Cucumbers are among the most popular crops for home gardeners. They’re easy to grow and just a handful of vines can provide enough cucumbers for fresh eating from mid-summer through late fall. But proper cucumber plant spacing can mean the difference between healthy, productive plants and disease ridden, low yielding ones. Let’s take a look at how far apart to plant cucumbers based on your growing technique and the method you use to plant them.
Why properly spacing cucumber plants matters
Before we dive into the details on proper plant spacing for cucumbers, let’s take a look at why giving each plant enough room to grow is so important.
Reason 1: Disease suppression
Cucumbers are susceptible to a number of plant diseases, several of which are fungal in nature, including powdery and downy mildews, and botrytis. Fungal diseases like these thrive in humid conditions, and the closer your plants are spaced, the lower the air circulation is around them. Planting cucumber plants too closely can lead to a higher risk of disease. By following good cucumber plant spacing guidelines, you’ll reduce disease prevalence.
Reason 2: Higher yields
While you might think you’ll have higher yields by growing more plants in a smaller amount of space, the opposite is true. Plants growing in the same space compete for resources like water, nutrients, and sunlight. Proper spacing gives each plant plenty of room to “breathe” and reach its full growth potential.
Reason 3: Make the best use of your space
Proper cucumber plant spacing can also enable you to make the best use of your space, especially if you grow the vines up a trellis, fence, arch, or other structure. Vertical growing means you can cultivate more plants in a smaller area of the garden because the vines primarily take up vertical space, not horizontal space like vines left to ramble on the ground.
Reason 4: Pest prevention
Cucumber beetles are the primary pest of cucumber plants, though the vines are also prone to aphids, whiteflies, flea beetles, and a handful of other common garden pests. The best spacing for cucumber plants helps deter these common pests because it encourages healthy, uncrowded growth. Healthier plants have a naturally higher resistance to pests. Because cucumber beetles also transmit a deadly pathogen known as bacterial wilt, you’ll want to discourage them as much as possible by keeping your plants as healthy as possible. Proper spacing is a key factor.
Cucumber spacing requirements based on growing method
Now that you know a few of the reasons why knowing how far apart to plant cucumbers matters, let’s take a look at the best spacing guidelines. I’ve separated these guidelines into two sections based on whether you’re growing the vines on ground-level or vertically. Both sets of guidelines also depend on how you plan to plant your cucumbers: by sowing seeds directly into the garden or by planting transplants.
The best cucumber plant spacing for ground-level growing
Cucumbers in this category are planted directly into the soil – or into the soil of raised beds – and left to ramble on the ground. Practice the following guidelines to know how closely to space cucumber plants grown in this manner based on whether you’re starting from:
A. Seed sown directly into the garden, or
B. From transplants planted into the garden
When planting by seed directly into the ground:
Growing cucumbers in the ground from directly planted seeds is my favorite method. It’s quick and easy, and as long as the conditions are right at planting time (warm soil and warm air!), success is likely. There are two proper cucumber plant spacing parameters that will work.
- If you plan to plant your cucumber seeds in rows, plant the seeds 10-12 inches apart. Space the rows 18-24 inches apart, or more if you plan to regularly walk between the rows.
- If you plan to plant your cucumbers in groups, plant the seeds in groups of 3, with a distance of 18 inches between each group in all directions.
When planting transplants directly into the ground:
Planting cucumber transplants that you purchase at a nursery or start indoors under grow lights is a good option for some gardeners, especially for those who live in a region with a short growing season. If your growing season is much less than 80-90 days, planting from transplants as soon as your last spring frost date passes enables you to have a harvest before fall’s first frost arrives. A word of warning, though: Cucumbers resent being transplanted and do not like to have their roots disturbed. Because of this, handle the transplantation process with care, trying not to disturb the roots if possible.
The best cucumber plant spacing for vertical growing
Cucumbers in this category are grown up a trellis, arbor, fence, or arch. Because their growth is focused upwards instead of outwards, in general, the vines can be planted much closer together. Air circulation is naturally increased when growing cucumbers vertically, the vines are further away from ground-dwelling pests, and the pollinators can easily find the flowers. Practice the following guidelines to know how far apart to plant cucumbers when growing vertically based on whether you’re starting from:
A. Seed sown directly at the base of the trellis, or
B. From transplants planted at the base of the trellis
When planting by seed at the base of a trellis:
When sowing cucumber seeds along the base of a trellis, you can sow them as little as 4 inches apart. Again, their growth is focused upward so a thick sowing won’t limit air circulation or dramatically increase competition for light. However, if you plant this closely, you will need to pay extra attention to making sure the plants stay well-watered and fertilized throughout the growing season. Such close quarters mean they’ll compete more for available resources. Though the vines produce tendrils to help them cling to the structure, give them a little help early in the season by tying the young vines to the trellis with a piece of jute twine.
When planting transplants at the base of a trellis:
If your plan is to plant cucumber transplants at the base of your trellis, space them 6 to 8 inches apart. This is because the root systems of transplants are already growing strong in their little pots or nursery packs, and you want to reduce their chances of transplant shock by limiting the amount of water and nutrient competition they will face through their first few weeks of growth. Give them their own space and they will reward you with a long harvest.
How far apart to plant cucumbers when growing in containers
Lastly, I’d like to let you know how far apart to plant cucumbers when you’re growing them in containers. In containers, it’s not the spacing that matters most. Instead, it’s the volume of soil the container holds. If you choose a bush-type cucumber that produces a rounded plant rather than long, rambling vines, plant 1 plant per 2 to 3 gallons of soil volume. If you choose a standard cucumber variety with full-length vines, plant 1 plant per 5 gallons of soil volume. A five-gallon bucket with a few drainage holes drilled into the bottom makes a fine container for a standard cucumber plant.
If you’ll be growing your cucumber vine in a pot with other plants, always err on the side of a larger pot. Again, there will be lots of competition taking place for water and nutrients, so don’t skimp. If you plan to tuck a few herb or flower plants into the pot too, you’ll need to make sure the pot holds ample high-quality potting soil (here are our favorite DIY potting soil recipes so you can mix up your own!).
For more information about growing a healthy vegetable garden, please visit the following articles:
- Tomato plant spacing
- Zucchini plant problems
- How to prevent tomato diseases
- Growing green beans
- Growing kale