I enjoy eating cucumbers in my salad and wanted to add them as part of my container garden. I’ve written all my research that will help you know if you can grow them in a bucket.
You can grow cucumbers in a 5 gallon bucket. You need to pick a bush variety that will grow well in the bucket. You also need to provide frequent watering, pruning, and fertilization to keep the cucumbers growing well. You may need to hand-pollinate the flowers so cucumbers can grow.
It’s simple to grow cucumbers in your container garden if you take care of a few basic things. You can find all the details in the article I’ve written below.
What cucumbers should you grow in a bucket?
The main varieties of cucumbers you can get are the slicing and pickling varieties. The slicing varieties grow large cucumbers that are good to eat raw or in your salad. The slicing varieties have soft skin and flesh.
The pickling varieties are smaller and are suitable for preserving as in a pickle. They have tough skin and thick flesh suitable for preservation.
You can grow either a bush type or a vine type of cucumber in your container garden. The bush type is compact, produces less fruit, and does not need trellis support.
The vining type can produce a lot of cucumbers but it needs more space to grow all the vines. And you need to provide good support like a trellis to encourage the vines’ growth.
I would suggest you pick the bush type if you have very limited space for your 5 gallon bucket or you don’t want to spend the effort of setting up a trellis.
Otherwise, you can pick the vining variety but you need to work on setting up a trellis and attaching the vines to it.
|Bush Champion||Bush||6-8 inches||55 days|
|Salad Bush Hybrid||Bush||6-8 inches||57 days|
|Picklebush||Bush||6-8 inches||52 days|
|Spacemaster||Bush||6-8 inches||56 days|
|Straight Eight||Vine||6-8 inches||58 days|
|Honey Plus Hybrid||Vine||20-24 inches||40 days|
|Armenian||Vine||6-8 inches||70 days|
|Lemon||Vine||6-8 inches||65 days|
When is the best time to plant cucumbers?
The best time to plant cucumbers outdoors in the bucket is at least two weeks after the last frost date has passed.
The cucumbers are a warm-season plant and cannot tolerate cold or frost. You need to give the seeds and seedlings at least 70 °F so they can germinate and grow well.
If you have a long growing season you can plant the cucumber seeds outdoors in the 5 gallon bucket.
If you have a short growing season you can start the seeds indoors about three weeks before you plan to transplant them outdoors. Make sure to use a heating mat or place the seed trays on a refrigerator, oven, or water heater.
The other choice is to buy the seedlings from your local garden center or nursery when you want to plant them in your container garden.
How long do cucumbers take to grow?
Most cucumbers will take about 50-70 days from germination to harvest. And this includes the vining and bush types.
You need to check the seed packet that will show exactly how many days it takes to harvest the cucumbers.
If you bought the seedlings from a garden center you might not be able to know how many days passed since germination. But you can use other methods to figure out when to harvest the cucumbers that we will see later.
This could be simple signs such as the cucumber has turned dark green in color.
How to choose a container for cucumbers?
A cucumber plant has deep roots so the container you choose should be at least 16 inches deep and 12 inches wide. You can use a 5 gallon bucket because it is deep and wide enough.
If you choose a vining cucumber variety you may be able to grow just one plant in the bucket. If you choose a bush variety, you may be able to plant a couple of them.
You don’t want to plant too many in the single bucket because they will compete for nutrients and moisture.
The bucket will usually be made with plastic and that is completely fine to grow your cucumbers. Just make sure it is durable, lightweight, and can hold the plant as well as potting soil.
The benefit of using a plastic bucket is it does not lose moisture fast so your cucumber plants can absorb the moisture longer.
Make sure the plastic bucket you choose has many drainage holes at the bottom so the excess water can drain out.
Cucumber plant roots need a lot of water but they don’t prefer soggy soil and can suffer from root rot. If there are no drainage holes in the bucket, you need to drill some yourself.
How to prepare the container for planting?
It’s important to clean the 5 gallon bucket before you use it. You can do this by soaking it in a mix of 1 parts bleach to 10 parts water for at least an hour.
You can then rinse the bucket with water and dry it in the sun. This will help get rid of any pests and diseases that may be lying around in the bucket.
Check that the pot has some drainage holes at the bottom. If not, you can use a drill to make some yourself. This is crucial so the excess water can drain out and avoid rotting the roots of the plant.
When planting cucumbers in a bucket, make sure to use potting soil rather than garden soil. This helps issues such as too much clay or sand in the garden soil. It also prevents pests, diseases, and chemicals from the garden soil reaching the plant.
The only situation where you may use garden soil is if you have created a good, fertile soil with the addition of compost in your garden.
If you want, you can make your own potting soil by mixing 1 part compost, 1 part vermiculite, and 1 part perlite. This texture created by a mix of perlite and vermiculite retains enough moisture while draining out the excess.
The compost helps provide nutrients, beneficial organisms, and good texture to the potting soil.
Fill the container with the potting soil till there’s a space of 2 inches left from the rim. This will prevent the soil from spilling out when watering.
