Dodge the Vegetable shortage – grow your own Cucumbers
Cool are Cucumbers
Cucumbers are almost the number one salad favourite Recent announcements of possible shortages in supermarkets means grow your own!
Apart from providing a tasty salad ingredient, cucumber plants can produce up to 20 cucumbers over a 4-week period in summer. Home grown fruit and vegetables taste better than those should in shops and growing from seed means you can select different types.
Cucumbers are not always green, nor are they straight and not always long. Depending on the variety chosen to grow, cucumbers come in many sizes, colours, shapes, and textures. Some may be yellow, light, or dark green, white. They may also have different shapes, short, long, straight, slim, fat, etc.
Sow seeds indoors in early spring, and see germination in a few days, ready for planting in their final position later in the season. Many cucumbers can be raised in greenhouses, polytunnels, front porches, protected spots or planted directly outdoors or even raised in large pots on the patios.
Indoor varieties are best sown indoors (greenhouses) between March and April which will produce some strong young plants ready for the outdoors when the soil is warm. Seeds should be about 1/2in deep, 3-inch-wide pots, filled with seed compost (Mother Earth is ideal). Set seeds vertically and not flat. Windowsill propagators are great for starting or cover with clear plastic bag until seeds are germinated.
You can then move the pots to a warm, light windowsill and pull up the weakest of each pair of seedlings when a couple inches tall. When the remaining plants have about 3-4 leaves move them into a wider pot. Wait until about May if your greenhouse is not heated.
Outdoor varieties will have to remain under cover until there is no longer a danger of frost, which is usually late May or June. Acclimatize the plants about 2 weeks prior to planting outdoors by putting then out during the day and bringing them in at night. In about 8-10 days leave outside, cover with fleece to protect for about 3 days only.
Remember when growing cucumbers train the main stem up a 6ft long cane, snipping off the growing point when it reaches the top to encourage flowering shots to develop. Pi9nch out the tips of these side shoots two leaves beyond each fruit. If there are no flowers on the side shoots or fruit cut the ends when about 2ft long.
Cucumbers will produce yellow male and female flowers. Female flowers have a miniature fruit growing behind them, male flowers have a plain stalk. Outdoor varieties need both for insects to transfer pollen between them, indoor ones need the male flowers pinched off to prevent cross pollination and bitter fruit.
Water the plants regularly and feed every couple of weeks with a balanced liquid feed switching to a high potash feed once they start to flower.
Happy cucumber times!
Here are five of the best cucumbers to grow
BURPLESS TASTY GREEN
Mother Earth multi-purpose garden compost available at Hedgehogs Nursery
Crompton Road, Southfield Industrial Estate
01592 859 541