cucumberAll members of the Cucumber family (Gherkins, Melons, Marrows, and Pumpkins) have three major requirements – warmth, moisture and a rich soil containing plenty of organic matter. They are not hardy, though some varieties are suitable for outside growing but it does depend on your area and weather conditions.

Soil Preparation for Outdoor Varieties
Cucumbers prefer soils containing plenty of organic matter; they do best in positions where there is shelter from cold winds and they must have a sunny site.

When preparing the ground, add plenty of manure and compost where the plants are to grow. Begin by digging a trench 9 in. (228mm) deep put in the manure then dig another putting the soil from this into the first trench. This will form a ridge; the cucumbers can be planted into the ridges, 3 ft. (90cm) apart.

Sowing Under Cover
Sow the seed mid-March through to late May putting the seeds into trays or small pots ½ in. (12mm) deep, at a temperature of 70 to 75 deg F. (21 to 24 deg C.) germination takes 3 – 15 days at these temperatures. Later transplant the seedlings singularly into 5 in. pots.

Gradually reduce the temperature down to 65 f. (18 C.) If you are growing the outdoor varieties begin to harden them off before putting the young plants into cold frames at the end of May. Plant them out after about two or three weeks along the ridges when the chance of frost has passed.

Greenhouse Growing
When the seedlings have reached the four-leaf stage re-pot into either large pots or grow-bags. If you are using grow-bags allow three plants per bag.

Train the main stem up wires to give the plant support.
Stretch training wires from end to end of the greenhouse12 in. 30cm) apart and 12 in. (30cm) from the glass; tie strings every 2 ft. (60cm) at right-angles to the wires, train the leader growths towards the ridge of the house. Tie side shoots to the wires and stop at second leaf; stop sub-laterals at first leaf. Give them shade in sunny weather

Planting Outdoors
Water the pots well before planting out. Avoid holding the plants by their stems as they are easily bruised causing them irreparable damage. If the weather is cool cover each plant with a cloche for the first week to give them a little warmth and protection.

General care
Cucumbers require plenty of water so that they are able to grow and fully develop, soak the roots thoroughly and regularly.

Greenhouse-grown plants should be sprayed during hot weather to maintain high humidity and fed weekly with a good liquid fertiliser.

Those growing outdoors must be given extra protection against the surface roots drying out; grass clippings can be used as mulch. They are generally trouble-free if the summer is a good one, however, slugs can sometimes be a problem; to be on the safe side position a few slug traps around the base of the plants.

Male and female flowers are produced, but male flowers are picked off as they appear, this is to prevent pollination of the females for pollinated female flowers produce bitter cucumbers with large seeds.

Just as soon as the first fruits are about 3 in. (76mm) long, begin to give the plants a weekly feed of liquid fertilizer.

Cut the fruits as soon as they ready, the size will depend on the variety, which you are growing. They can be cut regularly for this will encourage the plant to produce more fruit. Cucumbers keep well, so they can be cut and kept for a while without coming to any harm.