Cucumbers

Cucumber

Cucumber plant with baby cukes

Sow: February-March
Harvest: June
Conditions: Rich soil, sunny position.

In the British climate, a greenhouse is the ideal environment for cucumbers but I don’t have one and mine haven’t done too badly. Plant your seeds in a propogator and allow to germinate before moving into pots. Cucumbers need a lot of warmth and sunshine, so grow them on in the sunniest spot in your house.

Once the risk of frosts has passed, harden off and then plant out in the sunniest position you can.  They need good, rich soil and a lot of water. A cucumber is mainly water and the plant needs lots of it to grow them.

Cucumbers grow fairly large so plant them at least a foot apart, more if you’re going to let them trail.  The leaves are quite big and it puts out little rolls of vine to twine around things, so I like to let it climb if I can, putting it up against a trellis or grow frame. It grows male and female flowers – the female flowers are obvious because they have thicker, spiky stems (which will eventually become the cucumber) – and you need to take off the male flowers to avoid pollination, which makes the cucumbers bitter.

Containers

When a cucumber wants to grow, it doesn’t hang about. Last year I started them off on the sunny windowsill and they went bananas. Suddenly they were huge and I had to harden them off before they could go outside, which was not easy because they also needed support.

Cucumbers need to either trail or climb, and trailing didn’t seem practical on the patio so I found a bit of trellis for them. Unfortunately, I moved them rather late and the heavy leaves and baby fruits meant that the plant was a bit top heavy before they got the support they needed and ended up a bit damaged. I put them in the sunniest spot on the patio and we got about 10 cucumbers in total, although 6 of those were from one damaged plant. The cucumbers tended to curl a bit, but they were beautifully crisp and delicious.

Cucumber with plaster

Cucumber mended with plaster

TIPS FOR COPING WITH DAMAGE: I accidentally snapped two of my cucumber plants at the base when moving them, not actually in two but badly enough to kill it. As they were both already producing cucumbers, I didn’t want to lose them so I tried to save them. I carefully arranged both plants over the trellis, tying them gently but firmly, then turned my attention to the breaks.

The first plant I snipped above the break and applied a bit of rooting powder to the stem. Then I placed the stem in a glass of water and allowed it to root. Once the roots had appeared, I re-planted it and it continued to grow. The existing cucumbers did die off but it grew new ones, although perhaps fewer than before.

The second plant, rather embarrassingly, I put a plaster on. I used one of those plasters that are designed to keep a wound from drying out, wrapping it around the break in the hope that the plant would heal and… it did! In fact, it produced more cucumbers than either of the other plants.

Storage

TIP: Cut the cucumber in half while still on the plant. Leave the top half attached to the plant and the end will heal over with a thin, protective skin. This keeps the fruit fresh and means that you don’t have to eat up a large cucumber all in one go.

Companion Planting

GOOD: Beetroot, Carrots, Dill, Peas, Radish

BAD: Sage, Tomato, Potato

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