Friday, October 11, 2013

The Return on Investment for Greenhouse Cucumbers

Here at Johnny's, we are often asked about the return on investment (ROI) for greenhouse crops. Seed for greenhouse varieties is typically priced higher than seed for field-grown varieties, and in this case we believe you get what you pay for. The breeding and development of protected-culture varieties is more specialized and involved, and the return should be sufficient to justify the extra investment required on the part of the breeder as well as the grower.

If what you really want to know is, Why so much more money for this greenhouse variety?, Andrew Mefferd, former Product Technician for cucumbers here at and a seasoned greenhouse grower himself, has some answers for you.

'Excelsior' Cucumber
'Excelsior' Cucumbers

Higher Yields
  • Bottom line, ROI and profitability will typically be higher for greenhouse cucumbers than field-grown cucumbers. One key reason is because yields from greenhouse cucumbers are higher as a result of the optimized growing environment. In particular, it’s warmer, so plants grow in their optimal temperature range more of the time or even all of the time.
  • If you harvest just one more pound of cucumbers from a greenhouse variety than you would from a field variety, the seed will have paid for itself. Because you can ask a higher price for greenhouse crops at market, selling even just one extra fruit can sometimes cover the cost of the seed investment.
  • Greenhouse varieties are higher yielding because they are selected for the specific environmental conditions within greenhouses and hoophouses. They are, for example, selected for resistance to diseases that can be problematic in protected culture. This allows them to stay healthier and produce over a longer period of time within that environment.
Greater Control of the Environment
  • Within the greenhouse environment, plants are provided not just more optimal temperatures but also optimal water through irrigation, rather than being reliant on rainfall, which can set plants back when there is too much or not enough.
  • Pests can be minimized in the greenhouse with the use of preventive measures such as insect screening and trellising. Ground insects or slugs that might feed on field cucumbers will not typically crawl up a plant to feed on fruits that are elevated off the ground. When you have fewer plants damaged by pests, you’re left with more marketable crops to sell.
  • It’s important to note that greenhouse varieties often have better flavor because produce from a sickly plant that is inadequately photosynthesizing is just not likely to taste as good as produce from a healthy, greenhouse-grown plant.

'Socrates' Cucumber
'Socrates' Cucumber

Higher-Quality, More Diverse, Premium Product
  • A greater range of cucumber varieties can be grown indoors than outdoors. These include long, European types and more of the seedless, thin-skinned types. One key reason for this is because they’re protected from bugs indoors, which is especially important for seedless, thin-skinned types, which are more susceptible to pests due to their thin skin.

Crop Cycle Time
  • Greenhouse cucumbers are relatively quick to start bearing. Some early varieties can start yielding fruit as early as 45 days after being transplanted.
  • As noted above, cucumber plants also live much longer in the greenhouse than in the field. A field-grown crop might bear for one month before the plants get tired out, and disease and pests take over, whereas it is more typical for greenhouse cucumber crops to last several months.

Other Considerations
  • For greenhouse growers at high latitudes (like those of us here in Maine), it’s important to note that it can be very challenging to grow cucumbers through the winter — but it can be done. They require a lot of heat and also require supplemental lighting. Even without lights, however, your cucumber season can be extended well beyond the beginning and the end of the typical field cucumber season.
  • Lastly, it is important to research which varieties your market wants most. If what your markets demand are slicers or slender, Japanese cucumbers, be sure to grow those, rather than focusing efforts on picklers or the long, European types. Time spent researching your market will pay off, when it comes to bottom-line ROI.
We hope this helps you evaluate the potential return on investment for greenhouse cukes. For additional information, visit Johnny’s website: 

Leave us a comment — we are interested in your questions and comments about growing greenhouse cucumbers!


Unknown said...

Would these seeds pass Organic standards? Thank you.

Johnny's Seeds News said...

Hi Camille, we offer a few varieties of Organic Greenhouse cucumbers. Please visist for a listing of the varieties we currently carry. Thank you.

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