When you plant cucumbers in your garden do you wonder how many cucumbers per plant you can expect to harvest? I know I do because I want to make sure I’ve got enough to provide months of crunchy fruits, but not so many that we’re overwhelmed. Plus, I like to make a couple of batches of pickles each summer and that means I need a generous supply of pickling cucumbers. Below I look at the different types of cucumbers and how that impacts production as well as easy strategies you can use to maximize cucumber yield.
Types of cucumbers
Before I share tips on encouraging a heavy crop of cucumbers, one of the most popular garden vegetables, it’s important to understand a bit about how the fruits are produced. Standard cucumber plants are monoecious which means the vines have separate male and female flowers. For a fruit to form, pollen must be transferred from a male flower to a female flower. It’s easy to tell the flowers apart as male blooms have a straight stem under the petals where a female flower has a tiny fruit. Monoecious cucumber plants produce far more male flowers than female flowers to ensure there is a good pollen source when the female blooms start to open.
Most garden cucumber varieties are monoecious, but some hybrid varieties are gynoecious or parthenocarpic. You may see these terms in seed catalog descriptions so it’s helpful to know what they mean. A gynoecious cucumber variety produces mostly female flowers. Some gynoecious varieties need to be pollinated to produce their fruits and the seed packet typically includes a few seeds of a monoecious variety to provide pollen. Other gyneocious varieties don’t need to be pollinated to produce fruit and yield a heavy crop of cucumbers without male flowers.
Parthenocarpic cucumbers varieties don’t require pollination and are a great choice for greenhouses or polytunnels where there are no bees. The fruits from these varieties are ‘seedless’. That said, if you grow parthenocarpic varieties in a garden where bees can cross-pollinate the flowers, the fruits do develop seeds. Diva, a popular garden pathenocarpic variety, produces only female flowers which don’t need to be pollinated.
More types of cucumbers
Cucumbers aren’t just divided into flowering habits, they’re also grouped according to the types of fruits. This is helpful when considering how many cucumbers per plant you can expect to harvest. There are many types of cucumbers including slicing, pickling, cocktail, speciality, and thin-skinned. We can further divide the thin-skinned category into Beit Alpha (often called Middle Eastern cucumbers), Asian, and English.
I love growing a mix of cucumbers types in my garden and because different types have different days to maturity, this means we enjoy a long season of homegrown cucumbers.
How many cucumbers per plant
According to the university of Maryland, you can expect to harvest about 10 pounds of cucumbers from a 10 foot row. As for specific numbers, below you’ll find average yields for slicing, pickling, and Asian cucumber varieties, as well as heirlooms like Lemon.
How many cucumbers per plant for slicing varieties
Expect a healthy slicing cucumber vine to produce 8 to 10 fruits. Harvest these cucumbers when the fruits are 7 to 8 inches long and use them in salads and sandwiches. The skin is thicker than pickling or English cucumber varieties which gives them a longer storage period than other types. Varieties like Marketmore 76, Diva, and Lisboa are outstanding varieties with high production.
How many cucumbers per plant for pickling cucumbers
When selecting small-fruited varieties to grow I look for those that are high-yielding, disease resistant, and early maturing. Heirloom varieties and hybrid varieties with these characteristics produce 12 to 15 fruits per plant. My favorite small-fruited cucumbers to grow include Salt and Pepper, Pick a Bushel, Adam, and Bush Pickle.
How many cucumbers per plant for Asian varieties
I love thin-skinned Asian cucumbers like Tasty Green, Suyo Long, and Sashimi. You don’t need to peel the fruits and the vines thrive in my raised beds as well as in my polytunnel. Each plant yields about 7 to 9 fruits when given ideal growing conditions. Expect similar yields for English-type cucumbers.
How many cucumbers per plant for heirloom varieties
Heirlooms like Lemon are fun to grow and while many don’t have the disease resistance that hybrid cucumbers do, they can be very productive plants. I’ve been growing Lemon cucumbers for almost 30 years and typically harvest 15 fruits per vine. To increase production, I pick the round cucumbers when they’re still light green and about 2 to 2 1/2 inches across. If you wait until they’re bright yellow, the eating quality declines. Picking immature fruits also prompts the plant to make more flowers which increases overall production.
