Cucumber Production in Greenhouses Varieties HGA-00434

Cucumber Production
in Greenhouses
There are two major types of cucumbers that can be
grown in the greenhouse for both home and commercial production. The most popular are the long, seedless varieties often referred to as European, Japanese or
English. The older, traditional varieties have seeds and
white spines.
Seedless varieties have parthenocarpic fruit, or fruit that
do not develop seed. A major benefit of these varieties
is they do not require pollination. The skin is smooth
and often has longitudinal ridges. Fruit are long, ranging
from 12 to 24 inches when ready for harvest.
Seeded varieties require pollination to form fruit. They
produce both male and female flowers; pollen from the
male flowers must be transferred to female flowers. Outdoors under good weather conditions, insects typically
do an adequate job of pollinating. In the greenhouse,
however, it is the grower’s responsibility to transfer pollen. When cucumbers are not properly pollinated, the
fruit will be misshapen and poorly developed, especially
on the blossom end of the fruit.
Cucumbers are very sensitive to imbalances or changes
in growing conditions. Growers should carefully monitor fertilizer salts, light, air temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide and moisture. Inattention to these details
can result in decreased production and poor-quality
fruit, such as bitter-tasting cucumbers.
Sow seeds in sterile media. Members of the Cucurbitaceae (squash) family, such as cucumbers, are sensitive to
root disturbance. If planting only a few plants, sow seeds
directly in the garden or in individual pots to reduce
root disturbance during transplanting. For large-scale
production, sow in flats and use care not to damage
roots when transplanting.
The optimum germination temperature for seedless
varieties is 80° to 82°F. Germinate seeded varieties at
70° to 75°F. The seed will often come with the specific
germination temperature printed on the pack. Cover the
seeded flats with glass or plastic to reduce heat loss and
to prevent drying out. Remove the cover as soon as the
seeds have germinated and emerged. Maintain daytime
soil temperatures between 70° to 75°F and night temperature at 65°F. Keep seedlings moist.
When the cotyledons (seed leaves) have expanded,
transplant to individual 4-inch pots containing a potting
mixture with good water holding capacity and adequate
drainage. Peat, vermiculite and coconut fiber are popular
amendments added to improve water-holding capacity.
Perlite and horticulture-grade sand are commonly used
to improve drainage.
Begin fertilizing three days after transplanting or when
true leaves have emerged. Plants should be watered
frequently with a fertilizer solution. A minimum of 14
hours of direct light is required for developing seedlings.
Planting in the Greenhouse
In two to three weeks after seeding the plants will be
ready to transplant into their permanent location in the
greenhouse. Prior to planting, moisten the media with
warm water. Plant one seedless cucumber plant per 10
square feet. Allows 5 square feet of bed space for each
seeded cucumber plant. This will insure good air circulation and adequate light for fruit production.
Most commercial producers will want to mix their own
fertilizer tailored to specific crop requirements and
water analysis. Water can vary in pH, calcium, sodium
and micronutrient levels and should be tested to determine fertilizer formulations. If the water is alkaline
(high pH level), phosphoric acid may added as a source
of phosphorous and to adjust the pH down.
Basic Feeding Formula
Formulas A. potassium chloride (0-0-62)
magnesium sulphate
phosphate (21-53-0) calcium nitrate (15.5-0-0)
200 K
25 Mg
36 P
33 N
135 N
148 Ca
B. potassium chloride (0-0-62)
potassium nitrate (13-0-44)
magnesium sulfate
monopotassium phosphate (0-53-34)
calcium nitrate (15.5-0-0)
80 K
30 N
84 K
25 Mg
36 P
140 N
Minor elements for
both formulas iron chelate (10% Fe)
manganese sulphate
(28% Mn)
boron (20.5% B)
zinc sulphate (36% Zn)
copper sulphate (25% Cu)
molybdenum (54% Mo)
oz/100 gal
Pruning, Thinning and Training
Branches, leaves, flowers and fruit should be pruned to
maintain a proper balance between the vegetative and
reproductive growth to maximize production. Proper
training increases the plant’s ability to access the sunlight needed for growth. Too dense a canopy of leaves
will shade fruits from sunlight, causing them to be pale.
Flower production depends on the amount of branch
growth and the number of leaf axils. Removing fruit
stimulates vegetative growth.
When too many fruits set at any one time, a large
proportion may abort ­— or experience what is often called fruit drop — due to insufficient nutrients.
Likewise, when a heavy load of fruit sets, many will be
malformed or poorly colored. Fruit loads should be
thinned to one fruit per leaf axil.
Concentration gms/100 gal
Mn B
3.78 g
0.4 g
1.3 g
105.0 mg
45.0 mg
35.0 mg
Cucumbers are often trained on a string or wire system.
The umbrella system, which is best used for seedless varieties, is straightforward and not too demanding in labor.
Seeded cucumber varieties perform best with the tree
trellis system (see diagrams and instructions on page 3).
Basic fertilizer formulas: Formula A may require the addition
of sulfuric or phosphoric acid to lower pH of the fertilizer
solution. A milky precipitate after tank mixing indicates the
need for pH adjustment.
