Cucumbers are a vegetable we grow every year, sharing greenhouse space with our other indoor perennial favourites, tomatoes and chillis, and occasionally even branching out to some outdoor space.
Why do we like growing cucumbers so much? Mainly because they’re so easy to get from seed to harvest, but also because we enjoy chomping them when freshly picked and the choice of varieties available in shops is rather limited (see different types of cucumbers below).
Seeing as we’ve been growing cucumbers regularly for so long we like to think we’ve learnt a thing or two about their ways. The first bit of good news for seekers of easy vegetables to grow is that germination is reliable. Sow them indoors, poking the cucumber seeds into the soil so one of the longer, thin edges is pointing downwards, and keep them in a warm location. You can start this from mid-February, but they’re such rapid growers when the sun comes out that there’s no need to rush and you can leave it until early summer if you prefer (you’ll need to wait until late May for outdoor sowing).
Once the new seedlings emerge, get them in your sunniest spot (they can go a bit leggy if they have to seek out light) and plant out when all danger of frost has passed – which is obviously less of a concern for greenhouse growers. Like most cucurbits, cucumbers like to feed on a good supply of nutrients, so we always prepare their vegetable beds with plenty of compost.
If you’re tight on space in the greenhouse then a pair of cucumber plants will happily coexist in close proximity, so long as they have something to grow up, so stick a couple of canes alongside them and tie up the main stems as they grow.
Of all the things cucumbers crave most, it’s consistency of temperature and water (which is easier to maintain in a greenhouse, although outdoor varieties tend to be better suited to slight variations). If the temperature plummets then your cucumber plants are likely to pause for a while, and if you skip a watering session then they’ll rapidly wilt. Both are rectifiable, but don’t push your luck because eventually they’ll get stressed and give up.
Some people suggest cutting away side shoots to concentrate growth along the main stem, but we’ve found this isn’t necessary – just trim away old growth as it starts to turn brown. We also give our cucumbers a weekly dose of seaweed feed when the mini cucumbers first appear. The fruits develop extremely quickly when set and, if you have multiple plants, there will be days when you might struggle to keep up with harvesting and eating them all. The cucumber plants will then, unsurprisingly, flag quickly and look like they’re spent, but keep trimming away the old growth and you might find they gain a second wind.
What Types of Cucumbers Should You Try to Grow?
There are lots of different varieties available but we think the five below are worth growing.
A traditional-looking long, green cucumber that is hugely popular with gardeners.
Squat, plump cucumbers that can be grown inside or out and are extremely tasty.
A small variety of cucumber that needs to be grown indoors. Crisp, sweet and juicy. It’s our favourite for flavour.
Crystal Apple Cucumber
These look nothing like familiar green cucumbers being round and yellow. Reliable, taste delicious and can be grown inside and out.
These mini cucumbers became massively popular with the Instagram generation a few years ago. Not great if you’re after a bumper feast, but good fun nonetheless.