Growing cucumbers is possible to do in most sheltered gardens, and they do especially well in a conservatory, poly-tunnel or greenhouse.
Cucumbers are usually a salad vegetable, but can also be used to make pickles, such as gherkins. This makes them a versatile crop to grow at home.
There are lots of varieties of cucumber, as well as the long green crop we all know. Some varieties of cucumber need to be grown in a greenhouse, and some, such as ridge cucumbers, will grow in a sunny position outside.
There are also cucumbers that are suitable for both indoor and outdoors. Some varieties of indoor cucumber are more difficult to grow than others, due to the heat and humidity required, so check on the seed packet to make sure you have the right sort for your growing space.
Sowing Cucumber Seeds
Indoor cucumbers can be sown into pots in early to mid-spring, and kept either in a greenhouse or coldframe. When the first few leaves have developed, they can be transplanted. It is a good idea to grow indoor cucumber in pots or grow-bags, as this help them to resist pests and diseases that can build up in soil.
Outdoor cucumbers are also sown in mid spring in pots, or into the soil. If planting into the soil, dig a small piece out and fill the space with well-rotted manure or garden compost, and some fine tilth soil before sowing.
Caring for Cucumber Plants
Indoor cucumbers prefer a humid, warm conditions. Keep the compost well-watered, but not over-watered, and spray the floor with a fine mist to keep the air humid. Cucumber plants need support, so train stems to grow up garden canes. Once it reaches the required height, or the roof, pinch out the growing tip of the stem.
Outdoor cucumbers should be planted in a sunny position that is sheltered from wind. Cucumbers prefer a rich, fertile soil, so before planting dig in some well-rotted manure or garden compost. The stems can be allowed to trail along the ground, or can be supported. The tips of the stems should be pinched out once they have six or seven leaves, and this will encourage more side shoots that grow fruit, and results in a sturdier plant.
Cucumber plants produce male and female flowers, but there are varieties that produce just female flowers. Female flowers have a swelling behind it that develop into a fruit, whereas male flowers are on a stalk.
When growing indoor cucumber plants, it is important to remove the male flowers as it can result in the fruit having a bitter flavour. However, do not remove them on outdoor plants, as some varieties need to be pollinated by the male flowers.
Once the fruits begin to develop, pinch out the stems to two leaves after the fruit. Feed each week with a fertiliser suitable for tomatoes.
Cut the fruit from the plant when it has reached a good size for eating. Harvesting time will differ according to the variety, but will be from mid-summer to autumn. Regular harvesting will encourage more fruit to grow.
Cucumbers can be stored for a week in a fridge, and should be eaten soon after harvest. They can also be preserved in pickles and chutneys.