Have loads of cucumbers growing on the vine, and wondering when you should pick them? Here’s how to tell when your cucumbers are ready to harvest, and how to pick them without damaging the vines.
How Long It Takes to Grow Cucumbers
Most cucumbers are ready to harvest 50-70 days after germination. This is true, whether you’re growing vining or bush cucumbers. Some varieties grow faster than others, so consult the seed packet or the plant tag that came with your seedlings to see how long yours are supposed to take. This will give you an idea of when you should start looking for ripe cucumbers. If you bought seedlings from a garden center, you won’t have any way of knowing when your cucumber plants germinated, but that’s okay. There are plenty of other ways to tell when it’s time to harvest your cucumbers.
Signs Your Cucumbers Are Ready to Pick
Cucumbers become bitter and develop tough skins and seeds, if you leave them on the vine too long, so don’t wait for them to reach baseball bat size before you pick them. As soon as they turn green, feel firm to the touch and have reached the right size for the variety and your intended use, go ahead and pick them. Here are some guidelines for when to pick different types of cucumbers:
Burpless: 1.5 inches in diameter
Pickling: 3-4 inches long
Big Pickles: 6-7 inches long
Slicing: 6-8 inches long
Consult the seed packet or plant tag that came with your cucumber plants to see how long the particular variety you’re growing is supposed to get, and to get a feel for what they’re supposed to look like when you harvest them. Most cucumbers develop dark green skins, but some varieties have lighter skins. And some even have touches of yellow, even though that’s usually a sign of overripeness.
From the time a female flower appears on the vine, it only takes 8-10 days for a cucumber to grow to mature size, so be sure to check for ripe cucumbers often. The more often you pick, the more cucumbers you’ll get. If you have a vacation planned during the growing season, ask a neighbor or friend to pick cucumbers for you while you’re gone. You don’t want to leave cucumbers on the vine too long, or the plant will think the season is over and stop producing.
How to Harvest Cucumbers
To prevent damage to the vines, cut your ripe cucumbers off with a pair of scissors or a knife. Leave an inch of the stem intact, so the cucumbers will store well. Cucumbers often have prickly spines covering their skin, so you may want to wear a pair of gloves to protect your hands. A vegetable brush will take the spines right off when you wash your cucumbers. Avoid picking your cucumbers when the leaves are wet. This is likely to spread disease.
Growing burpless cucumbers? Be sure to handle them carefully when you pick them. They have thin skins and bruise very easily.
Cucumbers won’t ripen after you pick them, so pinch off all the flowers 30-40 days before the first expected frost date for your area. This will cause the plants to put all of their energy into ripening the cucumbers that remain on the vine.