How to add support to the 5 gallon bucket
If you choose a bush variety of cucumber, you don’t need to worry about adding support. But if you picked a vining variety to grow, it’s best to provide some support so the vines can grow vertically without entangling or touching the ground.
The support will also make it easy to prune and maintain the vines as well as harvest the cucumbers.
The most common support to use is a trellis where you can tie the vines to it. You can make a trellis yourself or buy one from a store. You can make one yourself using a tomato cage and a couple of wooden stakes.
Invert the tomato cage and place it in the potting soil. Tie the top of the inverted cage so it forms the shape of a teepee. Weave the wooden stakes through the wires of the tomato cage and bury them deep inside the potting soil.
You need to add the support when preparing the container rather than after the seedlings have germinated. This will help avoid damaging the roots of the cucumber plant as you bury the wooden stakes.
Make sure to have at least 2-3 stakes on different sides of the tomato cage to give the most stable support to the cucumber plant.
How to plant cucumber seeds?
You can get the cucumber seeds from an online store, local garden center, or a seed catalog. The benefit of planting cucumber seeds is it’s inexpensive and you can get several cucumbers from one plant.
I would also suggest starting cucumbers from seeds because they don’t like their roots to be disturbed with a transplant.
I would also recommend directly planting the seeds in the 5 gallon bucket outdoors if you have a long growing season. Just make sure to do this two weeks after the last frost date.
You can start the seeds indoors if you have a short growing season. Just sow them three weeks before you’re going to transplant them outdoors.
If you’re starting seeds indoors, I would suggest using peat pots so when the seedlings have grown you can just plant them outdoors along with the pot. This will avoid disturbing the roots and the plant suffering from transplant shock.
Put some seed starting mix in the peat pot. Then plant 2-3 cucumber seeds 1/4th inch into the mix.
Spray the potting soil with water so you keep the seeds moist for germination. But make sure not to use force or you can displace the seeds from their location.
Cucumber seeds need at least 70 °F so they can germinate. You can use a heating mat underneath the pots to create a warm environment.
You should water the potting soil every day but make sure it’s not soggy. You should also keep the peat pots near the windowsill where they can get plenty of sunlight to germinate.
The cucumber seeds will germinate after 3 to 10 days when you give them suitable conditions as mentioned above.
Once the seedlings have grown 3-4 inches tall, you can transplant the peat pot outdoors in the 5 gallon bucket. But before you do that you need to harden the seedlings.
2-3 days before transplanting the seedlings, start to move them outdoors for a few hours every day. Make sure they are not in full sunlight or wind.
Once the seedlings are hardened, you can transplant them to the bucket. You can dig a hole and put the entire peat pot inside it. Make sure that the peat pot is fully submerged inside the potting soil.
Press the soil near the base of the plant to give it steady support. Water the soil well so that the roots get enough moisture and adapt to the transplant.
How to plant the cucumber seedlings?
If you have a short growing season or just don’t want to spend the effort starting seeds, you can buy seedlings from a local garden center or nursery.
The drawback of doing this is it’s expensive than starting seeds. And you’re limited in the seedling choices that you get.
If you had started seeds, the seedlings will have germinated in about 3-10 days.
If possible you should get the seedlings in a peat pot so you can transplant them without moving the roots. The cucumber roots are sensitive and may suffer from transplant shock.
You can transplant the seedlings to the pot after you have hardened them for the outdoor conditions. Start moving them outdoors for a few hours every day. After a week, your seedlings will be ready for the transplant.
Once the seedlings are hardened, you can transplant them to a container. Gently squeeze the tray till the soil ball gets loose.
Make a hole in the center of the potting soil in the container and place the seedling in it. Cover the roots with potting soil so they are not exposed to air.
Press the soil near the base of the plant to give it steady support. Water the soil well so that the roots get enough moisture and adapt to the transplant.
How much sunlight does cucumber need?
Cucumbers are a warm-season plant that needs full sunlight to grow healthy foliage and fruits. I would suggest giving the plant at least 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight every day.
If it becomes too hot, the leaves may start to droop. So it’s best to move the plant in shade for the afternoon.
As the season passes, the position of the sun will change and you may need to move the pot so the cucumber plant gets the required sunlight.
This also means that the cucumber plant and the potting soil will dry out faster and you need to water it more often.
How to water the cucumber plant in the bucket?
The cucumber contains 95% water which means you need to provide it a lot of water when it’s growing foliage and fruit.
Stick your finger in the potting soil every day to check the moisture levels. If the tip of your finger is dry, you need to water the cucumber plant.
You want to water deeply and thoroughly so the water can reach all the portions of the bucket. The roots will be able to absorb the required moisture and nutrients with such watering. Make sure to water till the excess comes out of the drainage holes at the bottom.
You want to avoid the problem of overwatering or underwatering the plants in the containers. Underwatering will not provide sufficient moisture so the cucumbers will not grow well or even die. Overwatering will drown the roots, leading to root rot and fungal diseases.
The stress due to lack of water will also cause the cucumbers to turn bitter in taste.