Pollination is the process of transferring pollen from
male to female flowers. Seeded cucumbers are monecious, meaning that they have both male and female
flowers on the same plant. While both sexes of flower
have the same size yellow petals, they are physically different. Male flowers are attached to the stem by a thin
stalk and contain the stamen. Female flowers are identified by the small, spiny, immature cucumber between the
yellow flower petals and the flower stem, and they also
contain the pistil. In greenhouse production, because
of the elimination of natural pollinators, it becomes the
grower's responsibility to "play pollinator" by transferring pollen from the male to female flowers. This is best
done by removing the male flower petals, exposing the
anthers, which are covered in pollen, and touching them
to the center of the female stigma (center of the flower).
This can also be done with a small, soft bristled brush.
As the plants grow and have more tissue to support, their
fertilizer requirements will increase. When plants are
small, start with 1 quart of fertilizer solution per plant
per day. As plants mature and increase in size, adjust
feeding volumes upward. A mature plant will require 1
to 2 gallons of solution per day. Warm the fertilizer solution to room temperature before using. Nitrogen is the
most important element during the growing season. Be
sure to apply continually through the irrigation water.
It is often more convenient to purchase a premixed
complete fertilizer with micronutrients. If you choose a
commercial fertilizer mix, start with a weak strength and
increase the concentration as the plant grows.
Umbrella System
This system is straightforward, not too demanding
in labor and easily understood.
1. Tie the cucumber plant to a vertical wire (A), 7
feet tall. Pinch out the growing point at the top.
2. Provide support for all fruit that develops on the
lower part of the main stem.
3. Remove all laterals in the leaf axis on the main
stem. (B)
4. The top two laterals should be trained over the
wire to hang down on either side of the main
stem. Allow these to grow to two-thirds of the
way down the main stem. (E)
5. When the fruits on the first laterals have been
harvested (C), those laterals should be removed
back to a strong shoot, allowing the second
laterals to take over (D). Repeat this process for
lateral (E).
6. This renewal system will maintain productivity
of plants.
Umbrella System
A—Top wire. B—Support. C,D,E—Lateral fruiting stems.
Tree Trellis System
In the following description, the letters in parentheses
correspond to bold letters in Figure 2.
1. Tie the cucumber plants to horizontal wires (B)
spaced about 2 feet apart. The top wire should be
about 6 feet from the ground.
2. Remove all the leaves and laterals on the bottom 20
inches of the plants. (D)
3. When the main stem has reached the top wire, tie it
and remove the growing tip. (F)
4. Allow the laterals at each leaf axis along the main
stem to develop two leaves, then cut the growing
point. (E)
5. Train the top shoot developing the leaf axis along
the wire. (G)
6. When most of the fruit has been harvested on the
main stem, allow a lateral to develop as replacement and prune in the same manner as the main
stem. (H)
Tree System
A—Ground level. B—Wire. C—Support string. D—Leaves and
laterals remove. E—Fruiting area. F—Tip nipped out.
G—Lateral trained along top wire. H—Replacement lateral.
Pest and Disease Control
Integrated pest management (IPM) is a commonsense
approach to long-term management of pest problems
with minimal impact on human health, the environment
and non-target organisms. This approach focuses on the
biology of pests and their relationship to the environment. The first step in an IPM program is to identify any
organism in question and then completely investigate
the situation. IPM is not a single pest control method,
but a series of pest management evaluations, decisions
and controls. Strategies for IPM may include the application of physical, cultural, mechanical, biological and
chemical controls. For more information about IPM,
Female flower
Diseases commonly encountered in greenhouse production include Botrytis, or gray mold, powdery mildew
and mosaic viruses. Inadequate ventilation, particularly
during periods of high humidity, increases damage from
Botrytis. Powdery mildew is encouraged by high humidity and the excessive use of nitrogen fertilizers. Removal
of a plant’s lower leaves to increase air flow around the
plant, controlling greenhouse humidity and avoiding
over application of nitrogen fertilizers can help reduce
the damage caused by these plant diseases.
Many viruses are transmitted to crops from other hosts
or plants by insect pests. Aphids, commonly encountered in greenhouse growing situations, are able to
transmit a number of viruses that affect cucumbers.
Developing and following IPM practices is the most
effective method for dealing with pests. Examples of
IPM management strategies for greenhouse cucumber
production include using sticky traps to monitor for
pest presence, controlling unwanted vegetation in and
around the greenhouse to help exclude aphids from the
area and positively identifying insects as pests to determine the most appropriate control methods.
The picking size of cucumbers varies according to the
type and desired use, but they should always be harvest-
Male flower
ed before the seeds fully enlarge and harden. A cucumber is of the highest quality when the fruit is firm, bright
and green in color with no dullness or yellowing to the
skin. If mature fruit are left on the plant, they decrease
future production. When harvesting, cut fruit from the
plant with a sharp, clean knife to reduce damage and
disease. Cucumbers have thin skin and lose moisture
quickly, often softening in storage. To avoid losses from
spoilage, store harvested fruits in cool, moist conditions
at 45°F to 50°F and 80 to 90 percent humidity. or 1-877-520-5211
Originally prepared by Wayne Vandre, former Extension Horticulturist.
Published by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service in cooperation with the United States Department of
Agriculture. The University of Alaska Fairbanks is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and educational institution.
©2014 University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Revised October 2013