How And When To Harvest Your Garden's Cucumbers

While gardening is a lot of work, there's just nothing quite like eating fresh picked fruits and vegetables right from your own garden. One of the favorites of many are delicious homemade pickles, or even simple cucumbers, perfect for so many terrific summer recipes. In general, when cucumbers reach 6 to 9 inches in length, you should be able to harvest them.

Cucumbers are somewhat finicky in terms of when you should pick them. They don't ripen off the vine, so it's important to pick them at just the right time. If you wait too early, they won't ripen after being picked, but they might not be as large as you want. Wait too long, and your cucumbers will taste bitter and give you lots of seeds. Typically, during the harvesting season you'll pick a couple a day, and to give you an idea, each plant typically produces 10 to 15 cucumbers over a period of about three weeks' time.

When to harvest cucumbers

Whether you have slicing cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, or specialty cucumbers, they have a fairly long growing season of approximately 50 to 70 days from planting. Check your seed packet to be sure. They all ripen at different times on the plant, whether it be a vine or a bush, so it's important to pay close attention to the fruit once the first female flowers open. You'll recognize them because the miniature cucumbers will be just beneath the flowers. In eight to 10 days from then, the harvesting will begin.

The fruit will be firm, and usually, the skin will be a rich shade of green. Pickling cucumbers for gherkins and sweet pickles should be picked when they're about 2 inches long. For dill pickles, wait until they're about 3 to 4 inches long. For slicing cucumbers to eat fresh, they're ready when they're 6 to 9 inches long and have a dark color. The seeds will be soft, and the fruit will be firm. Remember, leaving cucumbers on the plant too long makes them bitter, so be sure to err on the side of caution and don't leave ripened produce on the plant too long.

How to harvest garden cucumbers

Always start cucumber picking in the early morning while there's still dew on the plants. Make sure you wear gloves and carry a very sharp knife or clippers. You never want to twist the stems when harvesting, as it can damage the plant. If you're still unsure, another test right before picking is tasting the ends of your cucumbers for bitterness near the stems. As long as there isn't any, it's fine to harvest.

Cut the cucumber with about a 1-inch stem still attached so that the fruit stays preserved if you don't immediately use it. Some varieties are prone to bruising, so lay them carefully in a basket or container. Keep in mind that you'll probably remove several cucumbers per plant a day and the more you harvest, the better it produces. Always remove damaged or weak fruit so the plant can devote its energy to healthy fruit instead. Enjoy your harvest.