I would suggest watering the plant every day because this is a very thirsty plant. You may need to water more than once when the temperature is high.
I would suggest adding mulch like grass clippings, hay, wood chips, or dried leaves to the bucket. This will help keep the temperature in the potting soil regulated and you don’t need to water the plant as often.
How to thin the cucumber seedlings?
When we start seeds, we usually want to sow 2-3 seeds in a single tray or peat pot. We do this so that the chances of at least one seed germinating increases.
But if more than one seeds germinate, we need to keep one and get rid of the rest. This will prevent the seedlings from competing with each other for nutrients and moisture.
This process is known as thinning where you keep the healthiest seedling and pull out the rest. You can do this thinning once the seeds have germinated and at least 3-4 leaves have grown on the seedlings. They may have reached a height of 2-4 inches when you can do this.
When you buy the seedlings from a garden center or nursery, you won’t have to worry about this. You need to spend your efforts on choosing the healthiest plant you can find at the garden center.
How to fertilize the cucumber plants in the bucket?
Once the cucumber seedlings have germinated, you can provide them with liquid fertilizer to help their growth.
If you have compost tea you can spray it on the seedlings every 2 weeks as they are growing. Otherwise, you can use organic, liquid fertilizer instead.
You can choose a balanced fertilizer that has an N-P-K of 5-5-5 or 10-10-10. This means it contains equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for your plants.
Another option is to add some slow-release fertilizer granules to the potting soil when preparing the bucket. This fertilizer will release into the soil after you water it.
You just need to apply the slow-release fertilizer 1 to 2 times every month during the growing season.
How to pollinate cucumber plants growing in a bucket?
It may be that there is a lack of pollinators like bees coming to your container garden. Or they might not prefer to pollinate your cucumber plants if they find some others more attractive.
If your cucumber plant does not get pollinated, it won’t be able to produce cucumbers. That’s why you may need to hand-pollinate them yourself.
The female flowers of the cucumber plant need to get pollinated so they can develop fruit. The good thing is you have both male and female flowers growing on the plant.
You should only pollinate the flowers when they are fully opened otherwise they won’t be capable enough.
You can either pluck the male flower and pollinate the female flower. Or you can use a paintbrush to collect the pollen and spread them in the female flower.
Once you pluck the male flower, remove the petals so only the stamen is available. You can then brush the stamen in the stigma or opening of the female flower to pollinate them.
The other option is to gently use your paintbrush to collect pollen from the stamen of the male flower. Then use the paintbrush to apply the pollen on the stigma of the female flower.
How to prune the cucumber plants?
Pruning the cucumber plants will help it grow better. You can prune the leaves, vines, and fruit of the plant.
Don’t cut the main stem of the plant because it can’t grow back. But you should reduce the number of shoots from the main stem so the plant can focus energy on growing fruit.
You can remove any diseased leaves, vines, and fruit from the plant. You can also remove some of the lower vines. If the vines are entangled in the trellis, you can let them be and target some of the others.
Pruning any diseased or slow-growing cucumber will help the plant spend more energy on the healthy, well-developing fruit.
You do need to be careful not to prune too much of the vines because that will reduce the amount of male and female flowers.
And if there is a lack of either male or female flowers, the cucumber plant will not develop fruit.
I suggest using a pair of pruners to do the pruning rather than your hands. Clean the pruners with rubbing alcohol before and after the pruning. This will help keep the pruners clean and reduce the risk of fungal and bacterial diseases on the cucumber plant.
How to support cucumber plants?
If you grow a bush variety of cucumbers, you don’t need to worry about support. But if you grow a vining variety, you need to provide support.
This will help the vines grow without interfering with each other. It will keep space between the foliage and avoid a lack of aeration. This helps lower the chances of a fungal disease due to a humid environment.
The support will also help the cucumbers to grow straight rather than bent. It also helps harvest the cucumbers with ease compared to leaving the vines on the ground.
You need to make sure the support is strong enough to support all the cucumbers that will grow on the vines so they don’t break.
We already used an inverted tomato cage and wooden stakes to create good support for the plant. As the vines grow, you need to tie them to the support for stability. You need to use soft plant ties to attach the vines to the support.
How to harvest cucumbers from the bucket?
It’s important to harvest cucumbers at the right time. If you harvest too soon, they will be raw and won’t ripen off the vine. If you harvest too late, they will taste bitter.
It’s best to check the seed packet or label to know when you can harvest the cucumbers after the seedlings have germinated.
There are certain signs that can help you harvest the cucumbers at the right time. The easiest is when you find that the cucumber has turned a bright, dark, green in color.
You want to avoid the cucumber turning yellow as that indicates it’s past it’s harvest time and will be bitter in taste.
I would recommend harvesting the cucumber with a clean pair of scissors or pruners. This will prevent the plant from getting infected by a fungal or bacterial infection at the cut.
You can cut 1 inch of the stem along with the cucumber as this will help it store for a longer time. The good thing about cucumber is it can store for a long period of time, unlike some other fruits.
You may also find that the cucumber plant may continue to grow more fruit or just die after a single harvest.