Once you have grown cucumbers at home you will probably never buy one from the supermarket again as the flavor is far superior to store bought.
These days cucumbers are not too difficult to grow, as long as you choose the right variety, and with the development of the F1 bred outdoor cucumbers, everyone should be able to grow these wonderfully productive vegetable plants.
How To Grow Cucumber:
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There are 2 varieties of cucumber, the greenhouse and the outdoor. Whichever you decide to grow you will need to provide a rich and nutritious soil for them to thrive.
Many experience cuke growers usually dig in plenty of well-rotted manure in the spring or at the end of the season the preceding year. If you don’t use manure dig in compost or municipal soil improver, and a dressing of fish, blood and bone fertilizer.
Cucumber belong to the group cucurbits which includes such as squash, marrow, courgettes and pumpkins, and with all these plants they are greedy, as they flower it is well worth introducing a liquid plant food to add to the richness of the soil, a liquid tomato food would be ideal whether it is a commercial food or your own comfrey tea.
It is also worth making a ridge to plant your cucumber on, especially outdoor cucumbers, they love water but hate to be wet. In the greenhouse, plant an upturned pop bottle next to the plant with the bottom cut off and lid off, and water your cucumber plant by topping up the bottle.
Before choosing cucumber seeds you will need to decide whether you are going to grow them in the greenhouse or outside in the garden.
The first consideration is space, as the cucumber plant can take up a lot of space. It is a climbing plant which is not so much of a problem outside, but you will need to provide a trellis or frame for it to grow on.
Oddly enough, it is probably easier to grow cucumbers outside as indoor varieties are very sensitive. Although the outside fruits do have a thicker, spikey skin and will need to be peeled, they do have the better flavour.
At one time there was a need to remove the male flowers from the plant to stop the fruits developing bitter flavours, but that has largely been bred out of the plant, as long as you choose F1 type seeds.
You will need to sow cucumbers in a propagator or on a warm window sill in an 8cm pot around mid-march, potting on to a larger pot as the seedling grows. At this stage the biggest thing to watch out for is temperature fluctuations, as even a cool breeze could kill a young plant.
In late April, you could move them to the greenhouse, and then outdoor plants on to a cold frame to harden off once the cold nights have passed.
We would normally plant greenhouse cucumbers into their final position in May, with outdoor varieties going out in June.
Plant outside plants on a ridge and greenhouse plants next to a buried watering bottle, and provide them with a frame to grow on, then once the growing stem of the cucumber plant has eight leaves, snip off the growing tip and they will send out a number of climbing stems.
Cucumbers are susceptible to mosaic virus, but as this disease is generally carried by aphids, as long as you affectively control aphid attacks, you will prevent the virus from reaching your plant.
Unfortunately, if you do get an infection the best action to take would be removing and disposing of the plant, taking care not to touch any other plants with any tools or fingers that have come into contact with the virus.
It is also worth mentioning weeds, as mosaic virus can affect many plants, even weeds such as chickweed, so a good weeding schedule is definitely worth following.
Other pest to keep an eye out for are slugs and snails, and whatever slug control you use, whether barrier, trap or poison, it will need to be put into action around your cucumber plants
Pick cucumbers when they are on the smaller size to encourage them to keep flowering and fruiting and don’t allow the fruit to go yellow on the plant as this will stop it from producing.
Greenhouse varieties will fruit earlier and should keep going until October, while outside production is a little shorter.
As you have no storage options for cucumbers and a plant can produce a glut of cucumbers, one plant will probably be enough for most families, although it is worth bringing on two plants just in case.
Don’t just think of cucumber as a slicing veg to accompany a salad, as there are many things that you can do with cucumber.
Cucumber makes a great relish, which is one storage option, and a yogurt and cucumber raita gives a cool fresh contrast to a curry. Cucumber works very well in a healthy smoothie, or how about a not so healthy cucumber lemon gin. And what about giving the classic cucumber sandwich a lift of finely sliced smoked salmon.
For some great cucumber recipes take a look at 40 cucumber recipes at Martha Stewart