Guide to Growing Cucumbers
Ask any gardener and he will tell say you have not experienced the true fresh, juicy flavor and crispy texture of cucumbers until you have grown your own. With varieties that can be grown easily inside or out, there’s no reason not to give them a try.
How to Grow
Cucumbers need a sunny location with moist, fertile soil or compost and are ideal for growing in containers or the soil. Sow seed under cover at 70°F (21°C) in small pots in early spring for indoor crops, mid-spring for outdoor varieties. Harden off cucumbers for planting outside when four weeks old, and plant out after the last frost, putting supports in place first. Space the plants 18in (45cm) apart. Sow seeds direct in summer. Keep plants well watered, especially when in fruit, watering indoor plants daily in the summer. Feed with a high-potash liquid fertilizer every two weeks after the first flowers appear.
Types of Cucumbers Available
- Ridge cucumbers are grown outside on the ground or trained up supports. They have tougher skins, which may have small spines. Varieties include: Burpless Tasty Green’, ‘Bush Champion’, ‘Cucumber Diva’, ‘Long Green Ridge’, ‘Marketmore’ and ‘Masterpiece'.
- Heritage cucumbers are grown outdoors and generally produce smaller, rounded yellow or white fruit that are ideal for salads. Varieties include: ‘Boothby’s Blonde’, ‘Crystal Apple’, ‘Double Yield’, ‘Miniature White’ and ‘White Wonder’.
- Greenhouse cucumbers produce long, smooth, thin-skinned fruit that need to be grown under cover to set reliably. Varieties include: Addison’, ‘Bodega’, ‘Bologna’, ‘Camaro’, ‘Carmen’, ‘Cucino’ F1 (F) ‘Flamingo’, ‘Ilas’ and ’Picolino’ F1 (F) ‘Telegraph Improved’.
Cucumbers can be left to trail along the ground, but they crop better and take up less space if trained up a support. For outdoor plants, make a simple wigwam using 5–6 tall canes, tied at the top. In a greenhouse, insert one cane per plant, holding it upright by attaching it to the frame. To use all the space available, train plants along the inside of the greenhouse roof on long, sturdy wires, and tie them in.
Cucumbers thrive in containers and growing bags, inside or out. When planting containers, place crock pieces over the holes, use peat-based compost, and leave a large gap between the surface and the rim for easy watering. If you use growing bags, make several drainage holes in the bottom first, and insert the supports before planting. Growing bags are ideal for cucumbers and reduce the risk of soil-borne diseases affecting your plants.
Gherkins are immature cucumbers that are grown the same way as outdoor varieties. Sow seed under cover in pots, harden off, and plant out when the risk of frost has passed. Water and feed regularly, and harvest the fruits when 1–3 inches (2.5–7.5 cm) long. Harvest these cucumbers often, and pickle fruits right away. Although cucumbers can be picked small as gherkins, specially bred varieties are more successful. Varieties to try include: ‘Diamant', ‘Piccolo di Parigi’ and ‘Venio Pickling.’
If modern indoor cucumbers are pollinated, the fruit that develops can be misshapen and bitter-tasting. Avoid this by growing “all-female” varieties or by removing any male flowers before they open. Female flowers are easy to spot since they have an immature fruit behind the petals.
Watch Out for These Pests and Diseases
Squash, cucumbers, zucchini, and pumpkins are related and are affected by the same pests and diseases, including cucumber mosaic virus, which causes mottled leaves, weak growth, and poor harvests. If your cucumbers are affected by this disease, then destroy the infected plants, and grow resistant varieties.
Powdery mildew is another problem that can affect cucumber plants. This mildew coats leaves in white fungal growth. Keep plants well-watered, and improve airflow.