How to grow cucumbers in containers

Fresh, crunchy cucumbers are a welcome, refreshing taste of summer. They are easy to grow, asking only for the sun and something to climb up before rewarding you with heaps of fruit and beautiful, bright flowers.

When growing cucumbers in pots or in a container garden, tie shoots regularly onto cane supports. Pinch out the growing tip once the plant reaches the top of its support.

A single cucumber plant in a large pot will keep you in crisp, juicy fruit all summer long. In fact, you might have trouble keeping up with these prolific plants. The flesh and skin are high in fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, but low in carbohydrates and with zero fats, making them terrific for digestive health.

Basic needs

Make sure you choose the right container size. Grow individually in any pot, tub, or grow bag provided it is 25cm in diameter and 20cm deep. Fill the container with loam-based potting compost.

The longer, smooth-skinned varieties need a warm, humid environment, while smaller, prickly ‘ridge’ cucumbers grow very happily in cool-temperate climates, choose a type to suit your conditions.

The soil must be well-drained, rich and moist.

Growing techniques

  1. In mid-spring sow seed in warm conditions, a minimum temperature of 20℃, or buy young plants in late spring.
  2. Grow in a warm, sheltered site or under glass, and mulch plants to conserve moisture.
  3. Keep the potting compost moist, watering around plants rather than over them.
  4. Train longer, smooth-skinned varieties up a garden wigwam, canes or trellis. Smaller types can be left to trail over the pot.
  5. Feed every two weeks with a liquid tomato fertilizer once the fruit starts to develop.

Problem-solving

Protect pots against slugs, remove them immediately whenever you see them. This is more effective at night when they are at their most active.

Powdery mildew is the white mould that appears on leaves’ upper and lower surfaces in dry weather. It is worse when there is poor air circulation among plants, so don’t overcrowd your pots. Ensure plants are always moist to prevent powdery mildew, remove affected leaves at once and spray with water to keep conditions humid.

Harvesting and storage

Harvest cucumbers at any size, by cutting each off with a sharp knife. If fruit is left to get too big it will also become less tasty and lose its texture. The skin toughens with age so pick cucumbers young.

It is best to harvest regularly, if you leave old fruit on the plant, the new ones won’t develop. The more you pick, the more the plant will produce.

Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Tips

  • Plants hate root disturbance so either sow cucumbers in their final pots or in biodegradable pots to reduce stress later.
  • Place a collar around each plant stem to stop it from rotting.
  • Focus energy on fruit production by pinching out the growing tips.
  • A cucumber plant dripping with fruit can be heavy, so ensure that it is securely tied to its support and that the support is well embedded in the container.