Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Hartley Bean Feast June 2011

Cucumber Feast

If ever there was a good reason to grow your own, this has to be it. An outbreak of E coli that has affected dozens of people has been blamed on cucumbers. The jury is still out as to the source of the infection but the scare has left a question mark over some imported salads and the way they may have been grown.

Most greenhouse owners will be growing cucumbers anyway, already converted by the true taste of fresh cucumber and their versatility. Cucumbers are a wonderful addition to salads and drinks, or sprinkle with sugar and eat fresh from the plant, it tastes like melon and as it’s a close relative that’s no surprise. What’s more they are very easy to grow, especially in a greenhouse, but some varieties can also be grown outdoors too.

Get Growing
It might be June but it’s not too late to sow cucumbers now from seed. Don’t delay, seed is in hot demand now and really needs sowing this month. Most packets recommend sowing between Feb/March and May, but to be honest the longer hours of daylight, the ambient warm temperature in the greenhouse anyway; your seeds will be romping away in no time. Of course you can also buy ready sown and grown plants too from many garden centres and nurseries to get an earlier crop if you haven’t started growing your seeds already.

Easy From Seed
Cucumber seed can be expensive, especially the highly bred F1 varieties, often there are only four or five seeds in a packet (check the back for info) but nearly always every one will germinate.

Sow them in fresh seed compost; don’t risk anything less it’s not worth it. Sow them with the narrow edge down so that they are not flat in the compost, this reduces the risk of frost. Many cucumber seeds are treated with Thiram to reduce loss from rots, check the packet if you are organic and don’t want to have chemically treated seed. Thiram is a fungicide.

Ring the Changes
If you are an ‘old hand’ at growing cucs then choose something different. I love to grow mini cucumbers in my greenhouse, F1 Cucino and Mini Munch are a great choice, each one is just enough for a meal for two (with other things of course), slice off the ends and cut them long ways for fresh, juicy sticks ideal for houmous and dips. Delicious. Or choose the round, crystal apples, which are easy to grow and with tennis ball sized fruits. And if indigestion issues affect you, then try Burpless Tasty Green, which appears to be easier to digest.

Growing Tips
For ease and simplicity choose ‘all female plants’ that don’t produce male flowers. This prevents the bitter fruit that some gardeners may remember from growing cucumbers; otherwise remove the male flowers as soon as they appear. Check the seed packet for more information. Many F1 varieties are all female.

Don’t forget that you can also grow some cucumbers outside; you don’t have to have a greenhouse. Why not choose to grow some indoors and some out so that you have a variety of crops and plenty to give away or sell at the garden gate.
Cucumbers are natural climbers and need support to carry the weight of the fruits. Keep them well protected from slugs and snails, which love their sweet fleshy stems and leaves.

Duty Calls
Since there is now a question mark over the safety of some imported fruit and veg, chances are the availability will be reduced and prices will increase. Greenhouse owners are perfectly placed to not only supply their families with fresh and healthy food, but why not grow some extra for elderly neighbours who may be worried about where their food comes from. Use every space within your greenhouse to be productive and share the fruits of your labour.