Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) are a popular salad vegetable to cultivate, and the cucumber vines are surprisingly easy to grow up a trellis or pole.
Cucumbers were first cultivated in India and were later introduced into Europe by the Greeks and Romans.
Today, 80% of cucumbers are grown in China. Cucumbers are now grown on nearly all continents. Cucumbers are usually sliced and eaten raw and are a popular vegetable to pickle in brine or vinegar.
There are many different varieties of cucumbers to grow, ranging from small green cucumbers to large golden-colored ones. Cucumbers are grown as annual plants.
How to grow cucumbers at home
Cucumber plants can be grown from seed or bought as young plants from a garden centre.
- Sow cucumber seeds between mid-February- mid-March. Sow the seeds on their sides in pots of moist compost at a depth of about 1-2 cm.
Water gently and stand on a warm sunny windowsill (21ºC is ideal). Alternatively, place the pots in a heated greenhouse. Outside varieties can be grown from May onwards.
- When the seeds have germinated and the first shoots have appeared, make sure that they do not get chilled. In late May transplant the young plants into grow bags or 25cm flowerpots.
Alternatively, plant out in fertile soil in a warm, sunny, and sheltered spot (prepare the soil first by digging in quality garden compost).
The young plants do need careful watering and attention and benefit from the addition of a little compost to the top of the soil and feeding with liquid fertilizer every two weeks.
- When the main stem becomes long, train it up a vertical cane or trellis, attaching it at regular intervals for support. Whenever the plant produces a flower, pinch out the side shoot, two leaves beyond the flower.
The young cucumber will develop behind the flower. When the cucumber plant has seven 7-9 leaves, pinch out the central shoot
- The cucumbers will ripen by mid-summer and will continue to mid-autumn, depending on the weather. To know when the cucumbers are ready to pick, check your seed packet for the suggested size.
The cucumbers should be firm and a uniform color.
- Cut the cucumbers from the vine, using a sharp knife or scissors. Regular harvesting encourages the plant to produce more cucumbers.
Home grown cucumbers have an excellent flavor. They are best eaten within a few days of picking and should be stored in the refrigerator. Cucumbers can also be successfully frozen.
How to use cucumbers
Cucumbers are usually eaten raw in salads or sliced and pickled. Small cucumbers are pickled as gherkins. Cucumbers are 95% water, 4% carbohydrates and 1% protein.
Cucumbers contain vitamin K which is essential for strong bones and antioxidants.