How To Grow Cucumbers & Gherkins

cucumber-ripening

Cucumbers are relatively easy to grow outside in the garden – or you can grow them in a greenhouse, too, if you have one.

Cucumbers and gherkins like a warm atmosphere to germinate successfully. To make life easier, it’s also worth putting them on a wet kitchen towel for one or two days before you sow them. This process is known as ‘chitting’.

cucumber plant

Growing Cucumbers Outdoors

Believe it or not, it’s easier to grow cucumbers outside than under glass, assuming you have a sunny, sheltered spot in which to plant them. You can grow them in pots, growbags or in a garden bed. Ideally, train them on wires or netting, or just let them find their own, unruly space.

You can sow seeds directly into compost in late May/early June, or start them off indoors from late April, for planting out in early June. Either way, plant them in holes about 45cm apart in soil that has been pre-treated with plenty of well-rotted manure or compost.

Once at least six leaves have developed on the main and side shoots, pinch out the growing point of the plant (leaving side shoots unpinched). Water the cucumber plant well and feed them regularly once the fruits start to form. Do not pinch out male flowers on outdoor cucumbers.

Growing Cucumbers In Greenhouses

Sow seeds in pots or seed trays in late February and move to a heated greenhouse in late April/early May, or to an unheated greenhouse in late May. Transplant the seedlings into large, compost filled pots, keeping them 60cm apart (or two to one growbag).

All-female cucumbers can be trained up a length of string attached to the base of the stem and the roof of the greenhouse. These (and other ordinary varieties) will sometimes produce male flowers (they have only a stalk behind the flower and no mini cucumber). Pinch them out as they appear.

Cordon cucumbers should be trained up a stake and the growing point pinched when it reaches the greenhouse roof. Tie the side shoots to wires 30cm apart and cut off at two leaves past a developing fruit or when it’s about 60cm long.

For more on sowing and planting out vegetables, check out our guide.

Caring For Cucumbers

Cucumbers need to be regularly watered and fed with a liquid fertiliser. If the weather is very hot, up the humidity by wetting the floor/ground and shading the plants. If your cucumbers suffer from soil-borne diseases, try growing them in growbags in future. Watch out for slugs and snails outdoors.

Harvesting Cucumbers

For the best flavour, harvest cucumbers and gherkins when they are young. If you let the fruits mature fully and turn on the plant, this will stop flowering.

For more on harvesting vegetables, check out our guide.

Varieties Of Cucumber & Gherkin

Greenhouse grown cucumbers are known as frame cucumbers; those grown outdoors are called ridge cucumbers, and these include gherkins. You can also get apple cucumbers, which have small, round, yellow fruits.

Bush Champion F1
This outdoor-grown cucumber is a compact plant, ideal for smaller spaces.

Conda F1
This outdoor-grown gherkin is a heavy cropper that can be pickled or eaten fresh.

Crystal Apple
This outdoor, quick-growing cucumber has pale, round fruits and is very tasting.

Femspot F1
This disease-resistant cucumber is a good choice for a heated greenhouse.

Telegraph Improved
This greenhouse-grown cucumber produces long, straight, dark fruits.

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