Problems that can affect how many cucumbers per plant
Unfortunately there are a number of factors that can affect cucumber production. For this reason, I always grow a few extra plants to make up for any unexpected issues. Here are 3 common cucumber growing problems:
- Pests – Cucumber beetles are a common problem when growing cucumber family crops. Depending where you live, you may have striped cucumber beetles or spotted cucumber beetles. Both species create holes in the leaves and flowers with the larvae also feeding on the roots. Plus, they can spread bacterial wilt, a serious disease. A heavy infestation of cucumber beetles affects yield, which means fewer cucumbers. Practice crop rotation and cover newly planted beds with row cover or insect netting to exclude the pests. Remove covers when the plants bloom to allow pollination.
- Diseases – There are several serious cucumber diseases you’ll want to avoid. Bacterial wilt, mentioned above, spreads via cucumber beetles. Fusarium wilt is another issue, particularly in warm climates. In my garden I often deal with powdery mildew. I make sure to space vines properly, water in the morning, and try to avoid wetting the leaves. Further reduce the occurrence of cucumber diseases by practicing crop rotation and planting resistant varieties.
- Lack of pollinators – Standard monoecious cucumber flowers need to be pollinated in order to produce a fruit. It takes many bee visits to effectively pollinate a single flower and if there are few pollinating insects in your garden you may not get many cucumbers. Be sure to plant flowering plants like zinnias, sweet alyssum, and nasturtiums with your cucumbers to entice pollinators. You can also boost yield by hand-pollinating cucumber flowers.
The best way to maximize cucumber production is to encourage healthy plant growth. Select a spot with 8 hours of direct sunlight and provide fertile soil. Vines that are drought-stressed, fighting off insects or diseases, or lacking nutrients produce fewer cucumbers. Follow these tips below to provide good growing conditions and boost yield.
- Water often – Cucumber vines need lots of water to grow well and produce a good harvest. Wilting leaves are a sign the plants are thirsty. Try to avoid water-stressed cucumber plants by deep watering twice a week and applying a straw mulch to the soil. Container-grown plants should be watered daily in summer to ensure sufficient moisture.
- Grow vertically – Growing cucumbers vertically on a trellis, fence, or other support can double the harvest! How? When grown up, sunlight is able to reach the leaves more evenly for vigorous growth. Plus, growing a cucumber vine up allows good air circulation for fewer disease issues. And it’s easier to see and pick the fruits when it’s time to harvest.
- Pinch the first flowers – When you’re trying to increase how many cucumbers per plant are produced it may seem odd to pinch off flowers. But removing the first few female flowers has long term gains. It tells the plant to keep growing which means more cucumbers in the long term. If the plant flowers early in its lifecycle, it won’t grow as large as it could. Therefore I remove the first two female flowers using garden snips or my fingers.
- Fertilize – Cucumber plants are greedy and need lots of nutrients. I work in well-rotted manure and apply a balanced fertilizer at planting time. Choose one formulated for vegetables with ample potassium and phosphorous.
When to harvest cucumbers
How and when you harvest cucumbers can impact how many cucumbers per plant are produced. For example, I always pick cucumbers when they’re slightly immature. These fruits offer the highest eating quality, but it also signals to the plant to continue producing new flowers. If overmature cucumbers are left on the plant new flower production can shut down which decreases the overall yield.
When picking cucumber, don’t pull or tug the fruits from the plants. Instead use garden snips to harvest. Trying to break the stems off of the plants by hand can damage the fruit or the plant. Learn more about when to harvest cucumbers.
For more information on growing a bumper crop of homegrown cucumbers, be sure to check out these articles:
- How to grow cucumbers in containers
- Identifying and solving cucumber growing problems
- 8 reasons why cucumbers turn yellow
- How to grow Armenian cucumbers