How to Grow Cucumbers

One of the quickest ways to prepare a meal is to pop into the garden, grab a lettuce, some tomatoes and a cucumber. Add some fresh, crusty bread – and there you are. Most gardeners grow lettuces and tomatoes, but fewer grow cucumbers, perhaps because they think they require a greenhouse or they are difficult to grow. They need not be either. Outdoor cucumbers can be grown as easily as courgettes (zucchini), which Jew gardeners find a problem.

Cucumbers have been used as a vegetable for the best part of 5,000 years. They were first grown and eaten in India, where they were developed from a native species, and from there they spread north-east into China and north-west into Greece and Rome.

There are several colours and shapes. In the West we are more used to long cucumbers with green skins, but they can also be oval or even round, and colours can range from white to yellow.

As far as the gardener is concerned, there are two types of cucumber: the climbing vari­eties with long fruit that are grown under glass and the ridge varieties that are much shorter and are grown in the open. The advantage of greenhouse varieties is that they can be started earlier and are not as dependent on the weather. Ridge varieties, on the other hand, need less looking after and are less prone to attack by pests and diseases, which thrive in the warmth of the greenhouse. From the culinary point of view, the greenhouse forms are often preferred, mainly because outdoor cucumbers have tough, often prickly, skins and do not look quite as elegant as their indoor cousins. Until recently, many outdoor varieties tended to taste bitter, but this is now no longer generally the case.

Gherkins are a form of ridge cucumber, which are used for pickling. Any immature ridge cucumber can be used, but some varieties have been specially, bred for the purpose. Like courgettes and marrows (zucchini), there is no differ­ence in cultivation technique other than the time of picking.


Greenhouse cucumbers need a high temperature in which to germinate and a high tempera­ture in which to grow. Using seed of all-female varieties — they are less likely to be bitter — sow two seeds, edgeways, in pots or modules and place in a propagator at 24°C/75°F. When they germinate, remove the weaker seedling and reduce the temperature to 21°C/70°F. Plant the young plants with as little root disturbance as possible into growing bags, two per bag depending on the size. Use square-meshed netting or a system of poles and horizontal wires as supports, and tie in the shoots as they grow. Pinch out the tip of the shoot when it reaches the roof. Tie the laterals to horizontal wires and pinch out the tips two leaves beyond the first fruit to form. Water to keep the soil constantly moist and throw some water on the floor of the green­house to keep the atmosphere humid. Keep the house shaded. Once the fruit start to develop, feed them with a high-potash liquid feed once every two weeks.

Ridge or outdoor cucumbers need a sunny spot sheltered from the wind. Add plenty of well-rotted manure to the soil before sowing. Sow ridge cucumbers either inside in pots or outdoors where they are to grow. If sown directly, cover them with a glass jamjar or cloche to raise the temperature. Do not sow until after the threat of frost has passed and the soil has warmed up. Sow, leaving about 75cm in each direction between plants. If the seed is germinated in pots, ensure that the roots are not disturbed when they are transplanted. Fibre pots can help with this, because the cucumbers can be planted without removing them from the pots. Pinch out the tip of the main shoot after six leaves have formed so that the plant bushes out. Water freely. Once the fruit start to develop, feed with a high-potash liquid feed once every two weeks.


Cut the fruit with a short length of stalk as soon as they are large enough to eat. Pick frequently and more fruit will develop. Harvest gherkins when they are 5-8cm/ 2-3in long.


Keep for no more than a few days they are best eaten fresh.

Pests and diseases

Slugs and snails can quickly eat through a stem, killing the plant; remove by your preferred method. In the greenhouse, red spider mite and whitefly may be a problem.

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About the Author: Greenery always attracts Arthur Kunkle. He has a big garden where he plants many fruits and vegetables. His passion for gardening motivates him to write and share different tips on gardening.

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