The secret to knowing when cucumbers are ready to pick

We asked gardeners for their top tips on knowing when cucumbers are ready to pick

person inspecting at home grown cucumbers
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Cucumbers are a highly rewarding option for both experienced vegetable growers and those who are relatively new to gardening. Usually, they're ripe and ready to harvest between midsummer and early fall, following a growing period of 50 to 70 days.

When learning how to grow cucumbers for the first time, knowing just the right point to pick them takes some practice, and it also depends on how sweet you would like them to be. Avoid spongy and bitter fruits with our expert tips...

hand picking a cucumber

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'Cucumbers that are dark green in color, six to eight inches in length, and firm to touch are the perfect produce,' asserts Emma Sophie, Founder at Evergreenseeds (opens in new tab). 'A watchful eye needs to be maintained as cucumbers can be harvested daily.'

Emma says that cucumbers that turn slightly yellow in color and wrinkled and swollen on certain areas should be discarded as efficiently as possible because they are overripe. For instance, you could feed them to rabbits and squirrels as a way to avoid waste.

'When harvesting, you need to be aware of not harming or twisting the vines as that will harm future produce,' adds Emma. Your best secateurs will come in handy here.

how to grow cucumbers: growing in a greenhouse

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'As with anything, picking early in the morning will give you peak flavor,' comments Elizabeth Jones from Excel At Gardening (opens in new tab). This is because plant vines are more agreeable to movement and harvesting earlier on in the day. 

She warns against leaving them to grow longer than the mature length described on the packet, as this will compromise on flavor. If you leave them for too long, cucumbers will go yellow and become too mature, leaving them with a bitter taste. 

On the other hand, if you pick them earlier than the recommended length of time, they can end up being spongy and limp. You're looking for medium green-colored skin that's smooth but tough, and a cucumber that is firm in your hand. Some knobby growth is to be expected. 

cucumber growing on a plant

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If you want to branch out with more fruit and veg for a delicious homegrown salad, find out how to grow tomatoes and lettuce. When it comes to getting good results in your vegetable patch, greenhouse or allotment, nothing beats paying close attention to your crops and learning from your mistakes.

Picking cucumbers at the right time will result in lots of crunchy and sweet fruits for sandwiches, salads and pickles. As you get more familiar with the process of growing cucumbers, you can experiment by picking them slightly earlier for an extra sweet taste. Happy harvesting!

Millie joined Gardeningetc in early 2021. She loves creating a vibrant display of containers in her small urban garden and is always picking up new plants at the local garden center. She's never without some fresh flowers at home and her favorite houseplant is her variegated pothos that's currently climbing its way over her bookshelves.