How to Grow Cucumbers Including the Cordon Cucumber
How to Grow Cucumbers
Cucumber – Cucumis sativa
A member of the Gourd family, this subject has a long history of culture, being mentioned in the Old Testament as one of the fruits the Israelites longed for while in captivity.
There are records showing that the Romans went to a lot of trouble to cultivate cucumbers, which apparently were regularly eaten by the Emperor Tiberias. The cucumber has not a high food value although it contains some vitamins C and B.
It is usual to grow cucumbers in specially prepared beds in the greenhouse. Since the roots of the plants pass through the bed and into the lower, the condition of the latter is of real importance. It must be kept free from disease spores, pests and injurious substances. The plants grow best when there is plenty of coarse organic material at their roots especially where this is over a well drained, gravelly or sandy but not dry subsoil. Neither a sandy or a clayey soil by itself is suitable for producing a good crop. Sterilising or steaming the base each year before the beds are made up results in better crops.
Cucumber beds can be made with good clean straw, horse manure and turfy loam, which has not been stacked too long or it will have lost a good deal of its fibre. Two parts loam to one of strawy manure are about right. Bone meal and hoof and horn, can be mixed, either with the loam, or when it has been mixed with the manure, while a 60 size potful of chalk to each barrow load of loam is beneficial.
According to heat available sow the seed from December onwards either in the 35 x 23cm seed trays or for small quantities one seed in each 8cm pot. Use a cleanmixture to ensure the absence of fungus or pests. Fill the receptacles with to within 13 mm of the top and since a fairly open medium is best, the compost should not be too fine. Seeds germinate better if placed edgeways or on their sides, points downwards.
After watering, cover with glass and paper and keep them on the staging in a temperature of at least l8°C. For rapid germination is required and usually takes three days, the glass then being removed.
Seedlings need moving to 8cm pots within a fortnight of sowing. As growth proceeds, move to 12cm pots and later plant out in the greenhouse or frame. The night temperature should not fall below 15°C. A continuous humid atmosphere is necessary and the soil must be kept aerated. A spacing of at least 60cm apart is needed.
The plants require training and those in frames should have their growing point nipped out when three rough leaves have formed. The growing points of the resultant two side shoots must also be taken out.
This will give four leaders which can be trained into the corners of the frame. They in turn are stopped when they reach the limit of the space available. The lateral shoots which then develop should be stopped one leaf beyond each fruit.
Greenhouse plants need training on wires, the leaders being stopped on reaching the ridge. Fruit normally forms on the laterals which must be stopped at two leaves beyond the fruit. The female flowers are easily distinguishable by the petals being on the end of the embryonic fruits. Shading of the plants is needed in hot weather for the leaves scorch easily.
Since fertilisation reduces the cropping capacity of the plants, the male flowers should be removed unless seed is being saved. When surface roots appear top dress the soil around the plants with rich compost. In dry weather water the plants well but do not let moisture gather round the stems. Shade the glass with lime wash. Once the cucumbers are swelling nicely liquid feeds of organic liquid manure at eight to ten day intervals will be helpful. Cut the fruits before they become old. If any damp off while small, withhold water for a few days.
Varieties include: Butchers Disease Resisting, Telegraph and Conqueror. There are, however, a number of fairly new F1 hybrids which are most reliable, these include Fertila, and Femspot both of which do not produce male flowers and therefore the fruit is free from bitterness.
The Cordon Cucumber
This is a first cross remarkable for its hybrid vigour. It is capable of producing first class fruits within six or seven weeks of seed sowing. After sowing apply just enough water to dampen the seed and compost. Then place a sheet of glass on the trays or pots to prevent the soil drying out.
Germination is rapid and themust be gradually introduced to full light. Potting can be done the third day after sowing. Place the trays or pots over hot water pipes leaving a space between the pipes and trays of about 6in. Using sacks or paper to prevent heat escaping.
Prepare the fruiting quarters by adding plenty of well rotted manure or compost. Plants can be wound up string attached to overhead wires as with tomatoes, and will normally reach up to the top wires whatever their height.
Put the plants out in the greenhouse border when the first leaf has developed, spacing them 40 to 45cm apart with rows 70cm apart. When the second rough leaf has partially formed, carefully pick out the growing point repeating it as each new leaf is made until the required height is reached.
Good cucumbers develop in about six weeks from sowing time. The crop appears in clusters and must be thinned down to reasonable numbers, especially as further clusters will appear. Following the second cluster, adventitious shoots break along the cordon growth. Some of these can be retained, stopping being done at each joint as before.
Ridge cucumbers should be grown in fairly rich soil. Fresh manure should be avoided. Some gardeners plant on little mounds, well rotted manure being placed at the bottom with a sprinkling of organic fertiliser added to the soil used to fill up the holes. Sow seed in spring in a warm greenhouse or frame.
Once the first leaves have developed, move the seedlings to 60 mm. pots, where they can remain until planted outdoors after frosts are over. Alternatively, seed can be sown outdoors under warm conditions. Sown earlier, the seed is liable to rot. Cloches give valuable protection in the germinating stages.
Allow 45 to 60cm between plants. Where several rows are being grown space them at lease 60 to 75cm apart. The removal of the leading shoot when about 38 cm long will encourage branching. Nip out the growing point one leaf beyond the first fruit.
Water freely in dry weather, making sure that moisture does not settle around the stems which is unlikely if the plants are growing on mounds. Keep a watch for aphids which spoil the foliage and carry mosaic virus.
For open garden culture, Ridge Cucumbers are best. Sow the seeds singly in 3-in. pots in a cold frame. The seedlings are planted out at the end of the third week in May and if the weather is cold during the first week or two after planting, they are given slight protection.
Leaves and long litter, piled up into the form of a ridge, and covered with moderately good soil to a depth of 9-12 in. is a good permanent home for the plants. On this they are planted 3 ft. apart. During warm weather they are damped over frequently, and the shoots are pegged down as they grow. As soon as the plants are growing well remove the tip of the main stem.
In warm summers, a plentiful supply of fruits will develop. Should the summer prove very wet and sunless, the use of a frame over the cucumber bed will make a crop more certain.
Varieties: Apart from the older varieties such as Stockwood Ridge there are now a number of really reliable newer varieties including Burpless Green King and Burpless Tasty Green. These are particularly useful since they do not cause indigestion in the same way as other varieties. In addition there is a group of remarkable Japanese cucumbers which are of the most simple culture, these include Kyoto Three Feet, Kaga and Chinese Long Green. Other useful varieties are “Bedfordshire Prize” and “Gherkin.”
Two other varieties should be mentioned Burpee hybrid and Patio-pik the latter being remarkable in that in a very small area it will produce up to thirty cucumbers per plant.
More cucumbers can be grown in the little garden of the average housing estate than are generally supposed to be possible. Even those who cannot make room for a cold frame or greenhouse can grow the Ridge Cucumber in the open garden with considerable success. It is of course essential to sow the seeds under glass.
Even this could be done by the enthusiastic amateur without the aid of a cold frame, since seeds can be raised in deep boxes, with a sheet of glass over the top to providefrom the late frosts.
A thick layer of horse droppings, over the drainage crocks, and 6 in. of good soil over this makes a satisfactory seed bed in such a case. The soil should only come to within 4 or 5 in. of the top of the box, so that the glass can be shut at night after the seedlings are growing well.
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