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What Happens If You Plant Cucumbers Too Close Together

Cucumbers are one of the fastest and easiest vegetables to grow, but they need plenty of space. The two types of cucumber plant—vining and bushy—both have different spacing needs. From the names, it’s easy to determine that vining cucumbers grown on vines and bushy cucumbers grow on bushes. Cucumbers also come in three eating types: pickling, slicing, and burpless. What happens if you plant cucumbers too close together?

Planting cucumbers too close together can lead to lack of root development, small fruit, and disease spread. Cucumbers should have at least 1 – 2 feet of distance for optimal growth.

Read on to learn more about how to properly space your cucumbers depending on your planting style, and how to deal with issues that may arise from too close of placement.

Why Is Spacing So Important?

No matter which type of cucumber plant you choose, spacing is essential to its successful growth. Good spacing provides easy access for picking and ensures the plant gets the right nutrients. The right amount of space allows the plants to spread their roots, for sunlight to shine on the lower leaves, and for moisture to reach the soil.

Cucumber vines can grow from 6 to 8 feet long. They can take a lot of space when grown on the ground. An advantage to growing your cucumbers on the ground is that the leaves can cover the fruits, making them crisper and fresher when harvested. However, it’s usually better to use a trellis to save space and keep the cucumbers off the ground.

How Do You Plant Cucumbers?

Cucumbers are tropical plants that thrive in hot, wet areas. They’re extremely sensitive to frost, so plant them once the soil is consistently 70°F (21°C) and the average air temperature is in the mid-70s F (mid-20s C). Full sunlight and loose, sandy loam are best for planting cucumbers.

To start from seeds, decide if you want to start them indoors or outdoors. You can get a bit of a jump on growing if you start them indoors about a month before the last frost date in your area. When the soil is warm enough, you can transfer the plants to your garden.

To plant seeds outside, know whether your plants are vining or bushes. Spacing depends on variety, but the general rules of thumb are:

  • If you’re planting in rows: Plant seeds 4-6 inches apart in rows 3-5 feet apart.
  • If you’re planting in mounds: Make hills a few inches high and 1-1 ½ feet in diameter and 1-2 feet apart. Plant 2-3 seeds per mound.
  • If you’re planting in mounds: Make hills a few inches high and 1-1 ½ feet in diameter and 1-2 feet apart. Plant 2-3 seeds per mound.
  • If you’re using a trellis: Plant 2-3 seeds per foot.

Trellises need to be sturdy and allow for enough airflow. Lack of airflow can attract aphids, insects that suck the insides out of the fruit, leading to plant death.

Besides helping reduce the dangers of insects and other pests, using a trellis also allows the leaves to spread out to get more sunlight. Keeping the cucumbers off the ground keeps them from turning yellow, bruising, misshapen, or rotting.

When planting vining cucumbers, and if you intend to let them grow on the ground, space the plants 36-60 inches apart, depending on the size of the vines.

The plants will sprout in 3-10 days. Once they reach about 4 inches in height, it’s time to thin them. To thin the plants:

  1. Use pruners to cut them off at the base.
  2. Don’t pull them; you’ll likely pull up the roots of the plants you want to keep.
  3. Add mulch to keep the soil moist.

Cucumber plants need about an inch of water each week and feed them with a water-soluble plant food to give them more nutrients. When the soil is warm, lay down straw mulch to protect the plants from slugs and beetles.

How Do You Know If Your Plants Are Too Close Together?

Plants that are too close together will show noticeable signs. Overcrowded plants don’t get enough soil nutrients, can’t fight off pests and diseases, don’t produce strong fruit, and have moisture issues.

Soil doesn’t contain unlimited nutrients, and the more plants, the quicker the nutrients run out. Plants that aren’t getting enough nutrients can have weak, yellow leaves, grow poorly, and may fail to produce fruit.

Overcrowded gardens have poor air circulation, which can cause fungal diseases. Also, pests can move more easily from plant to plant if they’re close enough to touch. The proper amount of space between plants allows air to move around the plants to dry the leaves quicker, reducing fungus.

Lack of sunlight, moisture, airflow, and nutrients can also lead to a plant that produces few or no cucumbers. What cucumbers it produces may be tiny. This can happen to vining plants left on the ground rather than trellised.

Crowded gardens need watering more often because too many plants are all trying to absorb the water, and the bed will dry out quickly. So many plants also make it difficult for water to reach the ground, staying on the leaves. Wet leaves and thirsty plants can lead to disease.

How Do You Harvest Cucumbers?

Cucumbers grow fast and are ready to pick about 50-70 days after planting. Some varieties grow faster than others, so check your seed packet or plant tag to see when you should start looking for ripe cucumbers. Cucumbers are ready to pick when they’re green, firm to the touch and the right size for their variety and use. Don’t let them get too big; they’ll taste bitter. Here are some guidelines:

  • Burpless: 1.5 inches around
  • Pickling: 3-4 inches long
  • Large Pickles: 6-7 inches long
  • Slicing: 6-8 inches long

Check the vines daily when the first cucumber appears since cucumbers grow quickly. Use a knife or clippers to remove the cucumber by cutting the stem just above the fruit. Don’t pull on the cucumbers; it can cause damage to the vine.


Cucumbers are delicious, healthy, and easy to grow. They’re a great plant for beginner gardeners since they don’t need much tending to. And If you don’t have a garden, you can grow them easily in containers. If you want to get your thumb green, try cucumbers! 

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