How to Grow Cucumbers
How to Grow Cucumbers
There is nothing quite like the taste of a well-grown cucumber from your own vegetable gardening patch to slice onto your summer salads. However, well grown is the watchword because if it is not grown fast and picked early it will be bitter and horrible. Cucumbers come in many different shapes and sizes. You can get long green ones, round apple cucumbers and long whites, seedless and burpless. All are nice and what one you grow will depend on your preference.
Growing Your Own Food means Knowing what You Eat
The first thing to do is prepare the soil by digging in plenty of compost and well-rotted manure. This in fact is the first rule of ecological gardening, feed the soil not the crop. The cucumber plant is a vine, so if you can grow it near a fence it can scramble up this will keep the fruit off the ground where they can be damaged. Growing them up a fence saves garden space. Otherwise, just let them ramble around the garden and protect the fruit by placing some straw underneath.
Now the Fun Part
Once your soil is prepared you will be able to plant the seeds in a saucer-shaped mound like you would with a pumpkin. Make each one about 12 inches in diameter and 3-4 inches high. Place five seeds in a circle around the mound, but when they germinate, choose the best three and discard the others. Seeds usually come ready dusted with fungicide to prevent damping off, but if your packet doesn’t mention this, then assume it has not been done and buy some. Simply place a teaspoon of the fungicide in a plastic bag with the seeds and shake it around.
You can also grow them in rows about 39 inches (100cm) apart. Seeds should be 16-20 inches (40-5-cm) apart. Mounds should be roughly the same. Cucumbers won’t germinate until the ground is really warm, so if you want to start them off early plant in pots - or buy the seedlings from the nursery.
Once the plants start to flower they need to have a side dressing of mixed fertilizer every 3-4 weeks while they are bearing. They should continue to bear right through the autumn. Picking the fruit young is the key to crisp and tasty cucumbers, but the vine also needs to have plenty of water, as the fruits are 80% water. If the fruit does not set it can be due to cold weather, or not enough bees.
Try pollinating the flowers by hand. The swelling at the base, similar to the pumpkin flower, can identify the female flower. Pick the male and tap the stamens onto the female flower, or use a cotton bud to transfer it.