Growing Cucumbers

Latest Update 19th March 2017.

Cucumbers
  • I used to grow too many cucumber plants.  We couldn't keep up with them.
  • When they get to full size and start to turn yellow, they lose some of their crispness and taste, and I have to chop them up and feed them to my earthworms.
  • I now grow just a single cucumber plant in an Ecobin which is plenty for 2 people.  
  • Because they don't store well we harvest them as required.  They can be planted in our climate from September to February, so succession crops could be grown if required.
  • They are self pollinating with male and female flowers on each plant.  They depend on bees for pollination, but to ensure a good harvest you can hand pollinate them. (see my blog for details).
  • Take care harvesting cucumbers so you don't damage the vine.  I use clean sharp secateurs.
  • This is a vegetable best eaten raw in salads, sliced with skin on, but its good baked, pickled or in a vegetable soup. 
Details
  • Variety:                                                    Lebanese Mini Muncher & Lemon Cucumber.
  • Family group:                                           Curcubitaceae.
  • Crop rotation group:                                  Legumes.
  • Garden bed type:                                      Ecobin.
  • Recommended soil pH:                             5.5 - 7.0.
  • Minimum sun per day:                              8 hours.
  • Weeks to harvest:                                     8 - 10 weeks.
  • Good companions:                                    Corn. bean. pea. carrot. nasturtium.
  • Bad companions:                                      Sage. potatoes. rue. tomatoes.
  • Climate:                                                   Warm temperate.
  • Geography:                                              Southern hemisphere.
Nutrition
  • This food is low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol and sodium. 
  • It is a good source of vitamin A, pantothenic acid, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese, and a very good source of vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium.
  • More from nutrition data.self.com.
Growing Conditions: 
  • They grow best in full sun and warm conditions.
  • They are frost tender.
  • They need moist, well structured and rich organic soil.
Soil Preparation. 
  • Clear the Ecobin for cucumbers in September and add a 60mm layer of home made compost then cover with 50mm of fresh straw mulch.
  • Leave the bed for 4 weeks to build up worm and microbial activity. 
Growing Instructions.
  • In October clear a small space in the mulch and sow 4 cucumber seed in the Ecobin.
  • Using a dibber (or your finger), make a pair of 30mm deep hole at one side of the Ecobin and sow a seed in each hole.  Water them in well with dilute seaweed extract (use dilution rate recommended by the supplier) and then let the Ecobed take over the water supply.
  • When the seedlings are in 4th leaf, select the strongest seeding, and snip the unwanted seedling at its base without disturbing the soil.
  • Provide a frame to support your climbing cucumber.  I use a star picket in the centre of the bed braced with wire against the rim of the Ecobin.
  • To encourage development of multiple runners, pinch out the growing points when the seedling reaches seven true leaves.
  • Apply a foliar spray of aerated compost tea every 4 weeks with all the other edible plants.
Pollination.
  • Cucumbers produce both male and female flowers on the same plant.  They are dependent on bees to pollinate them, and will not set fruit if bees are not regular visitors to your garden.  Herbs and other plants flowering at the same time as your cucumbers and grown nearby will encourage bees to visit and pollinate your crop.
  • In warm climates you should grow cucumbers as early as possible in the season because pollination is affected by high temperatures, and the balance of male to female flowers swings towards all male flowers when temperatures rise above 30 deg C.
  • To compensate for poor pollination by bees, you can hand pollinate your cucumbers see video by taking pollen from the male flower using a small paintbrush and depositing it on the stamen of the female flower. 
Harvesting and storage.
  • Harvest cucumbers from January.  This video shows you the different stages of development of cucumbers, and when its best to harvest them.
  • Its important to keep on top of harvesting them, because leaving fruit to grow too large stops the setting of new fruit and reduces your overall harvest.  They don't taste as good as smaller ones either.
  • I use sliced cucumbers on salads, in vegetable soup and in a relish with carrots.
  • Pickled cucumber is very nice using whole baby ones, and larger cucumbers can be sliced and pickled as well. 
Organic Pest Control.
  • Slugs and snails.
    • Cucumbers should be protected against slugs and snails using self adhesive copper tape bonded around the base of your Ecobeds.
    • If these molluscs get into your Ecobed as eggs laid in your compost, kill them with organically approved iron based snail pellets as soon as you discover them.  You should only need to use a small number of pellets.
  • Greenhouse whitefly.
    • Regular foliar sprays with aerated compost tea helps protect the cucumbers against whitefly damage. 
    • Alternative controls include organic horticultural oil sprayed as early in the whiteflies life cycle as possible.
    • Spray again in a few days to ensure second generation whitefly do not survive.
  • Powdery mildew.  
    • A monthly foliar spray of aerated compost tea works well for me.
    • A solution of 1 part cows milk to 9 parts water makes a reasonably effective organic pesticide against powdery mildew.  However, it needs to be applied early before the fungi gets well established, and frequently to keep the mildew in check.
    • Do not use exclusion netting on cucumbers.  Exclusion netting is usually the first defence against caterpillars, but cucumbers depend on bees and other insects for pollination. 
    • Use commercially available, environmentally friendly, Bacillus thuringiensis sprayed onto the plants leaves to combat any infestation of caterpillars. 
    • I use aerated compost tea as a foliar spray on all my edible plants.  I don't claim this is as effective as the bacillus, but after one year using this spray, I seem to have less pests of any kind on them.
  • General:
    • Regular applications of aerated compost tea boost the natural defences of cucumbers by colonising the leaf surfaces with beneficial microbes.  They defend the plant against airborne pests and diseases.
    • Similarly, proper soil preparation including regular applications of home made compost boosts the community of beneficial microbes, which defend the plants roots against plant pathogens.