Cucumbers are staples of the salad season and provide a green tasting lift to water. They really are not just for sandwiches because you can have them pickled, grated into a salad and even stir-fried with spices.  For the beauty conscious cut up into slices, where they are often placed on closed eyes to cool and refresh them They also provide iconic garnishes for Pimms.

cucumbers, some half cut in a steel bucket.
Photo by congerdesign, courtesy of Pixabay.

The best way to grow cucumbers is in the greenhouse when in the United Kingdom but don’t be put off as there are a number of varieties that can be grown outside. ‘Marketmore’ is worth trying outside. I’ve tried them trailing over the ground on a cover fabric or a straw mulch. Alternatively, grow over some support to keep the fruit off the ground by trailing them up a trellis or fence or on a framework of canes.

All varieties are susceptible to frost so sowing is best done in the warmth.

Sow: April -May (indoors), May-June (outdoors).

Harvest: July to October.

Sowing Cucumber Seeds Indoors

Sow seed on edge to prevent rotting 1 to 1.5cm (1/2 in.) deep in individual 7.5cm or 9cm (3 and 1/2 inch) pots. Place in a propagator or under glass at a constant day and night temperature of 21 to 25 °C.  Another way is to place the pots inside a sealed polythene bag for germination. The best sowing time is between April and May. Use free-draining compost.

Seedlings appear within 7 to 10 days. 

Growing On Cucumbers

As soon as the seedlings have formed 3 true leaves, transplant into 15cm (6 inch) pots.

When the plants are about 10cm (4 inch) tall, they can be hardened off and planted outdoors (if that is desired) once all risk of frost has passed. Hardening is best done by acclimatising the plants outside for one or two days.

Planting out is best around June but it is possible to do this in mid-May in more southerly regions.

Grow in a pre-prepared seedbed. Plant in rows, allowing 1m between each plant. Grow up against netting or allow to trail along the ground. Most fruits will form from August onwards.

If the cucumbers are grown outdoors do not remove any of the male flowers. Many varieties like ‘Marketmore’ are designed for outdoor growing and so must retain their male flowers.

Continue to pick the fruits regularly to ensure a continuous crop. Picking is probably from July through to October when the cucumbers are 20cm long as this encourages continuous cropping. Feed and water regularly.

Issues & Problems With Cucumbers

Powdery mildew produces white, dusty and powdery coatings on both sides of the leaves as well as stems and petioles. Often seen in late summer. Mildew usually develops first on any older and lower leaves and indeed on older or fruit bearing plants. The infected leaves die sooner than they should. The fruit can also be affected but is not as common. 

This pathogen only survives on a living plant and not on any crop debris. It will grow on curcubits generally and on some weeds. The disease occurs any time of the year. The spores are highly viable and are borne by the wind, remaining viable for up to eight days. Unfortunately the mildew grows on plants  under glass. 

Growing resistant cultivars, good cultivation and after care with plenty of water minimises the problem.

Plants are vulnerable to slugs and snails so look for damage and treat using your preferred method of choice. Red spider mite is always a problem in greenhouses as it loves dry conditions so keeping the humidity high reduces an attack and biological controls are available.

Foot and root rots of Phytophera spp. produce collapsing plants – just remove if this is evident. Cucumber Mosaic Virus causes leaves to turn yellow and become mottled. Remove all affected plants but there are some relaible resistant cultivars about.

Cucumber Varieties To Grow

cv. Bush Champion (ridge) (H2) 1995. High yielding cucumber, bush variety producing short, dark green fruits. Nicky’s Nursery T:01843 600 972

cv. Byblos (H1c) 2009 Early and reliable cropping. Smooth-skinned, dark green fruits with good flavour. Suttons 0844 326 2200

cv. Carmen F1. (H1c) 2002 An indoor variety with superb resistance to powdery mildew and scab, ‘Carmen’ is often the choice of top exhibition growers. It’s an outstanding all-female strain and produces an abundance of straight, large dark green fruits which can grow up to 40cm/16in. long. Ideal for slicing. Buy from Seaspringseeds T: 01308 897 898

cv. Cucino (H1c) 2009  prolific producer of smooth, mini fruits. Grown in greenhouse or a sheltered location outdoors. Victoriana Nursery. T: 01233 740 529

cv. Emilie (H1c) 2009. Highly productive, almost entirely female plants with flavoursome, dark green fruits. Johnsons seeds: 0333 321 3103

cv. Marketmore 76. (ridge) (H2) 1995 A ridge cucumber for outdoor growing with great flavour which is an ideal type for slicing with dark green 20cm or 8 inch long fruits. These are strong plants with good disease resistance especially to mildew but make sure not to remove the male flowers. Reliable producer and one of the best to be honest. Marshalls Seeds T: 0844 557 6700

cv. Mini Munch (H1c) 2009 Heavy cropping cucumber producing an abundance of small fruits. Kings Seeds T: 01376 570 000

cv. Patio Snacker F1. A high-yielding variety suitable for growing in large containers with the support of some trellis or canes. The dark green fruits are around 15-20cm (6-8in.) long and have great flavour. Can be grown indoors or our for a summer-long harvest.

cv. Prima Top (H2) 2001 Produces high yields of medium-length, dark green fruits. Remains fairly compact. Suttons T: 0844 326 2200

cv. Socrates F1. (H1c) 2009. Smooth mini-cucumbers are great for smaller households. A vigorous, fast=growing high-yielding all-female strain for the greenhouse or polytunnel. Very good flavour. Buy from Plants of Distinction 01449 721 720

cv. Tiffany (H1c) 2009 Produces a uniform crop of slightly ribbed, dark green fruits. Thompson & Morgan 0844 573 1818 

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