growing cukes vertically on trellises makes the best use of your garden space.
Expert gardener’s tips:
- Before planting your cukes, check their seed packets or seedling labels to learn their mature size.
- Row planting is suitable for sprawling or trellised cukes. If you want the plants to sprawl, hill planting works best.
To grow cukes in hills:
- Pile the soil into a series of mounds measuring about 18 inches (.45 centimeters) across and 8 inches (20.3 centimeters) high. For vining cukes, allow 6 feet (1.86 meters) between the hills in every direction; 3 feet (.93 meters) is adequate for bush varieties.
- Poke 1-inch (2.5-centimeter) holes about 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) in a circle around the top of each hill.
- Set a seed in each hole, replace the soil and sprinkle the hill with water until it’s moist but not soaked.
- When the seedlings reach 4 inches (10 centimeters) high, thin them to the three strongest in each hill.
To plant in rows, make raised rows of soil between 4 and 6 inches tall. Allow 6 feet (1.9 meters) between rows for sprawling cukes; if you’re trellising the plants, 3 feet (.91 meters) is enough. Plant the seeds 1 1/2 inches (3.8 centimeters) deep and about 6 inches (15.2 centimeters) apart. After the seedlings reach 2 inches (5 centimeters) tall, thin the weakest ones so the strongest stand about 1 foot to 18 inches (30 to 45 centimeters) apart.
Trellising the Rows
Trellising your cukes has several advantages over letting them sprawl. It reduces the risk of disease, keeps the foliage dry during watering and makes harvesting the fruit much easier. To trellis your row-planted vines, set trellises large enough to accommodate the plants’ mature height directly behind the rows at planting. After the thinned seedlings stand 1 foot (30 centimeters) high, carefully wind their vines around the trellis bases.
Expert gardener’s tip: Waiting after the cuke seeds sprout to set the trellises in the soil may disturb their developing root systems.