do you start cucumbers and squash inside, or direct seed?

michelelcMay 10, 2012

I'm curious what people do? I haven't started any seedlings this year for cucumbers or butternut squash. I am wondering if I should start some seedlings inside, or just wait and direct sow them. I was also thinking of trying direct sowing them sooner than usual, and putting a plastic milk bottle with the bottom cut out over them, to heat the soil up and speed things along. Anyone have any suggestions?



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I always start mine outside directly. The plants get leggy really quick indoors.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 10:06AM
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Sometimes I sprout mine indoors in 4-inch pots and then move them into the cold frame. Other times I plant directly into the soil with plastic protection of some sort to retain heat and make them sprout.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 10:22AM
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outside direct sow. Tried a few years indoors not successful.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 10:48AM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

If you transplant them, start them and transplant them out 10-14 days after they germinate. Much longer and you will get leggy plants.

I do it both ways, it just depends on the time of year.


    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 11:29AM
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snowgardener(z4 NY)

I experimented one year. I started some seeds indoors a few weeks prior to last frost. After last frost, on exactly the same day, I transplanted those seedlings and also direct seeded some seeds. The direct seeded plants very quickly caught up to the transplanted seedlings. I think the shock of being transplanted stunt those types of plants so much there isn't much point.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 11:33AM
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In ca I always started in ground. In North Carolina I do both for squash. They probably don't do much better from transplant but I am trying to avoid the squash borer problem we have here. I have never used seedlings for cucs. They go in the ground a little later when the ground is warmer anyway.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 11:49AM
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We have a very short season, so I do often start these things inside. I presprout in damp paper towel and then they go into large pots, not cell packs. The giant pumpkins are in three-gallon pots, to give you an idea of what I use. The cukes go into 4" pots. Neither are inside for very long. Once they've broken the soil in the pots, I put them out in the cold frame. From sprouting indoors to transplanting into the ground is no more than three or four weeks, which isn't long, but sometimes it's all I need. I'd warm soil in the garden and direct plant earlier, but often my soil is not workable at that time, so I make do sprouting inside.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 1:24PM
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susan2010(6 Massachusetts)

I direct sow. It's still a little early here. I won't start mine until at least Memorial Day. They germinate and grow fast when the soil is warm enough.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 1:29PM
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I do both, and like snowgardner, I find the direct seeded plants usually overtake the transplants.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 1:51PM
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I start indoors in containers but transplant within a few days of sprouting. Just indoors long enough to make sure they germinate properly, then its off to the garden in a full soil block so that I never touch the roots, and I get no transplant shock at all.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 2:19PM
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I do both right next to each other. Like others the direct seeded ones almost always do better. Not sure why I still buy transplants.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 4:26PM
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Not cucurbits, but this January I started two flats of onions from seed: Candy and red Bulls Eye. In March, while they were still almost thread-sized, I put them outside to harden off, and some varmint tore through the flat of Candy. So I placed an order for replacement plants, which didn't arrive until later in April.

In the meantime, I had planted out the tiny, tiny seedling red onions. When the Candy transplants arrived, they were much larger than the seedlings. But today, looking at the two rows, I see that my seedlings have overtaken them in size and look healthier.

Makes me think that if I could seed them in the ground, they'd be better yet, except I don't think the season is long enough.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 7:22PM
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Last year I planted 50 cucumbers seeds 50! I had like 100% germination. And almost every single one was eaten. This year I started them in my greenhouse. They now have their second set of leaves and are ready to go out. When new cukes and squash are bug candy so beware!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 7:24PM
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Thanks everyone for posting! It was really great to get so many people's different experiences. I think the consensus is to start outside, for the most part. I don't have much room left in my small greenhouse, or much time before direct sowing outside, so I think I'll just wait and direct sow.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 8:28PM
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Susan Levy

okay so i am gonna start some cucumbers inside this year. Mayve sime squash to wish me luck :O)

    Bookmark   December 27, 2014 at 2:36PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

DIRECT SOW or in flats in cold frame outside.

Cukes, squash are fast growing and on top of that grow tap roots fast. So it is difficult to manage them inside for a long time. Plus, they are cold sensitive. So , IMO, the best way is just direct sow them and let them decide what to do. When lazy, or when see some varieties at the nurseries I also do buy them. Provided they are very young.


    Bookmark   December 27, 2014 at 3:34PM
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I start mine inside in pots and as soon as they germinate take them to the deck where I have a portable greenhouse with emergency heater set up. I transplant them to the ground when they are about 4 weeks after germinating.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2014 at 5:33PM
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The last few years I have messed with starting cucumbers, melons, summer squash and cilantro indoors. None of these have ever been even close to being worth the effort.

I have had great results starting broccoli, kale, celery, onions and tomatillos indoors. And obviously tomatoes, peppers.

This post was edited by Creek-side on Sat, Dec 27, 14 at 18:31

    Bookmark   December 27, 2014 at 6:29PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Since I save seeds from most of my vegetables in a short-season climate, I try to get them started as early as possible. For cucurbits, as already mentioned, you can't keep them indoors long, unless you have a light source as intense as sunlight. I start them maybe 2-3 weeks before the target date for direct seeding (depending upon species), and put them outside in full sun as soon as they germinate. If the weather cooperates, they get transplanted as soon as they have their first true leaf. The main advantage is better & faster germination than I might get outside, with fewer losses due to slugs & bugs. This also allows me to get the plants started on time if the soil is late to dry out in Spring (which has been a common problem in recent years).

I've had great luck using peat strips for squash, cucumbers, bitter melon, and various other gourds. Since the entire pot is planted, there is no root disturbance. But if the weather warms up early enough, I will sometimes direct seed. In warmer climates than mine, direct seeding should be the preferred method.

The decision of whether or not to start something as transplants may depend upon species - and even variety. I will direct seed acorn squash (which has a short DTM) but usually start the long-DTM winter squashes as transplants. Gourds that are eaten immature (cucumbers, summer squash) should usually be direct seeded unless you intend to save seed. True gourds (not the warted ornamentals, which are related to zucchini) require warmer soil temps & often have long germination times, so they can benefit from being started indoors.

There is one other advantage to starting squash & cukes as transplants, though. I've gardened in locations where some years, cucumber beetles were so bad that they would destroy seedlings as soon as they emerged. I would grow plants as seedlings, transplant them into the garden, and immediately cover them with floating row cover. The row cover needed to be removed when flowering began, to allow pollination... but it gave the plants a chance to get established. I've never tried floating row cover over seeds, because I assumed it would cool the soil & delay germination... but for those with serious bug issues, it might be worth trying.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2014 at 1:24AM
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Direct sow here in NJ. Our season is long enough for them, and starting them inside would take space from the things that must be started inside like peppers, tomatoes, etc

    Bookmark   December 28, 2014 at 5:46AM
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About row cover and germination. If you have frost protection fabric(like Agribon) you can use it as a row cover in spring - it will actually speed up germination, not slow it down. The material let the sun light in, and keeps warmth inside. You will have to switch it to regular insect row cover when it gets hotter.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2014 at 8:36AM
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