How Many Cucumbers Per Plant: 7 Ways to Boost Harvest
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Cucumber are an easy-to-grow, vining plant that are a must-have for many home gardeners. WebMD tells us that cucumbers are chock full of water, low in calories and can provide several necessary vitamins. With that in mind, it’s only natural to want the biggest, best harvest possible from your cucumber plants.
How many cucumbers per plant can you expect to harvest? In general, you’ll get somewhere between 10-15 cucumber fruits from each plant in your garden, or a total harvest weight of about 2-3 pounds. Larger varieties, or slicing cucumbers, produce an average of 10 fruits weighing roughly 6 ounces each. Smaller varieties, or pickling cucumbers, can produce about 15 fruits weighing 2-3 ounces apiece. Fruit production depends on the cucumber variety you plant, and various environmental factors and the quality of cucumber flower pollination can also lead to a larger or smaller harvest.
In this article, you’ll learn more about how cucumber type and variety affect how many cukes you’ll pick. We’ll also cover how to make sure cucumber flowers get pollinated and tips for getting the best harvest from each of your cucumber plants.
Let’s get started!
RELATED: What kind of harvest should you look for from pumpkins, another popular garden crop? Stop by our post on pumpkin plant production to learn the answer!
How Many Cucumbers to Expect Per Plant
Whether you’re planting cucumbers for salads or for pickling, a couple of factors can affect how many cucumbers to expect per plant:
- Cucumber type (slicing or pickling)
- Variety (hybrid or heirloom)
1. Cucumber Type: Slicers vs Pickling Cucumbers
Slicing cucumbers are usually several inches (6”-8”) long and have a diameter of at least 1 inch. In general, a healthy slicing cucumber plant can produce up to 10 cucumbers.
These are some favorite slicing cucumbers:
- Bush Champion
- Early Pride
- Salad Bush
- Sugar Crunch
- Sweet Success
Pickling cucumbers are smaller (up to 1”) in diameter and shorter (3”-4”) in length than slicers. Along with their compact size, pickling cucumbers also have smaller seeds and a crunchier texture, making them perfect for- you guessed it!- pickles. Typically, 15 or more fruits is the average for how many pickling cucumbers per plant.
These are some popular pickling cucumbers among home gardeners:
- Burpee Pickler
- Parisian Pickle
- Bush Pickle
- National Pickling
2. Cucumber Variety: Hybrid vs Heirloom
Beyond the cucumber type, there are also many varieties, including hybrid and heirloom ones. This comes into play for how many cukes you can expect from your plant.
A hybrid is a plant that has been bred from two parent plants of separate species. Hybrid varieties are developed to achieve certain traits, such as taste and size. Sometimes, increased productivity is one of those traits.
You can usually count on your hybrid cucumbers to produce at least 6 fruits per plant, and sometimes many more. Hybrid plants produce uniform cucumbers in appearance and time to fruit. Some popular hybrid varieties include:
- Supremo Hybrid
- Sweet Success Hybrid
- Sweet Burpless Hybrid
- Americana Slicing Hybrid
- Summer Top Hybrid
Heirloom cucumber varieties are pure genetic lines that have been around in their current form since WWII or earlier. Most heirloom varieties produce between 5-8 cucumbers per plant, and they tend to be more resistant to diseases. However, their growth and production can be unpredictable, and the cucumbers produced may vary in size and shape.
Some popular heirloom varieties include:
- Early Frame
- Jersey Pickling
- Lemon Cucumber
- Boothby’s Blond
Ensuring Good Cucumber Pollination
Delicious, crunchy fruits develop from healthy cucumber flowers, and you just can’t have good cucumber production without pollination.
For this to happen, the cucumber plant needs male and female flowers. The male flowers produce the pollen while the female flowers produce the cucumbers, and the pollen from the male must find its way to the female for fruit development.
There are a couple of ways you can help make sure that critical pollination takes place:
- Encouraging pollinating insect populations
- Hand pollination
Let’s take a deep dive into each of these methods.
Encourage Healthy Populations of Friendly Insects
Pollinators are insects, birds or mammals that take care of the job of moving pollen from one flower to another as they go about their search for flower nectar. Common garden pollinators include:
- All other types of bees (there are over 20,000 types globally!)
- Some beetles
According to Penn State Extension, you can attract and encourage friendly insects by diversifying your plantings with trees and shrubs and selecting bright flowers that attract insects, like cilantro, coneflower, sweet clover, and lantana. Also, be careful with any insecticide use, avoiding it if at all possible.
Pollinating by Hand
When there are not enough beneficial insects like honeybees and bumblebees or you just want to be certain your cucumber plants are pollinated, the sure-fire method is by hand.
First identify the flowers. Males grow in clusters of 3-5 flowers on shorter stems, while females have a small round ball at the base of the stem (this will eventually be the cucumber fruit). In the mornings, look inside the male flowers and remove the yellow pollen using a small, clean paintbrush or a cotton swab. You may also break off the male flower and remove the petals to expose the pollen.
Then locate the female flowers and start brushing the stigma (located inside the flower) with the brush or the anther covered in sticky pollen.
It will take a little bit of time, but it’s worth it for cucumber fruiting!
If you’d like to see a visual demonstration, MIgardener’s video is really helpful, starting at the 2:07 minute mark:
How to Increase Cucumber Yield: 7 Ways
Cucumber fruiting isn’t just about the type and variety. There are several steps you can take to encourage cucumber fruiting:
- Grow your cucumbers on a trellis
- Ensure proper spacing between plants
- Fertilize appropriately
- Plenty of water and sunlight
- Pest management
- Disease management
- Companion planting
1. Grow Your Cucumbers on a Trellis
Bush cucumber varieties typically stay pretty compact, but the vining types can definitely take up a lot of garden space. In this instance, using a trellis will not only help you save some ground area, but it can possibly also lead to better production.
