Cucumbers: from the heart of a summer salad, pickled or just freshly sliced, why wouldn’t you grow want to grow your own fresh cucumbers? Cucumbers can be a little fussy to grow but if you follow our recommendations below you will have great success as we do!
Choose your variety of cucumber
There are many varieties of cucumbers to choose from and each plant has their own characteristics, whether it’s a different flavour, bush crop or climbing and some have better pest and disease resilience. Another thing to think about when choosing your variety is whether you want a regular cucumber or burpless cucumber. Regular cucumber has a bitter skin that would require peeling while burpless cucumber skins can be eaten without causing indigestion. Our favourite varieties are Beit Alpha F1, patio snacker F1 and cucumber national pickling. We did not like the African horned cucumber when we grew it as the plant and cucumbers are ultra-spikey, it grows like weed, and becomes quite the pest in the garden as well as having quite a bitter flavour profile.
Planting your cucumber seeds
Cucumber seeds can be direct sown or sown in trays. Sow 2 to 3 seeds per cell or hole and thin out to one seedling as they come up. Space between 40 to 60 cm apart. Sow a minimum of 2 plants to assist with pollination
Where to plant your cucumbers
Cucumbers can be grown from September through to April and like to be planted in the full sun, but in areas with hot summers we would recommend in planting in semi shade or build a simple shade covering to cover the plants with 30%-50% shade cloth. When preparing the garden bed for cucumbers add compost, blood and bone, manure and a good quality slow release organic fertilser. Also add a thick layer of mulch to keep the moisture in as cucumbers require a lot of water.
Cucumbers can be left to sprawl over the ground or climb up a trellis. Growing cucumber vertically is a great space saving technique and helps with keeping fungal diseases at bay. Cucumbers also grow well in aquaponic and hydroponics systems.
Caring for your cucumbers
Make sure your cucumber plants are well watered and fertilised. Pick fruit when they are young, this helps with extending the plant’s life. Monitor the plant for signs of fungal diseases. Once you have good growth on the vine, pinch the tips of the end of the vine as this will encourage the plant to send out more side branches, which will result in more fruit.
Cucumbers are prone to fungal diseases. To prevent fungal disease, grow in area that has good airflow. When watering, avoid getting water on the leaves and water in the morning so if the leaves do get wet, they have the heat of the day to dry out faster. Growing on a trellis is a great way to encourage good airflow.
Common Problems with your cucumbers
My cucumber leaves have a white film on the leaves
This is powdery mildew cucumber are prone to fungal disease. Dealing with fungal disease can be a bit tricky, especially if it’s taken over the whole plant. If the whole plant is affected, remove the plant before it spreads and affects other plants. If it’s only a few leaves we would recommend removing those leaves then spray the plant with a potassium bicarbonate spray. Remember to spray the underside of the leaves and reapply weekly.
My leaves have spots and tuft on the underside
This is downy mildew; the treatment is the same as above for powdery mildew.
My cucumber leaves are being eaten
This will most likely be caterpillars, slug or snails. Check the leaves that are being eaten and remove the pest. If its caterpillars, we recommend spraying with Bacillus thuringiensis or commonly known as dipel here in Australia and if its slugs and snails here is how we deal with them.
I have flowers on my cucumber but no cucumbers
This will be from a lack of pollination. We recommend planting more than 2 plants of cucumber to help with pollination and plant other plants to attract pollinators. You can also hand pollinate your cucumbers.
Good companion plants nasturtiums, beans, celery, lettuce, sweet corn, sunflowers, coriander, fennel, dill, carrots and peas
Avoid growing with potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, capsicums, and chilli
Until next time Grow Safe, Grow Organic!