The cucumber is one of those plants with a fascinating life cycle. A warm weather plant, cucumber has complex growing stages that are as intriguing as they are complicated. If you love gardening, especially veggie gardening, you will love it.
Cucumber plant stages of growth start from the seedling and end with the delicate climber bearing those green edible fruits. These edible fruits turn yellowish-white when they are mature and ready for consumption.
Everybody wants their cucumber crispy and succulent, forgetting that good results hardly ever come by accident. That is why every cucumber farmer should understand cucumber growth stages. Otherwise, they may remain clueless even when things are going awry.
To save you from an unpleasant experience, we wrote this piece which centers on the cucumber plant’s stages of development, from germination to fruiting. Let’s dive in.
What Are the Cucumber Plant Stages of Growth?
Though cucumbers have types, there are no differences in their life cycles. Whether you plant the English seedless cucumber or the seeded cucumber, the cucumber goes through four distinct stages. What you know about these stages may make or kill your harvest.
The Four Stages of Growth of the Cucumber Plant are:
- The Seed Germination Stage
- The Seedling Stage
- The Flowering Stage
- Fruiting Stage
The Seed Germination Stage
For the best result, only sow your cucumber seeds when the soil temperature has risen above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. At a temperature of up to 80°F, germination may take three days. Seeds planted in soil below 50°F will not germinate. The rule is that cucumber seeds germinate slower when the temperature is low.
Also important is the depth at which you plant the seeds. Ensure you do not bury the seeds at a depth above 1.5 inches. If planted in a shallow hole, the cucumber plant may struggle unsuccessfully to establish its roots in the soil. Conversely, when you bury the seed too deep in the ground, the tender shoot may never see the light of day.
Once you do everything right, germination of the seed begins between 3 to 10 days. The first roots and the shoot emerge, breaking through the seed’s outer shell.
The Seedling Stage
The first shoot sprouts through the soil and presents primitive leaves. These leaves, also called cotyledon, are round and smooth-edged. The true cucumber leaves soon follow them. These are what your cucumber plants need to photosynthesize. They are heart-shaped and characterized by hair-like fibers covering the leaves. Unlike primitive leaves, these leaves have sharp edges.
For your cucumber seedlings to thrive, you need to ensure the soil is always moist. If necessary, you may need to wet the plants in the morning and evening. Of course, the ground’s surface may be dry, but that should not go beyond 1 cm deep.
In addition, when your seedlings are about 3 to 5 inches tall, you need to space them out. On average, the seedlings are supposed to be 1.5 feet apart. Spacing the seedlings may mean reducing the number of cucumber plants in the garden, and it may also mean you uproot and transfer some seedlings elsewhere. The bottom line is that you should not have crowded cucumber plants.
Also essential to the survival of your cucumber plants is the support the plants need. First, cucumber plants grow erect out of the ground. After growing for about one foot long, it starts vining. That’s the right time to find structures to attach the vines to. You may use a fence, a small tree or you can make a trellis. You must tie the delicate vines loosely so as not to damage them.
The Flowering Stage
The cucumber is a flowering plant; therefore, it requires pollination. In other words, this is a very important and delicate stage. Your actions and inactions may be desirous or disastrous for the plants.
First, you must know that a cucumber plant bears two types of flowers: male and female. The male flowers are the first to emerge, and there may be close to two weeks between the appearance of the male and female flowers.
Visually, the male and female flowers are different. The male flowers have a tube covered with pollen at the center. When touched, the tube is sticky.
On the other hand, the female flowers have a small immature cucumber ball at their bases. Because cucumber is not a self-pollinated plant, it needs pollinators such as bees and other insects. Once pollination is done, the male flowers wither and fall off. Thus, when you start seeing some flowers wilting, check to be sure they are male. If that is the case, there is nothing to worry about.
However, if you have female flowers falling off, there is likely a problem that needs urgent attention. Otherwise, you may not get a bountiful harvest at the end of the season.
The Fruiting Stage
Immediately after pollination, the next thing is for the female flowers to start developing into cucumber fruits. Depending on the type of cucumber you plant, you may have cucumber fruits that are long or short. Typically, your cucumber will be ready for harvesting between 40 and 60 days after germination. We leave a wide margin here because factors such as temperature and soil moisture can slightly change the outcome.
Final Thoughts on Cucumber Plant Stages
Although not part of the cucumber plant stages, harvesting is an activity you cannot skip. At maturity, cucumber fruits turn from green to yellow-white. The traditional pickling variety is usually between 3 to 4 inches in length at maturity. The cucumbers that are usually sliced are longer and can be between 7 and 8 inches long at maturity.
To enjoy a continuous harvest of cucumbers deep into the summer, make sure you plant cucumber seeds every three weeks for three to four months. That way, your cucumber plant’s stages of growth differ by weeks and months. Thus, when some are flowering, some are just germinating. When some are ready for harvesting, the others are at the seedling stage.