Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Outdoor ridge cucumbers

To grow cucumbers outdoors successfully, it’s necessary to plant them in a sunny spot, protected from strong winds.

Planting time

End of May – June.

Planting

Your soil must be well-drained and rich in humus – prepare planting pockets with compost 2 weeks before planting your cucumbers.

Crop care

Pinch out the growing tip when the plants have developed 6 or 7 leaves. Side shoots will then develop, and these can be left to trail over the ground or be trained up stout netting. Any shoots not bearing flowers should be pinched out at the 7th leaf.

Keep the soil moist, and water around the plants, not over them. Mist them lightly in dry weather. Place black polythene over the soil in summer before fruit formation: this will raise the soil temperature, conserve moisture, keep down weeds and protect the fruits from rotting. Once the fruits have started to swell, it’s essential to feed the plants with liquid tomato fertiliser. Never remove the male flowers.

Greenhouse varieties

Plant seedlings in John Innes no.3 compost in 10” pot or growbags.

Crop care

Try to maintain the temperature in your greenhouse at a minimum of 60-70°F. Keep the compost moist but never waterlogged, with the air moist and well ventilated (you can spray the floor to maintain high humidity).

Train each stem up a vertical wire cane, and pinch out the growing point when the leader reaches the roof. The tip of each side shoot is pinched out at two leaves beyond a female flower. Female flowers have a miniature cucumber behind them, while male flowers have just a thin stalk. Pinch out the tips of flowerless side shoots when they reach 2ft long. Remove all male flowers from ordinary varieties, because the fertilised fruit is bitter (you can also avoid this problem by choosing all-female varieties). Once the first fruits have started to swell, feed the plants every 2 weeks with a tomato fertiliser.

Harvesting

All-female varieties like Topsy and Pepira should be cut when they reach their maximum size. This will depend on variety, but try not to grow huge specimens, or your total crop will be smaller. Most types are 6-8” long, while gherkins are 4”, and apple varieties are the size of duck eggs. Use a sharp knife to remove fruits from the stem. Good soil, proper care, and continuous picking should provide you with lots of cucumbers until the end of September.