Did Your Cucumber Plants Die After the Rain? Here's What to Do

The fact about gardening and farming is that the weather is everything. Right?

The fact about the weather is that it is fickle. Always changing.

And the fact about this season is that we've had some not so favorable conditions for gardening the past couple of weeks.

Thursday we assessed the “damage” on our winter squash crop that we seeded right before the downturn in the warm weather.

It wasn't as depressing as we thought it might be, actually.  There is only a small percentage of plants that we had to replace, thankfully.  

What about you?  How did your garden plants fare? 

I imagine you have assessed your garden's status, as well.

  • Did the cold and wet weather get your cucumbers and/or melons?
  • Did you forget to order lettuce plants or something else that's your favorite?
  • Do you want to try the salad turnips this year in your garden?

But, no one has any seedlings left anywhere. What is there to do?

Never fear, I'm here to tell you that whatever your reason, it is not too late to plant!



Yes, you can still plant your garden: here's how

The answer to your dilemma is to direct seed your plants into your garden or nursery bed!

But what does “direct seed” mean? It means taking the seed in the palm of your hand and sowing it directly into the garden soil as opposed to putting your seeds first into soil mix in a pot the way you buy seedlings or “starts”.

Wait, what? Yep, on our small organic vegetable farm, we direct seed more than half of our crops so that's 3+ acres of direct seeded crops and they come up, grow, and thrive, believe it or not. :)

You can do it, too!



How to direct seed

Well, Farmer Gene is the expert on direct seeding so here are his tips directly from his playbook:

  1. Prepare your garden soil to have a loose, fine, consistent texture. Remove “trash” like old straw, plastic, or leaves from mulching, sticks, rocks, anything that might get in the way of your little seeds.
  2. Open a furrow with your hand as deep as needed for your particular size seed.
  3. Sow the seeds into your furrow.
  4. Cover the seeds in the furrow lightly with soil and tamp down with firm but gentle pressure. Small seeds only need about a 1/4" of soil covering them, while large seeds (like beans) need close to an inch.  The seeds need contact with the soil, but don't need to be mashed down hard.
  5. Gently water over the furrow. Do not drown the seeds.  The soil needs to stay moist until the plants come up.  



What crops can be direct seeded, when, and at what spacing?

Many things can be direct seeded into the garden, especially this time of year when the soil has warmed up.

Here is a long list of the easiest things to direct seed into your garden.

As of mid-June it is not too late to plant any of the things in the first list below and might even be too early if it's primarily a fall crop (for more info on that see a link further on in the post).

  • Arugula (sow a thick band for baby leaf)
  • Beets (thin to 2-3” apart in row)
  • Beet greens (sow a thick band for baby leaf or use the thinnings from beets)
  • Carrots (thin to 1-2” apart in row)
  • Cilantro (sow 8-12 seeds per foot in row)
  • Claytonia (thin to 4-6” apart in row)
  • Cucumbers (thin to 8-12” apart in row)
  • Daikon Radish (thin to 3-4” apart in row)
  • Dill (sow a thick band for baby leaf)
  • Green Beans (sow 6-8 seeds per foot)
  • Kale (sow a thick band for baby leaf)
  • Kohlrabi (thin to 4-6” apart in row)
  • Lettuce heads (thin to 8-12” apart in row)
  • Lettuce mix (sow a thick band for baby leaf)
  • Mizuna (sow a thick band for baby leaf)
  • Pac choi (thin to 6-10” apart in row)
  • Parsnips (thin to 2-3” apart in row)
  • Peas (sow 'thick as the hair on a dog's back')
  • Potatoes (plant seed pieces approximately 1 foot apart in row)
  • Pumpkins (3-4 seeds per hill, 2 feet apart)
  • Radishes (thin to 1-2” apart in row)
  • Rutabaga (thin to 3-6” apart in row)
  • Salad turnips (thin to 1-2” apart in row)
  • Scallions (thin to 1-2” apart in row)
  • Spinach (thin to 6-8” apart in row)
  • Summer squash (3-4 seeds per hill, 2 feet apart)
  • Swiss chard (sow a thick band for baby leaf)
  • Tatsoi (sow a thick band for baby leaf)
  • Tomatillos (thin to 2 feet apart in row)
  • Turnips (thin to 3-4” apart in row)
  • Watermelon (3-4 seeds per hill, 2 feet apart)
  • Winter Squash (all kinds) (3-4 seeds per hill, 2 feet apart)
  • Zucchini (3-4 seeds per hill, 2 feet apart)

PHEW! That's a long list, but the short answer is, YES, you can replant your cucumbers and/or melons now by seed!


Here's what is best NOT direct seeded in this climate.  All of the below crops need to be started too early and are too tender to be able to direct seed them after the last frost for the season.  Thus, it IS too late to plant these.  Here's a great tutorial that I wrote on how to start your own seeds indoors:  How to Start Your Own Seeds

  • Tomatoes
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Celery/Celeriac



But where do I get seeds to direct seed this time of year?

Of course, please check your local stores to see if there is seed leftover that you can buy.

Also remember that the best seed houses have seeds available to purchase year round. Yep, that's because commercial growers seed their "gardens" throughout the season to have the greatest diversity of crop for their customers.

Like us!

Gene just ordered more seed for things we're going to need soon earlier this week from Johnny's!

Here's a link to our favorite seed sources for vegetables and beyond:  Our Farm's Favorite Sources For Garden Seeds and More



When do I direct seed crops?

As I mentioned above, it is not too late to plant everything in that huge long list above that can be direct seeded! So get out there and get your hands dirty! :)

And if you want my general advice on when to plant what in your garden check out this blog post for planting dates: How to grow a great organic garden.

And here's my succession planting guide which will tell you which crops are best planted in early July and which crops are best planted in early August: How to plan your garden for producing the most.



Why should I consider direct seeding?  Or not?

Great question!

Pros to direct seeding

  • Save money! Buying the seeds themselves is a lot cheaper than buying the seedlings.
  • Avoid transplant shock! When plants are planted out from their pots they can sometimes get “transplant shock” when conditions are not favorable for a variety of reasons (not having been hardened off properly, too hot, too cold, too windy, not enough water, too much water, and so forth). When you direct seed there is none of that! They're already adapted as they started their lives right there in that same soil.
  • Uses less water!  Because the plants start right there in the soil and they can put their roots down deep quickly, they'll need less water early on and in their lifetime to establish and thrive.  Easier on you and your well!

Cons to direct seeding

  • More work in weeding! When the seeds come up at the same time as the weeds, you have to be more diligent than with seedlings to keep the weeds down so your seeds can grow and out-compete the weeds.  This is less flexible for the gardener than using transplants.
  • Spacing may be more tricky! You may have to thin your stand of seedlings to get the right spacing for the crop which you won't need to do if you use seedlings and plant them at the right spacing at the right time.
  • Waiting to plant until after last frost!  Depending on what you're sowing you may want to wait until after your last frost date to plant your seeds which can feel like an eternity in Central Maine (trust me, I know).  But, for the other benefits, it can be sooo worth it!


We love direct seeding!  We do it out in our organic vegetable fields every week from May through September.

What is your experience direct seeding vegetable seed into your garden? 

Let us know what works for you in a comment below so we can all learn together!


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