If you are someone who loves cucumber and likes to eat cucumber year-round, get a hydroponic system at your home.
With hydroponic you can grow hydroponic cucumber year-round. But you should know how to grow it in hydroponics. There are a lot of things to know when planning to grow cucumber in hydroponics.
Here I am going to lay down all the detailed information that will help you grow your own cucumber irrespective of season and location.
So, let’s begin.
Choosing the Right Cucumber Varieties
To begin your hydroponic cucumber journey, you have first to select which variety is a suitable hydroponic system. There are two standout choices:
- Bush Champion
Let’s see why both are suitable candidates for a controlled hydroponics environment.
Spacemaster Cucumber (Best for maximizing space and yield)
Spacemaster cucumbers are aptly named. They have compact vines that do not grow excessively. Due to their compact growth habit, you can grow them in smaller spaces. And in hydroponics, optimizing space is the most crucial factor.
If you plan to grow cucumber in smaller spaces without compromising yield, I suggest you go with space master.
Bush Champion (Best Disease Resistant Variety)
These are popular among hydroponic growers because they are resistant to most of the plant diseases.
They are bushy and compact while growing which is the perfect hydroponic environment. However, the best reason to choose bush champion cucumbers is they are robust and less likely to get plant diseases.
If you plan to grow the cucumber in an environment that is prone to plant diseases, I recommend you go with Bush Champion.
Setting Up Your Hydroponic System
The next step would be to choose the right hydroponic system to grow cucumbers. We have compiled a simple guide to help choose the system as per your growing goals.
1. Evaluate Your Space And Resources
Assess the space where you plan to set up your hydroponic system. Not just the space asses the location.
A plant like a cucumber grows rapidly and requires sufficient space. Their vines tend to spread out so they need enough space.
It is best to leave a room of 30-60 cm between two plants. This spacing ensures good air circulation and gives cucumbers adequate space to grow.
Another thing to consider is the resources.
You have to see if your location has water and electricity supply. They are crucial for running any hydroponic system.
2. Consider Plant Needs
Each crop has a requirement for nutrients, water, and light. You have to choose a hydroponic system that effectively delivers these essential things.
We learn about them in detail in the next few sections but for now, you have to think about them while choosing the hydroponic system.
Different hydroponic systems demand different maintenance requirements. Some systems demand regular monitoring and adjustment. While others can be automated.
You have to consider how much time you have spare for maintenance. Choose the hydroponic system according to that.
4. Keep expansion in mind
As you grow as a grower, you may want to grow other vegetables or fruits. So you have to choose a hydroponic setup that can be expanded.
Nutrient film technique and deep water culture are some of the most scalable systems.
5. Go out And Explore
I would suggest go out and explore some hydroponic farms that are growing cucumber.
When you see the actual set you will get an exact estimate of space and what are the other requirements you have to consider while choosing the system.
7. Make your Choice
Now you have a fair understanding of the system requirements. You can narrow down the hydroponic system to grow cucumber.
Here I am going to list some of the best hydroponic systems that are suitable for growing hydroponic systems:
Dutch Bucket System
The Dutch bucket system is a popular choice for beginners. The system is versatile, simple, and easily expandable.
Why It is best:
With this system, you can grow cucumber plants in individual buckets providing enough space for crops to grow.
The system also provides good support when the cucumber enters the fruiting phase. Because in the fruiting as the cucumber grows the size of the fruit grows rapidly and requires support.
Another advantage of using a touch bucket system is that it provides good aeration and drainage for the crops.
You can also manage the nutrient solution for each bucket separately.
Nutrient Film Technique
If you want to use a more efficient hydroponic system for growing cucumber you must go for the nutrient film technique.
It is a system where you provide a thin film of water mixed with nutrient solution directly to the roots.
Why it is best:
As this system is well-aerated it provides one of the best environments for growing hydroponic cucumber.
The NFT system is one of the most viable ways to grow cucumbers commercially. The reason is this system is best at using the space available.
So if you plan to grow cucumber commercially then you should consider using NFT.
Deep Water Culture
In deep water culture, the plant roots are suspended in the nutrient solutions and the oxygen is delivered to the troops through air stones.
The system is very easy to set up and anyone can do it with little knowledge.
Why it is best:
The system is best for growing cucumbers because it is one of the best ways to provide oxygen to roots. Also, the nutrient solution is easy to manage which allows cucumbers to grow optimally.
And as I said, the system is easy to maintain anyone with little knowledge can set it up.
Vertical Hydroponic system
In most cases, we have considered that you have enough space to set up a hydroponic system. But what if you have very little space?
So it is obvious to choose a system that takes very little space.
A vertical hydroponic system is perfect for such cases. It uses limited floor space and you can grow crops vertically.
Why it is best:
The system has an advantage when the space is less. Cucumbers grow well if you ensure proper nutrient supply at each level.
But I recommend you to consider the system only if you have real space scarcity.
Germinating Cucumber Seeds Hydroponically
Once everything is set up, you can begin the process of growing hydroponic cucumber.
The first stage is germinating seeds.
There are several methods to germinate cucumber seeds like in a paper towel etc. but I suggest you get the proper seed germinating kit for hydroponics.
With a proper germinating kit, it is easy to transfer them into grow pods for the next growth stages.
What do you need for germinating cucumber seeds?
