If you enjoy the taste of fresh cucumber, sow some seeds in spring for a summer-long supply. Here’s our guide to growing your own.
Before buying cucumber seed, check that they’re ideal for your needs. Greenhouse cucumbers need to be raised in growing bags under the protection of glass, ridge cucumbers are for growing in a sunny spot in well-drained soil outdoors. Alternatively, pick a variety that can be grown both indoors and out.
What to do
How to sow seeds
- Sow in early spring if you plan to grow plants in a heated greenhouse or in mid-spring for unheated greenhouses or to go outdoors.
- Fill a 7.5cm (3in) pot with seed compost and make a 2cm (0.7in) hole with a dibber.
- Push two seeds on their side into the hole. Cover, water and label.
- Put in a propagator to germinate.
- Seeds should germinate within a week – when seedlings are 2cm (0.7in) tall, remove the weakest of the pair.
- Keep plants moist and stake with a small garden cane to provide support.
- If growing indoors, plant two cucumbers in a growing bag at the end of May and support with a garden cane attached to the ceiling of the greenhouse.
- If your greenhouse is heated, plants can go into bags from March.
- Plant outdoor cucumbers in early summer. A week or so before planting, acclimatise plants by putting them in a cold frame.
- Alternatively, stand in the shelter of a shaded wall and cover with fleece. Prepare the soil well, adding plenty of well-rotted manure and space plants 90cm (35in) apart.
- After planting, the top of the rootball should sit at the same level as the surface of the soil.
- Regularly secure stems of indoor varieties to the cane and once it has reached the roof, pinch out the tip.
- Pinch out the shoots from side branches holding fruit, leaving two leaves after each. All female varieties produce fruit on the main stem, so remove laterals altogether.
- Allow outdoor varieties to trail across the ground like marrows.
- When plants have five or six leaves, pinch out the growing tip and allow side branches to grow. If stems do not bear flowers, pinch out at the seventh leaf.
- Many varieties have both male and female flowers on the same plants.
- Both should be left on outdoor varieties, but pinch off the male flowers when they appear on indoor varieties to prevent the fruit from becoming bitter.
- The flowers are easy to tell apart – the female flower has a swelling beneath it that will become a cucumber. Alternatively, choose all female flower varieties.
Watering and feeding
- Cucumbers must be kept moist, but not soaking, to prevent a check to the fruit.
- Once the fruit appears, give them a boost by feeding every fortnight with a fertiliser high in potash.
- Remove fruit by cutting off with a pair of secateurs or a sharp knife.
- Outdoor picking usually finishes by mid-September, while harvesting indoors can go on into mid October
Five to try
- ‘Burpless Tasty Green’ – indoor and out. Grows to 25cm (9.7in)
- ‘Zeina’ – mini fruit for indoors and out. 17cm (6.6in)
- ‘Masterpiece’ – dark skin and crisp flesh for outdoors. 20cm (7.8in)
- ‘Crystal apple’ – round yellow fruit for outdoors
‘Luxury’ – female variety, with long fruit for indoors. 40cm (15.6in)