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Sweet, fresh and packed with delicious crunch, cucumbers are a great addition to spruce up a summer salad or enhance a delicious dip. And nothing beats the taste of a home grown cucumber.“Cucumbers can be slightly tricker to grow because they are tender, which means they can’t survive any low temperatures or frost,” says garden writer Lucy Hutchings of She Grows Veg. “But they’re still well worth giving a go.” You can sow your cucumber seeds after the last frost all the way up until June, and then plant them out between May and July.Up for the challenge? Here’s everything you need to know about growing cucumbers. How to grow cucumbers: the best varietiesThere are three main types of cucumbers: greenhouse cucumbers, outdoors cucumbers and bush cucumbers.“Greenhouse cucumbers tend to only have female flowers on them (when there’s a little baby cucumber behind the flower) and you may find they’re called ‘burpless’,” says Lucy. “That means they don’t have seeds, because seeds are created when a male flower pollinates a female flower.”Not a fan of seeds in your cucumber? Then these are a great option, but as the name suggests, they can only be grown in greenhouses.“Outdoor cucumbers are better at coping with the British climate and they have both male and female flowers. They’re better for outdoors [and] because insects are going to pollinate them, they will have seeds in. They’ll look a little more bumpy, but still recognisable as the classic cucumber. “Bush cucumbers are less common, but you can still find them. They don’t go as long as others and they’re usually best for growing in pots on patios.”
Thompson & Morgan
Cucumber ‘Marketmore’Cucumis sativus
Thompson & Morgan
Lucy’s favourite cucumbersMarketmore: “An outdoor, classic cucumber that grows really well in the UK.” Crystal lemon: “Round and yellow, it doesn’t really look like a cucumber at all, but it’s really fun to grow and kids love them as well.” Mini munch: “More of a greenhouse cucumber, but they only get to about 7cm long so they’re really good for eating whole as either a snack or pickling.” Where to grow cucumbersAs cucumbers originate from South East Asia this veg is accustomed to a warm, dry climate.“They like sun and warmth and they don’t want to be in a windy spot, so choose a nice, warm, sunny, sheltered area, such as up against a wall,” says Lucy.Cucumbers can be grown in the ground, in a greenhouse and even in pots on patios. However, Lucy does warn that if you choose to grow your cucumbers in pots you will need to keep a close eye on them when it comes to watering, because they can dry out a lot faster than growing when in the ground.How to grow cucumbers: care adviceA rich moist soil is what cucumbers crave to prevent them drying out.“If you’re planting your cucumbers outside it’s a good idea to add a layer of compost on top, so that it really seeps down into the soil and enriches it,” says Lucy. “If you’re planting in a pot you’re going to want to put brand new compost in there.”
RHS SylvaGrow Multipurpose Compost
When it comes to feeding your cucumbers, Lucy recommends using an organic liquid feed every two weeks and stresses the importance of this being organic.“I would always recommend choosing organic because you’re going to eat it, so you don’t want to feed your cucumbers something that’s full of chemicals and then eat it yourself.”“More feed doesn’t equal healthier plants or more cucumbers. Follow the instructions exactly as it says on the packet and don’t be tempted to make it stronger, because you can have too much of a good thing and it can actually kill the plant.”Aim to keep your soil moist by watering your cucumbers little and often, rather than waiting and doing a big water, advises Lucy. Otherwise, there is a certain fungus that could attack your plant if it is under-watered.“The easiest way to check whether your plant needs watering is to stick your finger down into the soil and if it comes out feeling a little bit damp or has bits of soil stuck on it, then you know there’s still moisture in the soil,” says Lucy. “If it comes out bone dry and there’s just a dusty residue on your finger, you know it needs a water.”
Disease and pest controlCucumbers are prone to a couple of pesky bugs and diseases, but where you grow them will determine how badly this could affect your crop.Whitefly
While whitefly is more like to occur in greenhouses, but you can get it outside too. “You’ll know when you have them, because when you brush past the plant there’ll be this little eruption of white flies,” says Lucy.“Your plant can survive them but their droppings, called honeydew, are like sugar, and they fall onto the leaf below which creates sooty mould and which can really damage the leaves. “If you’re growing cucumbers in a greenhouse, the best way to keep it under control is to use biological control. There’s a tiny wasp called encarsia that eat whitefly and won’t harm anything else.”Red spider mite
Again, this is more prone to greenhouses. But one thing red spider mite hate, according to Lucy, is moisture.”When you’re doing your watering in your greenhouse, water down your floor before you leave. That makes it really really humid as the water evaporates and is a great way to prevent spider mite from taking hold in the first place.” Powdery mildew
According to Lucy this is caught from under-watering your plant, so ensuring your cucumbers stay moist is key to keeping this at bay, although sometimes it can’t be prevented.”You can’t actually get rid of it, but you can help keep it under control,” she says. “Cut off the leaves that are worse affected and put them in the bin. Do not put them on the compost heap as they carry the disease on them and it will spread.”Make a natural organic anti-mould spray by making a really strong camomile tea in a spray bottle and spraying it on your plant. It’s completely harmless, but there’s a natural fungicide in camomile that will help keep it under control.”How to harvest your cucumberYou can expect to see your cucumbers 12 weeks after you’ve planted them and the more you pick them, the more they will grow.Cucumber stalks can be quite tough, so Lucy recommends using either a pair of scissors or secateurs to snip them off once they’re ripe and not to leave them for too long on their vine.
“You don’t want them to stay too ripe on the vine for too long, because if they’re a type that has seeds they will go hard around the outside and you’ll get lots of hard seeds in the middle, which will be less pleasant to eat.”Once you’ve got your freshly grown cucumbers they’ll be ready to chop up, toss into a salad, dunk into your desired dip or garnish your favourite tipple – enjoy!Read Lucy Hutchings’ gardening blog, She Grows Veg.Lucy’s book Get Up and Grow is out on 29 April published by Hardie Grant Books.Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.SIGN UPIn need of some positivity or not able to make it to the shops? Enjoy Good Housekeeping delivered directly to your door every month! Subscribe to Good Housekeeping magazine now.SUBSCRIBE NOW
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