- Air stones/Rockwool/Coco Coir
- Grow Tray
- Grow Lights
- Heat pads
You can sow individual seeds in a growing medium like coco coir or mineral wool. Keep them in a grow tray.
The seeds take around 7-12 days to sprout. During the seedling phase, you have to maintain a temperature of around 70-85 Fahrenheit and at least 12-14 hours of light every day.
If naturally you have such a condition in your region it is well and good.
However, if you need to provide the right conditions artificially which is often the case for hydroponic systems, go for sprouted kits.
These kits come with grow light and heat mats which can allow you to create the desired grow conditions.
There couple sprouter kits that I recommend. Super Sprouter Premium Heated Propagation Kit is one of the best kit that you can buy from Amazon.
The other is Saillong grow tray which does the same job and is available on Amazon.
Transplanting Seedlings to Hydroponic System
The next phase of the process is to transplant the seeds into a hydroponic system. But how do you know the cucumber seeds are ready to be planted?
Transferring the plant at the right time is important. Because in hydroponics if planted early the crops could die.
Usually, you have to look at two things to know if the plant is ready to be transplanted:
- The plant should be at least three inches tall
- The plant should have few leaves ( I usually wait for three well-developed leaves)
Once you have determined seeds are ready to be transplanted into the hydroponic system, you should check the temperature of the water used in a hydroponic system.
It should be around 70-85 Fahrenheit.
Higher or lower temperatures can shock plants while transplanting, so it is important to maintain the temperature.
One more thing you should do before you transfer the seedlings to the hydroponic system is to water them.
You want roots to be well watered.
Water the roots until they absorb maximum water. So when transferred to a hydroponic system, they do not absorb water too quickly.
Optimizing Light and Temperature Conditions
Once you have planted the cucumbers into the hydroponic system, it is time to ensure they grow well.
To ensure you have to focus on two things light and temperature. Nutrients are another thing you should focus on but we will come to that later.
A cucumber crop requires 6-8 hours of sunlight if you are growing outdoors.
In case you are growing them indoors and using grow lights, it requires 12-16 hours of light.
You can use different grow lights like fluorescent, HID, etc. but I recommend you use LED lights.
LED grow lights produce less heat and offer full spectrum light. They also consume less energy. So less heavy in your pocket.
We have already talked about maintaining a temperature of about 70-85 Fahrenheit for the optimum growth of the cucumber.
In summer, you don’t have to worry much about the weather but during fall, you might need a heater to maintain the temperature.
You have to also keep the temperature of the water warm enough for the cucumber plants. If it is too cold you can use hydroponic water heaters.
Creating an Ideal Nutrient Solution
Like any crop cucumber grows well when you provide the right nutrients to it.
Cucumber requires a nitrogen-rich environment with some phosphorus, calcium, potassium, sulfur, and magnesium.
For optimum growth, you should maintain a nutrient mix of about 150-200 ppm. Also, make sure the electrical conductivity is maintained at 2.0 to 2.5 mhos and pH is maintained between 5.5 to 6.5.
In my experience, just by keeping these three things right, you give cucumbers the best chance to grow in a hydroponic system.
Here is the table you should keep in mind while growing hydroponic cucumber.
|0-14 days||60-80 ppm||23-35 ppm||50-70 ppm||60-80 ppm||35-40 ppm|
|Flowering||100-120 ppm||25-30 ppm||140-160 ppm||80-100 ppm||35-40 ppm|
|Harvesting||120-140 ppm||30-40 ppm||160-180 ppm||80-100 ppm||35-40 ppm|
You will observe that as the cucumber grows the nutrient requirement increases by 20 percent.
Currently, there are plenty of nutrient solutions available for growing hydroponic crops. You can go for Fox Farm, General Organics, etc.
Each nutrient solution comes with a feed chart you have to follow it. However, make sure you test your nutrient solution regularly. Ensure that proper ppm is maintained.
Training Cucumber Plants
Cucumber plants have vines, so they will need support which is called training. Cucumber vines can be supported by strings suspended from a cable.
This system is called the trellis system. It is quite popular in greenhouse farming. The system allows the cucumber plant to grow vertically.
However, if you are growing only a few plants at home, you use rods to support the growth of the cucumber vines.
Or use threads to tie the vines onto pre-existing support like a pillar, or a window grill.
Also, prune the vines regularly to make sure the vines don’t overgrow.
Harvesting and Enjoying Your Homegrown Cucumbers
If you have done things right all you need to do is wait for 6-7 weeks for the flowers.
And in cucumbers generally flowering comes with fruits.
However, it depends on the type of cucumber you are growing.
Initially, male grows and after a week female flowers appear. And for pollination you need insects. But there are some cucumber varieties where you do not require pollination.
Once the flowers start to appear, with appropriate conditions fruits grow within 10-12 days.
A cucumber fruit has a size between 3 to 8 inches depending on the variety of the cucumber.
Once they attain the right size, you can harvest them. I advise you to not delay the harvest because the cucumber taste may get bitter.
After the harvest store the cucumber in a cool place to enjoy the taste and also increase the self life.
I have tried to explain everything in a simple way. You know have a fair idea about growing cucumber in a hydroponic system. Also as you start practicing hydroponics and gain experience, you start to find things that work for you. So without giving too much thought just start. Do not worry whether the cucumber crop will fail or succeed.