Cucumber is one of the easiest crops to grow and their health benefits and body temperature cooling properties make them an ideal addition to any summer salad.
When to plant cucumbers
Cucumbers are a warm season crop and should be sown or transplanted in spring once the soil has warmed up, and through summer. For dry tropics and tropical coast regions they can also be planted in early winter. Cucumber can be planted from seed or seedlings, with many varieties to choose from. Cultivate groups of three plants each month successively over the warm season.
Where to plant cucumbers
Cucumbers like to be grown in loose soil that has been generously manured the season before. They can be grow in either sun or semi-shade, preferably supported by a trellis or fence to keep the ripening fruits off the ground.
How to plant cucumbers
Whether your soil is light sand or heavy clay, dig it over to a depth of 15cm, adding Searles Premium Compost Mix to improve its structure and increase its water-holding capacity. Cucumbers prefer a neutral soil so adjust your pH if it is more or less than 6.5. Cucumbers are shallow-rooted so ensure that the soil is free of clumps to enable the delicate root system of the plants to penetrate it easily. Seed should be sown in groups of three, spaced according to the directions on the packet, into a saucer-like depression in the soil. Seedlings should be planted in a similar fashion, taking care not to damage the delicate roots when transplanting. Water immediately and maintain the soil at a consistently high moisture level until fruits begin to form.
How to maintain cucumbers
Water should be plentiful up until the time that the fruits begin to mature, after which it should be moderated to keep the roots just moist. To protect the shallow roots from drying out, spread a layer of sugar cane or cypress mulch under each plant, topping it up as the plant grows outward. Then sprinkle some Searles Penetraide granules over the mulch and water in generously. This conserves soil moisture and prevents the fruits and foliage from coming into contact with the soil. If space is limited, train the vines up a trellis or fence. Cucumbers are pollinated by bees, so it is essential not to use insecticides around them. If bees are scarce in your garden, hand pollination is simple and effective. The male flower can be identified by its powdery, pollen-covered stamens in the centre. Gently remove this flower and lightly wipe the inside of the female flower (identified by a slight swelling at its base) with it. Once there are five or six pollinated flowers on the stem, trim the trailing end back to force better development of the remaining fruits.
Pests and diseases of cucumbers
Mildew is the main problem with cucumbers, and can be discouraged with a fortnightly application of a soluble seaweed fertiliser, applied in the morning. SeaMax Fish & Kelp is ideal for healthy growing habits. If you live in a very humid area, select one of the mildew resistant varieties now available. If mildew becomes a problem it can be controlled by spraying with Searles Mancozeb Plus.
Companions to cucumbers
Plant with beans, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, peas, radish, sweet corn.