Cucumbers are one of the most frequently grown vegetables due to how easy they are to care for. From the first sprout to the large harvests that these plants can produce, cucumbers are a great addition to a thriving garden. Learning about the cucumber plant stages can set your garden up for success, allowing you to anticipate and address any issues that arise along the way.
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What are the Cucumber Plant Stages?
The cucumber plant stages consist of the seed stage, germination, the seedling stage, the vegetative growth stage, the flowering stage, the fruiting stage, and harvesting! These stages are very important to the plants development and success. Each stage marks a specific point in the plant’s growth, with the plant focusing energy on different parts of development during each.
Cucumber Seed Stage
Once you have chosen the type of cucumber that you want to grow, you will be ready to start planting your seeds. There are many types of cucumbers to choose from, so be sure to choose one that fits your needs. Some of the most popular types are garden cucumbers, English cucumbers, Kirby cucumbers, gherkins, Armenian cucumbers and Persian cucumbers. This stage is marked by the seed being placed into the soil or paper towel to be set up for germination.
Many people opt to start their cucumber plants indoors 4 weeks before the last frost to give the plants a longer growing season. Plant 2 or 3 seeds in each hole, to ensure a plant grows. Some seeds are not viable and won’t grow, so planting more will make sure that you get at least one plant. Sow your seeds 1 inch deep within soil and be sure to keep the soil moist.
Tip: Avoid planting cucumber plants where you have previously grown them last season to avoid disease or pest transfer from the soil.
Germination is a very important part of the cucumber plant stages because it marks the beginning of the plant’s life. You will often not be able to see this process take place, as it typically occurs beneath the soil. You can, however, watch the process occur if you begin your seeds using the paper towel method. This stage will begin by the seed absorbing moisture from the soil around it. The shell will start to soften, giving way to a small root emerging. After this, you will start to see a stem with two small leaves begin to grow out of the soil. These baby leaves are called cotyledons.
Germination of cucumbers will typically occur within one to two weeks under optimal conditions. To speed up germination, you will want to plant your seeds in temperatures of 60°F to 90°F. If your cucumber seeds are planted in a colder temperature, you may experience longer germination times.
Cucumber Seedling Plant Stage
The seedling stage of a cucumber plant is an important time full of growth and development. During this phase, your seedling will be in its weakest form, as it works hard to grow a sturdier stem and root system. Additional leaves beyond the first set of baby leaves will begin to form, called true leaves. These new leaves will look a lot more like typical cucumber plant foliage that you are used to seeing.
If you have multiple seedlings growing in one area, be sure to thin them to one or two. If you start your plants indoors, be sure to handle the seedlings with care when transplanting outdoors. You will need to go through the hardening off process with your plants to get them acclimated to the outdoor environment.
Vegetative Growth Plant Stage
The vegetative growth phase of the cucumber plant stages is marked by rapid flourishing of the foliage. At this point, the cucumber plant will begin to put all of its energy into root growth and the growth of the leaves and vines. This will set the foundation for the optimal growth of cucumbers from the plant later on. During this stage, it is imperative that you provide your cucumber plants with adequate water and sunlight to aid in their growth. Aim for at least one inch of water per week, with more potentially needed during hotter temperatures. Additionally, cucumber plants require full sun and should get at least 6 hours a day.
During this stage, you will be able to train your cucumber plant’s vines to climb a trellis and grow vertically. If you have limited space, growing vertically may be a great option for you. Otherwise, they will grow along the ground like normal.
Tip: Placing mulch around your cucumber plants can help the soil retain consistent moisture, especially through the hotter temperatures of the summer months.
Flowering Plant Stage
The flowering stage will begin when the cucumber plants reach maturity. Buds will begin to grow along the vines of the plant, eventually opening up and revealing bright yellow flowers. These flowers are where pollination and fertilization will occur, which is essential to fruit growth. Pollinating insects, wind, or other animals can assist the plant in pollen transfer from one flower to another.
You may have a cucumber variety that is self pollinating, equipped with perfect flowers that contain both male and female parts. However, most cucumber varieties will produce both male and female flowers, requiring pollination to be done through mother nature. To figure out which type you have, research the variety that you have chosen.
Fertilization during this stage is important to assist the cucumber plant in growth and fruit production, especially if organic fertilizer was not added to the soil prior to planting. Aim for a fertilizer that has a NPK ratio of 5-10-10. The higher levels of phosphorus and potassium will help the plant produce more buds and aid in growth. Cucumber plants require higher levels of potassium than most crops, so it’s important to provide adequate levels. Fertilizer should be given every 3 to 4 weeks for optimal growth.
Cucumber Fruiting Plant Stage
Once successful fertilization has occurred within the flowers, the fruiting stage will begin. You will start to see small cucumbers begin growing at the location of the female flowers. The cucumber plant will now put all of its energy into growing the fruits of the plant for successful harvests.
It is important to provide your cucumbers with plenty of water during this stage, as they are growing fruit. The plants may produce fruit that do not taste as good or have a bitter flavor if they do not receive enough water.
The harvesting stage is the final and most exciting of the cucumber plant stages. You will get to pick and eat the cucumbers that you have grown by hand. Be sure to check your specific variety for instructions on how large the cucumbers should get prior to harvesting. Once your fruit have grown to the appropriate size, cut the cucumber from the stem and remove.
Tip: Cucumber plants are indeterminate and will continue to produce fruit throughout the entirety of the growing season. Regularly harvesting cucumbers will stimulate the plant to produce more flowers and continue producing.
Cucumbers. Cornell University