Originally from Asia, where they have been cultivated for at least 3000 years, they were possibly brought to Europe with the help of the Romans. Apparently, there are records of Cucumbers being grown in France in the 9th Century and in England in the 14th Century.
Health Benefits. Contains vitamins A, B, C, silica, caffeic acid, lignans.
Cucumbers are not the easiest of vegetables to grow, particularly as they require very warm temperatures. According to the books they require up to 25 C for germination of the seed, and then up to 20 C for growing on the plants. Germination of the seed will not be a problem with a propagator, but without a heated greenhouse it will be a problem to reach recommended temperatures.
As many of us manage to grow Cucumbers in a cool greenhouse at much lower temperatures, it is obviously not essential for such high temperatures. It just takes much longer to reach harvesting size in the North of the UK.
There are different types of Cucumbers for growing in different ways. You also must be aware of the pollination requirements of the type of Cucumbers that you are growing, and the differences between male and female flowers. If you get it wrong you can find the your Cucumbers are bitter and inedible.
It is easy to tell male and female flowers apart. Where the variety produces male flowers, these are usually the first few flowers to open on the plant and they have no embryonic cucumber under the flower.
The female flower on the other hand, has an embryonic cucumber under the flower as shown in the adjacent photo.
All-female F1 varieties. This is a new type of Cucumber which is revolutionising the cultivation of Cucumbers. Unfortunately the seed is very expensive, but the results that are coming in, make the cost worthwhile. As the name suggests, they usually produce only female flowers, doing away with any pollination problems. Occasionally, some all-female varieties produce a few male flowers which should be promptly removed. This may happen if they have been stressed.
The advantage of all-female varieties is that they are very prolific producing many smaller cucumbers of a useful size. They also tend to be resistant to disease.
The drawback of them is that they tend to require a heated greenhouse, but some varieties are perfectly happy in a cool greenhouse.
Suggested varieties of all-female cucumbers.
Passandra F1. 15 cm long fruits. The plants have good resistance to powdery mildew.
All-female F1 Gherkins.
Growing Gherkins in the greenhouse, is very similar to growing cucumbers. Gherkins seem to be easier to grow and not so sensitive to changes in temperature. They have a slightly stronger flavour and reach about 10 cm in length. Use them just as you would use cucumbers.
Sugested varieties of all-female Gherkins.
Bimbo Star F1. Quick growing and productive.
Traditional type of Cucumbers.
This type is suggested for cool greenhouses and usually produces long, straight and smooth green Cucumbers. Remove all male flowers as they form from this type of Cucumber, to prevent pollination of the female flowers and resulting bitter fruit.
Conqueror. Good for a cool greenhouse producing long, tasty fruit.
Telegraph. An old variety.
OUTDOOR or Ridge CUCUMBERS.
These are really only suitable for the South of the UK in a sheltered and sunny location. You can of course grow outdoor cucumbers in a cold greenhouse in the North of the UK.
When growing these outdoor Cucumbers, leave the male flowers on the plant as the female flowers require pollination.
Standard Ridge Type Suggested varieties.
Marketmore. Produces dark green medium length cucumbers.
Crystal Type. These produce tennis ball sized, round, yellow Cucumbers with crisp, tasty flesh. The varieties Crystal Apple and Crystal Lemon are very similar.
While they grow the “ridge” type of Cucumbers outdoors in the South of the UK, the best chance of success in the North of the UK, is to grow all Cucumbers in a greenhouse.
Sow the seeds for all types in march or April in a good compost in individual pots, by just pushing the seed edgeways into the surface. Keep the compost warm, 20 to 25 C, until germination takes place in 7 to 10 days.
Once germinated, make sure that the seedlings are in a good light and reduce the temperature to room temperature. When all danger of frost in your greenhouse has passed, transfer them, still in their pots to the staging to continue growing and hardening off. In May, transfer the plants to their final positions in growbags in the greenhouse. Provide a stake, or cord or pea netting, for them to twine up. Let them grow to the top of the available height in your greenhouse before pinching out the growing tip.
For Ridge types of Cucumber that are to be grown outside, plant them out in June with cloche protection.
Warning. On no account plant these sub-tropical plants outdoors before the last expected date for frost in your area. This could be mid May for the mildest areas such as Southern coastal areas, and early June in the North of the UK. Even then, provide cloche or fleece protection for the first few weeks as cold nights and winds will cause plant damage. Gardeners are regularly caught out by late frosts occurring during the traditional cold period known as “The Ice Saints”, usually just before mid May. Remember, one night of a late frost will kill your sub-tropical plants!!
Feed the Cucumbers with liquid tomato fertilizer.
When the Cucumber fruits reach the expected size for the variety as indicated on the seed packet, cut rather than pull the cucumber from the vine to prevent damage to the plant.
Pests and diseases. Cucumbers are rather prone to pest attack from aphids, whitefly and red spider mite, particularly in hot dry conditions. Carry out inspections of your plants each week, and protect them using your chosen method at the first sign of attack.
CUCUMBER (Cucumis sativus) and GHERKINS
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