How to grow cucumbers
A favourite vegetable to add to salads, sandwiches or use to cool stressed eyes.
Outdoor cucumbers (sometimes referred to as ridge cucumbers, as they always used to be grown on raised mounds or ridges) need a position in full sun and enriched, well-drained soil that holds plenty of moisture and nutrients.
Growing cucumbers indoors under glass, such as in a greenhouse or grow frame, is usually more reliable - especially in poor summers - and the plants start cropping earlier in the summer and for longer.
Different varieties are needed for indoor or outside growing. For indoors, select F1 all-female varieties as these do not, under good growing conditions, produce male flowers. If male flowers are produced remove them, otherwise the female flowers will be pollinated and the fruit will taste bitter. Do not remove male flowers from outdoor cucumbers as pollination is necessary for fruit to be produced.
- Sow in small pots at 24-27C (75-80F) and maintain a temperature of 18-21C (65-70F) after germination and when growing on the plants.
- For growing in a greenhouse, sow in March (if growing in a heated greenhouse) or April (growing in an unheated greenhouse). For outdoor cultivation, sow from mid-Apri to mid-May.
- Be careful not to overwater the young plants. Transfer them to 9-10cm (3.5-4in) pots when the first true leaves have expanded.
- Alternatively, you can buy young or ready-grown plants from your local garden centre or mail order seed supplier.
- Plant outdoor plants from the end of May/early June after frosts are forecast.
How to care for home grown cucumbers
Transfer young plants to 25cm (10in) pots of good compost in late March (heated greenhouse), late May (unheated greenhouse) or early June outdoors. Keep the compost evenly moist - little and often is the best way. Plants can also be grown in growing-bags but will need to be carefully watered and looked after.
For outdoor growing, two weeks before seed sowing or planting out, dig planting pockets 45cm (18in) apart. Or try growing them on new compost heaps, where the heat from the rotting material will benefit the crop.
Feed plants every 10-14 days once planted out with a balanced liquid fertiliser, changing to a high potash one when the first fruit starts to set.
Keep the humidity around the plants high by watering the floor.
Train the main stem up a vertical wire or cane. Pinch out the growing point when it reaches the roof. Pinch out the tips of side shoots two leaves beyond a female flower. Pinch out the tips of flowerless side shoots once they reach 60cm (2ft) long.
Covering the soil around the plants with black polythene will help them grow and improve yields, keep down weeds and keep the fruit off the soil, but may encourage slugs.
Pinch out the growing tip when the plants have developed seven leaves. The developing side shoots can be left to trail over the ground or trained up stout netting. Pinch out the tips of flowerless side shoots after seven leaves.
Keep the soil constantly moist by watering around the plants - not over them.
Harvest the fruit by cutting the stem just above the fruit with a sharp knife when it reaches a good size and has a rounded end and parallel sides.
Cucumbers may also be susceptible to cucumber mosaic virus.