With greenhouse or frame cucumbers, to remove all the male flowers. Otherwise they were pollinated, resulting in bitter misshapen fruits., plant breeders have now solved three problems. Cucumbers bear male and female flowers separately, and it has always been necessary, when growing the traditional long, smooth,
The plant breeders, however, have now produced a number of ‘all female’ varieties, with no, or very few, male flowers. Apart from this tremendous advantage — no more flowers to pick off by hand — these new cucumbers often have good resistance to common cucumber diseases, come into bearing earlier than the older varieties, and fruit on the main stems as well as on the laterals so that far less training is necessary.
The other long-standing drawback to cucumbers has been that the long smooth type could only be grown under cover in greenhouses or frames. Outdoors one had to be satisfied with the hardier, gherkin-like ‘ridge’ cucumber — short, prickly, and rather coarse. But the Japanese have developed some remarkable long-fruited ridge cucumbers, tolerant of low temperatures and poor conditions, with considerable disease resistance. Although by no means as smooth and elegant as frame cucumbers, they are certainly the best bet for outdoor cucumbers in this country. They should, incidentally, be grown up some kind of support to get the best results and clean fruit. ‘Burpee’ and ‘Burpless Tasty Green’ are two of the most popular F1 hybrid Japanese cucumbers; ordinary, that is open-pollinated, varieties include ‘Kyoto’, ‘Ochai Long Day’ and ‘Chinese Long Green’.
Another problem is that for many people cucumbers were too long. The second half lost its freshness while you consumed the first. The solution was the variety of ‘mini-cucs’, which are fully mature when 15-20cm (6-8in) long. (They immediately fell foul of EEC legislation when they were introduced: if they were that short they couldn’t be cucumbers!)
The two mini-cucs currently available are the F1 hybrids ‘Petita’ and ‘Fembaby’. They should be grown under glass, are all female (though occasional male flowers appear in ‘Petita’ ), have good disease resistance, and are heavy-cropping. ‘Fembaby’ is said to perform well in a 25cm (10in) flower pot on a sunny windowsill, but ‘Petita’ should be trained as high, or as far, as it will go. This is because its best fruits are borne on the main stem, rather than on the laterals.
Seeds of the large Cucumber need to be sown singly in 3-in. flower pots in a light sandy, early in the New Year. Cover the seeds with 1 in. of fine , water them with tepid water and plunge the pots in a hot bed. Temperature should be from 75-80°. As soon as the roots fill the small pots, the plants can be repotted into 5- or 6-in. pots, using equal parts of leaf-mould and fibrous loam with some sand. Put the plants in the soil right up to the first pair of leaves.
Cucumbers grow best in a span-roof greenhouse supplied with heating apparatus. A bed is made up for them of long stable manure and newly-fallen leaves, mixed together, over which is a covering of soil as in the case of Ridge Cucumbers. The soil consists of 3 parts of good loam and 1 part leaf-mould, with a little sand (amount according to the kind of loam) and broken charcoal.
Plants are syringed frequently during the summer weather, and walls and paths in the greenhouse are also syringed.
Watch for the appearance of pests; Black- and Green-Fly, etc., are sometimes troublesome, and if they appear, the house must be fumigated. Very little ventilation is required even in the summer.
Cucumbers can be grown equally well in pots or direct in the soil bed of frames, if the conditions described above are more or less reproduced; that is to say, the frames or pots should be kept warm, at an even and fairly high temperature, either by artificial heat, or by the making of a hotbed. All through the season of growth, ventilation is a very important point. There must be some, but too much ventilation can easily be given. If in a cold frame, cucumbers sometimes need the protection of mats thrown over the glass at night and removed in the morning.
In staging cucumbers for exhibition handle them as little as possible, so that the fruits look really fresh when on the Show table.
Good varieties for exhibition culture are ‘Telegraph’, and ‘Rochford’s Disease Resister’
Marrows: cucumbers andhave fairly similar cultural requirements but, like ridge cucumbers, marrows need to be pollinated to help to set fruits: this should be done by hand. Greenhouse-raised plants can be set out 75 cm (2-½) apart in late spring under cloches—a week or two earlier than cucumbers, which are slightly, less hardy. In early summer, when the marrows are well established and growing rapidly, the cloches can then be moved onto other crops.