You can grow cucumbers in the ground, pots or in growing bags. Home-grown cucumbers taste fabulous. Choose the type that’s right for you – some can be grown outside, some indoors. Outdoor cucumbers can be sown directly into the soil in late May and early June – or you can buy small plants from the garden centre.
Growing in the greenhouse
Start cucumbers off by sowing seeds from mid-February to mid-March if you have a heated greenhouse or similar environment, or in April if you have an unheated greenhouse. Sow seeds on their side, 1cm (½in) deep in pots.
Sow seeds 2.5cm (1in) deep indoors in late April. Alternatively, sow directly outside in late May or early June and cover the soil above the seeds with fleece, a cloche or glass jar. This method can work well in southern regions and in warm summers.
Young plants are also available from garden centres in spring.
Transfer young plants to 25cm (10in) pots of good potting compost in late March (heated greenhouse), late May (unheated greenhouse). Keep the compost evenly moist – little and often is the best way. You can also use growing-bags but plants will need to be carefully watered and looked after.
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 sideshoots two leaves beyond a female flower (recognisable by tiny fruits behind flower). Pinch out the tips of flowerless sideshoots once they reach 60cm (2ft) long.
Keep the humidity high by watering the floor and, once planted out, feed every 10-14 days with a balanced liquid fertiliser.
Either sow seeds or plant out young plants in early June, ideally under fleece or cloches. Any fertile garden soil in full sun is satisfactory.
Dig in up to two bucketfuls of rotted organic matter, such as garden compost, and rake in 100g per square metre (3½oz per square yard) of general purpose fertiliser.
Pinch out the growing tip when the plants have developed seven leaves. The developing sideshoots can be left to trail over the ground or trained up stout netting. Pinch out the tips of flowerless sideshoots after seven leaves.
Don’t remove the male flowers, and keep the soil constantly moist by watering around the plants – not over them.
Troubleshooting Growing Problems
Whitefly: Small white flies suck sap and excrete sticky ‘honeydew’ over the plant, encouraging the growth of sooty mould.
Remedy: Use biological control or sticky traps in the greenhouse.
Cucumber mosaic virus: Plants and leaves are stunted and deformed, and leaves show distinctive yellow mosaic patterning. Flowering is reduced or non-existent, while any fruit that do appear are small, pitted, hard and inedible.
Remedy: The disease is spread from plant to plant by sap-sucking aphids, so take any necessary measures to control them. Infected plants should be destroyed – wash your hands after touching infected material to avoid contaminating healthy plants.
Powdery Mildew: Appears as a white powdery deposit over the leaf surface and leaves become stunted and shrivel.
Remedy: Keep the soil moist and grow in cooler locations.
Birds: Birds, especially pigeons, can cause an array of problems including eating seedlings, buds, leaves, fruit and vegetables.
Remedy: Protect the plants from birds by covering them with netting or fleece. Scarecrows and bird-scaring mechanisms work for a while, but the most reliable method of protection is to cover plants with horticultural fleece or mesh.
Cut the fruits when they are about 15-20cm (6-8in) long using a sharp knife.
beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chinese cabbage, corn, kale, kohlrabi, marigold, nasturtium, oregano, peas, radishes, tansy, tomatoes