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Growing Cucumbers - advice on how to grow Cucumbers

Cucumbers are straight forward to grow and grow up they will as they are a climbing vine. 

They are a member of the cucurbitaceae family which includes melons and squashes and as such like a warm well drained soil.

Cucumbers can be eaten fresh or they can be pickled. Cucumbers that are eaten fresh are known as Slicing varieties and Cucumbers that are pickled are known as pickling varieties.

Cucumbers contain nutrients that are especially beneficial to our skin, hair and nails.

Preparation

Dig a fair amount of organic compost into the soil. The soil should be turned over down to about a spades depth.

Sowing

You can start your plants off indoors by sowing in biodegradeable seedling pots that will ensure roots are not damaged when you plant out the seedlings. Do not plant out before the last frost. 

Leave a gap of around 40cm between seedlings. If growing from seed you can group sow 3 seeds in each hole to increase chances of germination success. Seeds should be planted 2.5cm deep.

If you are planting more than one row then rows should be spaced at around 90cm.

Position

Cucumbers need a good amount of sunshine and warmth. They are a green house favourite. Ensure that you have adequate space as Cucumbers can rapidly reach around 6 feet. Where space is limited train the plant against a wall, stake or trellice. They may also spread over the ground if you have the space.

Soil type

A well drained soil is important for cucumbers and so they are often planted in raised beds around 6 inches high. Cucumbers will thrive in a sandy loam soil. Ensure the soil has a good amount of organic matter within it, manure will give the plants the nutrients they require.

Tending

Weed regularly but be careful not to go below a couple of cm's with your hoe as you may damage the root system which will slow down plant growth.

Water the cucumbers well each week if you want them to be juicy and firm! The cucumber fruit itself has a very high water content.

The plant has both male and female flowers and the female flowers give rise to the cucumbers. You can aid pollination and increase the fruit count by using a cotton bud to transfer pollen from the male flowers onto the centre of the female flowers. The female flowers distinguished from the male flowers as the females have a tiny cucumber at their base.

Harvesting

You can harvest the cucumbers when they are a suitable size, this is normally around 50-60 days after planting. The skin should be dark green in colour, do now wait until the cucumbers have turned yellow as this indicates that they are over ripe and their quality of flavour will decline.

Twist the cucumbers off the plant or cut the stalk just above the cucumber tip.

Varieties

Pickling varieties tend to grow to around 7-10 cm long and up to 2.5cm wide. Slicing varieties grow bigger (up to around 35cm) but can still be picked for pickling when they are smaller. The Burpless variety is easy to digest and has a good flavour.