Worried about growing cucumbers? There’s no need…
There’s nothing more quintessentially British than a cucumber sandwich and the fruit, yes it’s a fruit, is one of the nation’s favourite salad ingredients. Plus it is vital for that perfect summer Pimm’s.
Like to grow your own? Then here are our handy hints and tips to get you started, they are easy to grow and cucumber plants are available from us now (May):
1. It’s a common myth that you need a greenhouse to grow them, but you don’t as there are indoor and outdoor varieties available. Some are suitable for indoors and outdoors.
2. Check that you have the right type of plant before you start growing them – outdoor varieties are called ‘ridge’ cucumbers.
3. Cucumbers can be grown in the ground, growbags and in large pots.
4. Greenhouse varieties produce long, smooth fruits like those you’d see in the shops.
5. Indoor cucumbers don’t need pollinating – in fact, you should remove any male flowers as they lead to bitter fruits. You can buy ‘all female’ varieties such as Cucumber ‘Femspot’, which only produce female flowers.
6. Outdoor cucumbers tend to be shorter with a rougher skin. Ridge cucumbers produce both male and female flowers, but they are pollinated by garden insects, so you don’t need to worry!
How to grow cucumbers in a greenhouse
1. You need a warm and humid greenhouse with a temperature of at least 15°C.
2. Plant two plants per grow bag or 45cm apart.
How to grow cucumbers outdoors
1. Acclimatise your plants to outdoor conditions for a week or so by having them out during the day and in at night.
2. Choose a sunny position, which is sheltered from strong winds.
3. Plant in single rows at a distance of 90cm apart.
Aftercare for all types of cucumbers
1. Keep them well watered.
2. Feed with a high potash feed every two weeks once the fruits begin to develop.
Caring for indoor cucumbers
1. Keep the greenhouse atmosphere warm but humid with regularly spraying or damping down (which means watering the pathways)
2. Apply some shading to protect the leaves from scorching.
3. Train the main shoots onto canes or strings – with canes tie the stem gently and loosely to the cane using twine and with string wrap the stem around it. When they reach the top of their support, pinch out the growing point at the top of the plant.
4. Always remove male flowers. Female cucumber flowers have what looks like a tiny cucumber between them and the plant stem. Male flowers just have a plain stalk.
Caring for indoor cucumbers
1. Cucumbers growing outdoors can just crawl across the ground and do not need support.
2. They require pollination by an insect and both male and female flowers must be left on.
Picking your home grown cucumbers
1. Pick your cucumbers in the early morning when temperatures are cool.
2. Cut the fruits from the plant using secateurs or a sharp knife.
3. Harvest cucumbers while they are young and tender, before they become bitter.
4. Regular harvesting will encourage more fruit to form – depending on the temperatures, outdoor varieties may be picked until September, while greenhouse types can fruit into October.