In temperate climates (like Melbourne), cucumbers thrive in a warm and sunny location. In other parts of the country, where it’s warmer year-round, cucumbers can tolerate 30 percent shade.
Cucumbers are tropical plants, so don’t even think about planting them until the soil temperature is at least 21 degrees. You can always sow your seeds indoors or in a greenhouse and then transplant them when the weather warms up, it just takes a bit more effort and they can be a bit temperamental when transplanting.
Cucumber plants like to stay well hydrated, so make sure the soil is always moist. Especially when they start to flower and bear fruit. Opt for a deep morning watering and remember to water the soil, not the leaves.
Cucumbers are a hungry plant that will eat just about anything that is fed to it. They love a good dose of worm pee and compost every few weeks.
Cucumbers are particularly popular with rabbits, so you may need to cover your seedlings with netting. All-day sun and good air circulation prevent downy and powdery mildew.
Support your vines with a frame, either a trellis, wire fence, or teepee. Fruit lying on the ground can rot quickly.
It’s really important to take care of your seedlings, as soon as they emerge put some mulch in the bed to prevent weeds from shooting through.
If you think the cucumbers you buy from stores are big, wait until you grow your own. Depending on the variety, cucumbers can grow up to 40 cm long.
- Lebanese – the most popular variety for growing in Australia. They grow between 15 and 20 cm long.
- Continental – the longest of the cucumbers, continental cucumbers can grow up to 40 cm in length.
- Apple Cucumbers – relatively new on the scene, but a crunchy addition to fresh salads.
- Baby cucumbers – on the other end of the scale, these little guys make the perfect snacks.
- Pickle – Pickled cucumbers have small distinct nubs in their skin that give them the perfect pickle texture.
- Parisian Cucumbers or Gherkins – Sweet-tasting, crunchy, textured fruit picked when they are still small for the perfect pickle.
- Kiwano – A jelly melon or African horned cucumber is orange in color with a prickly skin. But inside, the pulp reveals a subtle banana and passion fruit flavor. It can be eaten fresh, made into juice, or thrown into a salad. Or take advantage of the sweet, gelatinous substance that coats the seeds and turn them into a savory jelly.
- Lemon cucumbers – grow to be the size of a barbecue ball. The fruit has a nice yellow skin and the flesh tastes less bitter than regular cucumbers, but with a slight citrus note. Fruits ripen quickly and don’t need long, hot summers to thrive. Serve fresh in a salad.
- Boston Cucumbers – A delicious, crunchy texture and a great pickle when picked young. Ripe Bostons are good for slicing in salads.
- Cucamelon, Mexican pickle or mouse melon – It’s the size of a grape and looks like a mini watermelon. Very drought tolerant and easy to grow, she offers a light citrus flavor to brighten up a salad.
How to plant
Have you ever wondered how cucumbers grow? Cucumbers grow on vines or in a bush, depending on which variety you choose.
Here is a step-by-step guide to growing cucumbers from seed:
- Remove any weeds, stones or obstacles from the garden bed or pot. Make sure the soil is moist and if not, give it good water.
- Sow 3-4 seeds at a time 2 cm deep in the ground. This way you can choose the strongest plant when they start to grow.
- You can either let cucumbers crawl along the ground or use a trellis. Cucumber tendrils can grow up to 8 feet long so make sure you give them enough room to crawl, if cucumbers are too close together they will become stressed and produce a lower, more bitter yield.
Grow in pots
If you are short on space, you can also grow cucumbers in pots, just be careful not to overcrowd the pot, so only leave 1-2 seedlings. As they grow, they use trellis to support the vines and regularly pick fruit for a healthy harvest.
How to harvest
Cucumbers take between 50 and 70 days to reach their full size.
When it comes to harvesting, pick cucumbers when they reach your desired size. Using sharp scissors, cut the stem 1/4 inch above the cucumber. Don’t be scared or overly attached to any particular cucumber, the more often you pick cucumbers, the more often they will grow.
Pick fruit and at least every other day Remove growing tops that have formed about 5-7 leaves and side shoots that have 8-10 leaves to encourage more fruit.
- It’s really important to keep your cucumbers happy because when they’re stressed, they can taste bitter and shrink.
- The best companion plants for cucumbers are basil, broccoli, dill, and corn.
- Keep pickles in the fridge to keep them nice and crunchy, and if you’re worried you won’t all get through, make your own pickles.
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