Easy Pickling Cucumber Growing Technique

Pickling cucumbers are a fun, tasty crop to grow in the vegetable garden. These small cucumbers have thin skins, crisp flesh, and few seeds – perfect for pickling! Pickling cucumber seeds can be planted in either spring or summer for a fall harvest.

When choosing pickling cucumber varieties to grow, there are bush types and vining types. Bush cucumbers are more compact, while vine varieties spread out and require trellising. Some good pickling cucumber varieties include Calypso, National Pickling, Boston Pickling, and Vert de Massy.

When to Plant Pickling Cucumber Seeds

Pickling cucumbers can be planted in spring or summer for best results. Here are tips on the best planting dates and soil preparation for spring and summer sowings.

When to Plant Pickling Cucumber Seeds

Spring Planting

In most climates, spring is the ideal time to sow pickling cucumber seeds directly in the garden. Cucumber plants need warm soil to germinate and grow properly.

Planting Dates for Spring

Wait until after the last expected frost in your area before planting pickling cucumber seeds in spring. Plant 1-2 weeks after the last frost when soil temperatures have warmed to at least 60°F. In northern zones, this is usually in late May or early June. In southern zones, mid to late March can work.

Preparing the Soil in Spring

Before planting, prepare the soil by loosening with a shovel or tiller. Mix in 1-2 inches of compost or well-rotted manure. Cucumbers prefer soil pH between 6.0-6.8. Test soil and add lime if needed to reach this optimal pH range.

Rake beds smooth, then sow seeds 1/2 to 1 inch deep and 12 inches apart in rows 2-3 feet apart. Another option is sowing 3-4 seeds together in hills spaced 2 feet apart.

After planting, water gently to avoid dislodging seeds. Cover beds with row cover or plastic to warm the soil. Remove any coverings once seedlings emerge.

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Summer Planting

In hot summer climates, planting in early to mid-summer for a fall harvest can also work well.

Summer Planting Pickling Cucumber

Planting Dates for Summer

Aim to plant summer pickling cucumber crops 75-85 days before the first expected fall frost. This gives enough time for fruit to mature. In zone 9, planting in early July allows an October/November harvest. Zone 5 can sow in early August for late October cucumbers.

Preparing the Soil in Summer

The soil preparation process is similar to spring planting. Incorporate compost and test pH in advance. However, take extra care not to plant in soil that is too hot. Wait for a cooler spell or use shading covers if sowing during a heat wave.

Water soil deeply 1-2 days before planting to cool beds down. Rake into hills or rows as described for spring planting. Use netting or lightweight row cover to provide shade if hot weather persists after sowing.

Pickling Cucumber Varieties to Grow

When selecting cucumber varieties for pickling, there are a few factors to consider. Pickling types have thin skins, tender flesh, and smaller seeds. The fruits stay firm when processed. There are bush varieties and vining types.

Pickling Cucumber Varieties to Grow

Bush Varieties

Bush cucumbers are more compact and suitable for small space gardens. Most bush plants grow 1-2 feet tall and wide.


Calypso is an All-America Selections winning bush variety that produces high yields on compact 2 foot plants. This is an early producer with 4 to 5 inch long cucumbers perfect for whole dill pickles.

National Pickling

National Pickling is another bush pickling cucumber with excellent productivity. It performs well planted in spring or summer. The cucumbers grow 3 to 5 inches long.

Vining Varieties

Vining pickling cucumbers require more space as they can spread 6 feet or more. Growing them on a trellis saves room and makes harvest easier.

Boston Pickling

A prolific vining type, Boston Pickling produces smooth, blocky 3 to 4 inch cucumbers on vigorous vines. It has good disease resistance.

Vert de Massy

Vert de Massy is an early ripening, French heirloom variety with tender skin and crisp texture. It yields abundant slim, 3 to 4 inch fruit on long vines.

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Caring for Pickling Cucumber Plants

Once pickling cucumber seeds or transplants are in the ground, there are some important care guidelines to follow. Paying attention to watering, fertilization, vine training, and pest control will keep plants healthy and productive.

Caring for Pickling Cucumber Plants

Watering and Irrigation

Consistent moisture is key for fast growing cucumber vines. Inadequate water causes misshapen, bitter fruits.

New Transplants

When first planted, cucumber seedlings need frequent watering. Aim to keep the top 1-2 inches of soil moist. Add a layer of mulch around plants to retain moisture.

Established Vines

As vines start spreading, water pickling cucumbers at the roots about 1-2 inches per week. Avoid watering foliage which can encourage diseases. Drip irrigation or soaker hoses work well. Reduce watering as fruits ripen. Excess moisture late in growth causes bland flavor and hollow pickles.


