Thursday, September 06, 2012

Growing Miniature White Cucumbers from Seed in Fall? Maybe.

You can read more about growing these cute little crunchy cucumbers in my previous post, Easy to Grow from Seed Favorites: Miniature White Cucumbers.

Realization of the Day:
This is shaping up to be the year of experimental fall planting.

I generally have pretty good luck growing cucumbers. Between my own harvests (lemon cucumbers are another favorite or mine to grow) and the excess bounty purchased from my Amish friends, I haven't bought a supermarket cucumber in years.

This past spring I started three varieties of cucumber seeds in flats, and for various reasons (the main one being that I probably didn't plant the seeds deep enough and they washed away when I watered them—yeah, duh) I didn't end up with any cucumber plants. Then, again for various reasons, I never got around to starting any more cucumber seeds directly in the ground once the soil had warmed up.

Thankfully some other gardeners around here fared better than I did in the cucumber department, and I was able to buy some nice ones (along with some really bitter ones). But because of the heat and drought (which is what made those bitter ones bitter), the local front yard pop-up produce stands closed down almost as soon as they opened up this year.

Fast forward a couple of months to a desperate me, trying to work on some new summer recipes. I finally broke down and bought some supermarket cucumbers. Blech.

I've already direct seeded two of my 4'x8' raised beds with cool season crops—something I've never done as early as August before—and on a whim, I also stuck half a dozen miniature white cucumber seeds into a bare spot in the homemade greenhouse. A couple of days later, four of them sprouted.

More below. . .

A benefit of fall planting? Seeds sprout quickly because the soil and air are already plenty warm.

This crunchy, tasty (and cute!) heirloom variety matures in 49 days, versus an average of 55 to 72 days for other types of cucumbers. It has thin skin, is a heavy yielder, and isn't bitter. Technically they're pickling cucumbers (and I really want to try making refrigerator pickles with them), but I love to eat them raw. Try dipping slices in my popular Quick and Easy Low Fat Buttermilk Ranch Dressing or this herb-packed Big Bite of Fresh Basil Dip.

Our official frost date is October 15th, but our late summer/early fall weather is always erratic. In the 90s this week, it's supposed to get down into the 40s Sunday night. We've seen 24 degree mornings in September. But for the most part it usually stays pretty warm through October, and I've often picked tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers into November. I figure I have a pretty good shot with these miniature whites.

Cucumber plants do not tolerate freezing temperatures, but the greenhouse, along with floating row cover (I love this stuff) if necessary, should offer my plants plenty of protection during the upcoming cold snaps.

If you garden in an area that will still be warm for a while (or has a mild winter) and are craving homegrown cucumbers, you might give miniature white cucumbers a try. I ordered my seeds from one of my longtime favorite suppliers, Pinetree Garden Seeds, where a packet of 25 seeds costs just $1.35.

I've never started cucumber seeds in late summer for a fall crop, but I'm excited about this new experiment. I figure I've got nothing to lose except a few seeds—and the memory of those tasteless supermarket cucs.

Have you ever grown cucumbers as a fall crop? Any favorite cucumber varieties, recipes, stories, or growing tips to share?

More posts about some of my favorite things to grow:

©, where we always seem to be running perpetually late in the garden (and everywhere else), but this time—green thumbs crossed—that might end up working out just fine.


  1. Hi,
    I've never tried planting cucumbers in the late summer, but I usually sow some seed of winter hardy lettuce, rocket, corn salad and landcress for some winter greenery. This year I sowed my seeds on 22 August so here's to a warm autumn for all us temperate zoners - if I can get a good stand established before the days get too short and the nights turn frosty, my salads will keep producing until the spring when they go to seed.
    By the way, what was the variety name of your little cucumbers?

    1. Hi Pete,
      Yes, fall is a great time for seeding hardy greens, especially those that mature quickly like lettuce and arugula (rocket). Asian greens also usually do really well for me in the fall. You can read more about growing them here.

      As for the variety of these cucumbers, they're simply called miniature white cucumbers.

  2. My very favorite variety is armenian yard-long cucumbers. They get huge but are still tender, have no spines, store really well (I keep mine out on the counter for weeks...) and are tasty!

    I'd love to grow a fall cucumber crop, but my season here is short enough we barely get one crop before frost hits.

    1. Hi Jennie,
      Thanks for the tip - I will definitely have to look into that variety. They sound great. A couple of years ago I tasted Japanese long cucumbers for the first time and couldn't believe how crunchy such a big cucumber could be. They have a really nice flavor too. My seeds didn't sprout this year, but I'll definitely be trying them again next year.

      These miniature white cucs would be perfect for your short growing season!

  3. IM gonna have to try those little cuces next spring. Im gonna be trying something different with my gardening next year, Let me know how the little cuties turn out.

  4. what is the best or reasonable cold weather cuke?

    1. Hi Coacervate,
      That's a good question. I have no idea if there are any cold tolerant cucumber varieties, but you'd think there would be. It would be nice to be able to set out cucumber plants earlier in the spring - or make them last longer into fall. Sounds like a good thing to research! :)

  5. What a great idea! I've just made an appt on my calendar for 1 August 2013 to plant cool season crops. I never think of it until mid September when it turns cold and I think it's too late to start.

    I'd love fresh pickled cukes at the Thanksgiving table.

  6. Oh cutest! I'm trying a fall crop of bush beans because we're having quite the Indian summer and I think I might be able to get a few beans out of these plants before the frost shows up. They're a 45 day variety and are already about a foot tall with lots of true leaves, so I'm hopeful.

    I may have to try those cute cucumbers next year. My formerly waning cucumbers have revived with the temps in the 70s and 80s, so are putting on a new fall crop for me. How nice of them to come to the table FINALLY.


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