Cucumbers are in the same family as marrows and squash, the cucurbits – cucurbits, members of the Cucurbitaceae
Generally the result of feeding cucumbers with a tomato feed are acceptable but much better results can result from feeding with a more appropriate fertiliser.
They crop heavily and depending how much you like cucumber two plants should provide enough fruits for the average family .
Some varieties of cucumber need to be grown in the greenhouse and some can be grown outside. Greenhouse varieties produce fruit earlier but are more difficult to grow. Outdoor varieties are often called ridge cucumbers.
Cucumbers are climbing plants; they can be grown in containers and take up very little space for the amount of fruits they produce. Modern F1 varieties of cucumbers have only female flowers, this means that there is no need to hunt for and remove male flowers to prevent bitter flavoured fruit.
Varieties of Cucumber
- Burpless Tasty Green Is an outdoor type. It produces long , crisp, delicious fruits packed with flavour without any bitterness. As the name suggests, they are easy to digest. It can be grow trained against a support either outdoors, in coldframes or in the greenhouse.
- Carmen is a unique variety which has resistance to all known strains of powdery mildew, scab and leaf-spot, it is ideal for organic growing. Its heavy crop of long fruit has a mild flavour with no bitter after taste. They are excellent for exhibition . It is an easy climber to train in the greenhouse . Awarded the RHS Award Of Garden Merit (AGM).
- Mini Munch is an all-female , delicious, thin-skinned , very heavy cropping , very easy to manage, small outdoor cucumber variety (which can be grown indoors). Pick the fruits when they are 3in (8cm) long or leave them to mature to their full-size.
- Cucino produces prolific, deliciously crisp, flavoursome , mini cucumbers . It can be grown up supports in the greenhouse or in a sheltered position outdoors. Awarded the RHS Award Of Garden Merit (AGM).
- Picolino – is an all-female, outdoor cucumber. It produces many crisp, juicy, mini cucumbers which should be harvested regularly to maintain production. It has good powdery and downy mildew resistance.
- Spacemaster is a compact cucumber ideal for growing outdoors in containers and hanging baskets. It produces a prolific crop of slender, dark green , short fruits. It is resistant to cucumber mosaic virus and scab .
Pests and Problems with Cucumbers
- Slugs are the main problem with outdoor varieties.
- Cucumber mosaic virus is passed by aphids, so it is very important to control greenfly.
- Mildew is a serious problem to varieties that are not resistant.
Sowing and Growing Cucumbers
You should avoid wetting the base of all cucumber stems as this cause stem rot. Water through an inverted plastic drinks bottle with the base cut off or a bottomless pot inserted into the soil close to the plant. They are hungry plants so give them some tomato type feed once the fruits started to form.
Sow one seed indoors or in a propagator, in a 3 inch (8 cm) pot of multi-purpose compost a temperature of 70-80F (20-27C) is essential in late Feb early March for plants to be grown in a heated greenhouse or late April for plants to be grown in a cold greenhouse or frame. Sow the seeds standing on their edge to prevent rotting. Cucumbers, particularly greenhouse varieties, do not like changes in temperature, so be sure not to leave young plants near an open window or door overnight.
Plant them on into 8–10 inch (20–25 cm) pots (or larger), growbags, or into the greenhouse border in March for a heated greenhouse or late May for an unheated greenhouse or frame . Take care to keep the compost moist but don’t overwater. Keep the air well ventilated and moist by wetting the floor or misting. Tie stems to a strong frame as they grow .
When the main stem has reached the roof, pinch out the tip. Pinch out the shoots from side branches holding fruit, leaving two leaves after each fruit. All female varieties produce fruit on the main stem, so remove the laterals altogether. Harvest June–October.
Start off in pots in April, as above. Frost will kill the plants and a cold night will check their growth, so keep them under cover or bring them indoors while the nights are cold . You can also sow outdoors direct in their growing position at the end of May/beginning of June putting 3 seeds 1 inch deep and a few inches apart in each position.
Plant hardened off plants into a 12 inch (30 cm) in all directions hole, which has been prepared with rich compost. Leave the top slightly mounded. Protection the young plant with a cloche or a cut down plastic drinks bottle to prevent it being checked.
When the main stem has developed 7 leaves, pinch out the growing tip. Side shoots can trail over the ground (on black polythene keeps the soil warm) or be trained up a framework to keep them clean and prevent slug damage. Shoots which have no flowers should be pinched back to 7 leaves.
For all varieties, harvest the first fruits small. This encourages more to be produce.
Never leave mature cucumbers on the plants as this will inhibit production of more fruit.
Cut fruits off the stem with a knife or secateurs – never pull them .
Eating & Storing Cucumbers
Cucumbers tend to be a glut crop. They will keep for a week in the fridge but cannot be frozen. They can be salted but frankly the result is very poor and not worth the effort.
Ridge and outdoor cucumbers usually need to be peeled before eating but their really good flavour compensates for this . There are many cucumber recipes, including soups which can be frozen, and pickles and relishes.