Pickling cucumbers are heavy feeders. Supplement with organic or synthetic fertilizers throughout the season for best harvests.

Organic Fertilizers

Organic sources like compost, compost tea, fish emulsion, and manure provide slow release nutrition. Side dress vines with 1-2 inches of compost or a 2-4 inch layer of rotted manure every 3-4 weeks. Spray fish emulsion or compost tea on foliage every 2-3 weeks following label directions.

Synthetic Fertilizers

Synthetic fertilizers quickly amend soil nutrients. Apply balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer or one higher in nitrogen before planting. Side dress with nitrogen-rich fertilizer when vines begin to run. Reapply every 4-6 weeks according to product instructions. Take care not to over fertilize which can damage plants.

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Training Vines

As pickling cucumber vines lengthen, they require support for best growth and easy picking. Bush types often do not need trellising.

pickling cucumber Training Vines

Using Trellises

Installing sturdy trellises at planting time is ideal. Space trellises 3-5 feet apart in rows. Secure vines carefully onto supports using plant ties or soft twine.

Staking Strategies

For more informal support, insert tall stakes 1 foot into soil next to plants. Tie vines loosely to stakes as they lengthen. Add more stakes as needed to keep rampant growth contained.

Proper vine training prevents disease and keeps fruits off the ground for clean harvesting. It also allows airflow which is important for plant health.

Pest and Disease Control

Pickling cucumbers can fall victim to both pests like cucumber beetles and common diseases like powdery mildew. Take proactive steps to prevent problems.

Common Pests

The main pests that attack cucumbers are cucumber beetles, aphids, squash bugs, and pickleworms. Row covers exclude most insects when installed at planting time. Handpick visible beetles and caterpillars. Use organic insecticides like neem oil or pyrethrins as needed.

Preventing Diseases

Diseases like anthracnose, angular leaf spot, and powdery mildew are common with cucumbers. Choose resistant varieties when possible. Provide good air circulation between plants. Avoid overhead watering and work vines when leaves are dry to limit spread of pathogens. Apply organic fungicides at first onset of disease.

Diligent pest monitoring and prevention allows healthy cucumber vines that will reward you with abundant pickling fruits.

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Harvesting Pickling Cucumbers

With proper care throughout the season, pickling cucumber plants will produce prolific yields. Pick cucumbers at just the right size and maturity for optimal flavor and texture. Use proper handling methods after picking to maintain freshness.

Harvesting Pickling Cucumbers

When to Start Harvesting

Begin harvesting pickling cucumbers while they are still small and tender. This ensures the best texture for pickling.

For slicing types, wait until fruits fill out to about 6-8 inches long before picking. Pickling varieties should be harvested when they reach 1 to 3 inches in length. Check plants daily and pick ripe cucumbers as soon as they reach the ideal size.

Leaving fruits on the vine to over mature results in large seeds, tough skin, and loss of flavor. Expect to start harvesting pickling types about 50-55 days after seeds were sown.

Pickling Cucumber Maturity Signs

The key signs pickling cucumbers are ripe for picking include:

  • Dark green color with no yellowing
  • Slender and firm with thin skin
  • 1 to 3 inches long for pickling types
  • Small blossom attached

Gently twist the cucumber while holding the vine. Ripe cucumbers should separate easily from stems without damage.

Harvesting Methods

Use care when handling pickling cucumbers to avoid bruises or punctures in the delicate skin.

  • Cut fruits from vines using a sharp knife or pruning shears rather than pulling.
  • Wear cotton gloves to avoid transferring oils from skin.
  • Handle gently to prevent nicking fragile skins.
  • Use clean containers lined with paper towels for collecting picked cucumbers.
  • Rinse with cool water, then gently pat dry before pickling or storage.

Post-Harvest Storage

For best texture and flavor, process pickling cucumbers as soon as possible after picking. If storing:

  • Refrigerate promptly in sealed containers. Avoid plastic bags which can trap moisture.
  • Sort out any damaged or overripe fruits which deteriorate rapidly.
  • Expect freshly picked cucumbers to keep 1-2 weeks when properly refrigerated.

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Post-Harvest Storage Pickling Cucumbers


Enjoy your homegrown pickling cucumbers! With the right care and timing, even a small garden can yield enough delicious cucumbers for fresh eating, gifts, and plenty of pickles. Proper harvesting and gentle handling keeps cucumbers fresh and crunchy until they are pickled or eaten. Now you have all the key information needed for growing a successful crop of pickling cucumbers from seed to harvest.

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