Growing vertically provides better airflow and sunlight for your plant, helping reduce the risk for disease and pest infestations (which we’ll talk about in more detail a little later on).
It’s best to place your trellis as soon as you plant your seeds or seedlings, and begin training the vines onto the trellis as soon as possible. As the cucumber vines grow, you can secure them vertically to a trellis with twist ties or plant clips.
Be sure to wear garden gloves to protect your hands from the prickly vines and tie the vines loosely, as they will grow in width over time.
We also talk about the benefits of trellising in helping keep your plants healthier in our post on treating and preventing yellow cucumber leaves. Trellising is a great strategy for lots of reasons, so it’s definitely worth considering!
2. Ensure Proper Spacing Between Plants
It’s tempting to pack in as many plants as you can in hopes of getting the biggest harvest. But you’re much better off making sure each plant has the space it needs to grow and stay healthy.
Cucumbers can be prone to pest problems and developing fungal diseases on their leaves. Allowing for optimal airflow between plants and plenty of sun exposure can help cut the risk for both issues.
Also, cucumber root systems can grow up to 4 feet deep and 2 feet wide. Proper spacing also allows enough soil space for the roots to grow without impeding on others. Space your plants at least 2 feet apart when planting your seeds/seedlings.
3. Fertilize Appropriately
Cucumbers expend a lot of energy in growing their fruits and long vines, so feeding your plant regularly throughout the summer can help replenish those lost nutrients and power your plant for further production.
Use a balanced or complete fertilizer when you plant seeds or seedlings. I always recommend organic products for edible crops, and Dr. Earth Home Grown is my personal favorite.
Then once the vines reach about 12 inches long, fertilize again with about 1 tablespoon for each plant. If you’re using a granular formula, scratch it into the top inch of soil, and always water generously to help disperse the fertilizer evenly through the soil.
If you choose a liquid formula, dilute it according to the package instructions.
4. Plenty of Water and Sunlight
As long as there’s no rain in the forecast, soak your cucumber plants really well about once a week. Cucumber plants need about 1 inch of water per week at the minimum to grow, and even more when cucumbers are growing. But what does that mean in real life?
“Cucumbers consist mostly of water and require at least 1 gallon of water weekly, especially during the flowering phase,” says Bryan McKenzie of Bumper Crop Times. “You need to provide enough water to prevent yellowing and wilting. If you do it, your plants will thrive and potentially produce more yields than unhealthy plants.”
Test the soil moisture with your finger or a moisture meter before soaking. Adding mulch around the base of the cucumber plant can help retain moisture and prevent soil from drying out too quickly as well.
As for sunlight, full sun (at least 5 hours per day) is optimal for cucumber growth. If temperatures get above 85 degrees Fahrenheit for more than a few days in a row, monitor soil moisture and water more frequently if you notice slower growth or wilting.
5. Pest Management
Pests can damage cucumber plants, thereby reducing your cucumber fruit production. Common pests that affect cucumber plants include:
- Cucumber beetles (striped and spotted)
Spray off pests with water or pick them off by hand and remove any badly-damaged leaves or whole plants. If the problem persists, use an organic pest control like neem oil or insecticidal soap.
6. Disease Management
Many cucumber varieties are disease-resistant, but there are a few you should be aware of and know how to manage. Clemson Cooperative Extension lists these as some of the most common cucumber plant diseases:
- Viral diseases, including cucumber mosaic
- Powdery mildew
- Downy mildew
- Bacterial wilt
- Gummy stem blight
- Blossom end rot
- Leaf spot
- Fusarium wilt
Some of these diseases can be managed or treated, and you can still go on to harvest a healthy cucumber crop. But others, like viral diseases, are more serious and require pulling the infected plant and destroying it. The Clemson article in the link above also covers how to address each problem.
No matter which disease, prevention is by far the best strategy. Most issues arise from overly wet conditions or insect carriers. The best ways to keep your cukes disease-free are:
- Allow proper spacing between plants for airflow
- Avoid spraying water on the leaves while watering
- Keep a sharp lookout for pests and deal with them right away
7. Companion Planting
Companion planting is placing a plant with a desirable characteristic next to your cucumbers. Thoughtful companion planting can benefit your cucumber patch in a few ways:
- Enhance the growth of one or both plants
- Ward off pests
- Attract beneficial insects
- Help balance soil nutrient needs for cucumber fruiting
Legumes, including corn, beans, peas and lentils, add nitrogen to the soil that benefits cucumber plants as well as others in your garden.
Good vegetable companion plants include onions, beets, carrots and radishes. Marigolds and nasturtiums will repel beetles and thrips, and oregano repels pests as well.
Frequently Asked Questions about How Many Cucumbers Per Plant
Whether you eat them raw or pickle them, cucumbers are a great plant to grow in your home vegetable garden. They’re really easy to care for and with the right care, you have almost guaranteed cucumber fruiting.
How many pickling or slicing cucumbers per plant depends on variety, environment, and beneficial insects, but you can help all of these along with the steps lined out above. So prepare the garden, get that trellis ready and grab a paintbrush- we’re growing cucumbers!
We want to hear from you! Do you have any more questions about cucumber production or care? Or maybe you’ve cracked the code to abundant cucumber harvests and you’d like to share some tips. We learn best from one another’s thoughts and experiences, so please feel free to share in the comments!