Cucumbers are such a versatile vegetable with so many uses - sliced, grated, in salads and soups. Crisp. Crunch. Cool! With the heat of summer creeping up on us, the crisp cooling texture of cucumbers is essential in every salad or salad sandwich.
What could taste more fresh or rewarding than a home grown cucumber sandwich after a hot day's work in the garden? Alternatively this high yielding crop can be harvested while young and pickled. Cucumbers have been cultivated for centuries, and records date back to 2000BC in Mesopotamia. In Australia cucumbers date back to the first fleet, they were grown by the Reverend Richard Johnson in Sydney during the late 1700s.
Cucumbers are fairly easy to grow from seed, and can be sown directly into garden beds if desired. They can be grown horizontally as a ground cover, but we think for best results they should be grown vertically as a climber. Providing a support for the cucumbers to grow up reduces the risk of fungal infections and also encourages straighter fruit.
Plant seeds in Spring when soil temperatures start to increase, your garden bed should be well prepared with manure etc. With a dibbler or your finger make holes 1-2cm deep in mounds which are 50cm apart, drop 4-5 seeds in each hole.Once seeds have germinated thin out seedlings to leave the strongest 2-3 from each hole. Sow seeds every 2-3 weeks throughout spring to extend your cropping season.
Select a position with well drained soil which receives sun for most of the day. Include some support such as lattice, or tepee structure we like to use. If you are growing in a raised garden bed, plant your Cucumbers on the edge so they can trail down the sides.
Flowers are bright yellow and soft to touch, they closely resemble those of Pumpkin and Zucchini. Cucumbers have both male and female flowers, you can identify the female flowers by the swollen ovary at the base.Try to encourage Bees to your Cucumber patch as they are essential in pollinating the female flowers which will ensure the development of fruit.
Once each plant gets to the top of the support structure, pinch out the growing tips to encourage branching. Cucumbers will thrive in warm weather, and they will need plenty of food to keep them going.
Dress the soil with a good controlled release fertilizer such as Rooster Booster and apply a liquid fertilizer like Harvest or Potash every few weeks to ensure maximum yield. Your plants will be growing so vigorously they may need some help using the provided support. Lift any scrambling vines and guide them up on to the Structure.
Pick your cucumbers as soon as they are ripe, usually around 15-20cm long depending on the variety. Don't wait until the cucumbers are supermarket size as they probably wont taste as nice.
Fruit should be picked as soon as it is ripe this will encourage the plant to produce new fruit.
Pickling cucumbers can be harvested when they are over 5cm in length.
This year we are growing:
'White Spine' Oblong shaped fruit with smooth white skin, good flavour.
'Long White' White fruit to 18cm in length, non acidic.
'Lebanese' A common supermarket variety, quality fruit and very productive.
'Double Yield' Can produce over 17kg per plant!
Other favourite varieties include
'German Pickling' A compact spreading vine, can be harvested young for pickling, or at 20cm to eat fresh.
'Crystal Apple' A compact cucumber which produces a high yield of cream coloured apple shaped fruit
'Mini White' Produces an abundance of white, 10cm fruit.
'Space Master' Nice and compact, won't take over the garden!
Pests and Diseases
Cucumbers are not just tasty to you and I, there are a number of pests who enjoy a munch also. Aphids, whitefly and red spider mite can be prevented by spraying Eco-Oil. Set beer traps to catch those pesky slugs and snails. Protect against leaf fungal diseases such as powdery mildew by spraying with Eco-Fungicide.
Tips and Tricks
* Make sure soil is rich by adding manure, Blood & Bone, well aged compost before hand.
* Plant into mounds about 15cm high.
* Guide young plants of the ground and onto support.
* Pinch out growing tips to encourage branching.
* Pick ripe fruit early to promote new fruit
* Grow in the shade of corn or sunflowers, also grow well with beans and peas.