Planning Proper Cucumber Spacing

Last update: May 4, 2021

Spacing for cucumbers depends on the type of plant. Vining cucumbers have the biggest spacing needs, while bush varieties are smaller and can get by with less room.

You can save space in the garden by growing a vining plant up a trellis or by putting a bush variety in a large container. No matter which option you choose, giving your cucumbers enough space reduces the risk for disease and other problems.

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Why Proper Cucumber Spacing Matters

Imagine if your parents only let you live in a tiny room and didn’t give you clothes that properly fit you when you were growing up. Odds are, your growth would have been stunted and you probably wouldn’t have turned out so well.

The same thing can happen to cucumbers, if they don’t get the space they need in the garden. Crowding cucumber plants increases the risk for certain diseases, according to Cornell University’s Growing Guide.

Powdery mildew is a fungal infection that cucumbers develop when they don’t have enough room. Like many fungi, the mildew tends to thrive when in humid conditions. When there’s not enough space around your cucumber plants for air to flow and moisture to evaporate, powdery mildew is more likely to take over.

Scab is another fungal infection that thrives when space is limited and conditions are wet. Along with giving your cukes plenty of room, you can reduce the risk for the infection by watering in the morning, so that the leaves have time to dry out before the sun sets.

Cucumber Spacing is Influenced by Cucumber Variety

Whether you have a huge garden or just a tiny plot of land, there’s a cucumber variety to fit your spacing needs. If space is limited, it’s best to pick a bushy variety of cucumber.

Bush varieties usually only need about 3 feet of space, according to the Utah State University Extension. Vining cucumber plants, on the other hand, often need at least 6 feet of space to thrive.

Even if space is limited, some gardeners might prefer to grow vining cucumbers instead of bush varieties. You’re usually likely to get more fruit from a vining plant than from a bushy plant.

Bush varieties are more likely to produce fruits earlier in the season, which can be preferable for some gardeners. If up to you to choose between lots of fruit in exchange for lots of space or fewer, earlier fruits and less space.

Cucumber Spacing in Hills

Usually, it’s best to plant cucumber seeds directly in the garden, rather than planting seedlings or transplants. Cucumbers have pretty sensitive roots and don’t like being moved once they’ve started to grow.

If your garden space isn’t limited, you might want to try growing your cukes in hills. To make a hill, create a pile of soil on the ground. Some gardeners recommend making the hill about a foot in diameter and about three inches tall.

Leave about five feet of space between each hill, if you’re planting more than one. If you’re growing a bush variety, you can get away with just three feet of space between each hill.

Place about four or five seeds in the hill, planting them about an inch deep. When the seeds have germinated, thin the plants to two per hill once they each have two pairs of leaves.

Remove plants that don’t look so great and leave the healthiest ones to grow in the hill. When you’re removing the unwanted plants, use a pair of garden shears to cut them at the soil line, rather than pulling them up from the roots. You don’t want to disturb the plants you’re leaving in the garden.

Cucumber Spacing in Rows and Up Trellises

Planting cucumbers in rows and training them to grow up trellises saves space in crowded garden. Depending on how long your rows are and how many you plant, you might be able to get more cucumbers in a smaller amount of space using this method.

To plant in a row, direct sow the cucumber seeds in the soil. Space each seed about two inches apart. If you’re going to plant more than one row, each row should be about five feet apart if you aren’t trellising your plants.

Thin your seedlings out once they’ve got a pair or two of leaves. Leave about a foot of space between each plant in the row.

Your cucumber rows can be closer together if you’re training the plants to grow up a trellis. Space the rows about two or three feet apart if you’re using a trellis.

It’s a good idea to put the trellis into the ground at time you plant the seeds. If you add it later, after the plants have started growing, you risk upsetting their roots.

You have a variety of options when it comes to training your cucumbers to grow vertically. This video from GrowVeg shows you how to put together your own trellis, using materials you might already have lying around your home.

Cucumber Spacing in Containers

You can still grow cucumbers even if you don’t have actual soil in your backyard or even a backyard. Cucumbers will grow in containers, as long as you choose the right type of cucumber and the right type of container.

Instead of thinking about how much space to leave between the plants when you use containers, you need to think about the size of the container. Usually, the bigger the container, the better.

The smallest recommended size is typically 12 inches in diameter, according to the National Gardening Association. Your cucumbers are likely to be happier in 18 inch or 24 inch wide pots.

It’s best to stick to one plant per pot. You also want to choose a bush variety, so that your cucumbers don’t overrun the container.

This video from Burpee walks you through the process of planting cucumbers in a container and includes a lot of useful information about choosing varieties and the type of soil to use.

Getting the spacing right for your cucumber plants makes it more likely that you’ll have a bumper crop of cukes this summer. Whether you’re growing pickling cucumbers or slicing cukes, giving them the room they need is a must.

You may also read about spacing for carrots and kale.

Photo by Joe Quick licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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