If you’re a fan of cucumbers, you know how satisfying it is to grow your own. Not only do they taste better when they’re fresh from the garden, but you also get the satisfaction of knowing you grew them yourself. However, growing cucumbers can be a bit tricky, and it’s not always easy to get a good harvest. That’s why I’ve put together a list of six secrets for your biggest cucumber harvest ever.
First and foremost, it’s important to choose the right variety of cucumber. Some varieties are better suited for pickling, while others are better for slicing. Make sure you choose a variety that’s appropriate for your needs. Additionally, cucumbers need plenty of sunlight to grow, so be sure to choose a spot in your garden that gets at least six to eight hours of full sunlight each day.
Choose The Right Variety
There are many types of cucumber cultivars available, and each has its own unique characteristics. Here are some factors to consider when selecting a cucumber variety:
- Growing conditions: Some cucumber varieties are more suitable for certain growing conditions than others. For example, some varieties are better suited for cooler climates, while others thrive in hot and humid conditions.
- Plant size: Cucumber plants can vary in size, from compact bush varieties to sprawling vines. Consider the size of your garden and the amount of space you have available when selecting a cucumber variety.
- Intended use: Some cucumber varieties are better suited for slicing and eating fresh, while others are better for pickling. Consider how you plan to use your cucumbers when selecting a variety.
Cucumbers tend to be broken down into two main groups here in the UK: greenhouse and outdoor.
Greenhouse cucumbers tend to produce smooth fruit and have all female flowers. Outdoor cucumbers tend to be ridged and sometimes spikey; they often also have both male and female flowers and can tolerate a mild British summer.
One important thing to remember is that if you are going to grow an all-female greenhouse variety, then don’t grow any cucumbers that produce male flowers in the same greenhouse.
This is because if an all-female type gets pollinated by a male flower, they go incredibly bitter and are toxic!
Feed & Water Your Cucumbers Regularly
Cucumbers are hungry and thirsty plants; for the best harvest, you need to keep on top of both watering and feeding your plants.
Water deeply and at the roots, not over the leaves, as this can cause powdery mildew. Use your finger and prod it into the soil to see if it is dry, it may well be dry on the surface but moist underneath – if so, your cucumbers don’t need watering just yet.
When it comes to feeding cucumbers, a good multi-purpose feed works best. I like to give them some Fish Blood & Bone when I first plant them and then regularly feed them with my go-to natural plant food.
- All new natural formula
- Not just your average NPK liquid fertilizer
- Trialled and tested
- Soil Association Approved
- By-product of green energy
- Contains macronutrients and beneficial microbes.
- Does smell a little
Support is essential for growing healthy cucumber plants that produce a bountiful harvest. Cucumber vines can become tangled and damaged without proper support, leading to stunted growth and reduced yields.
I like to grow my cucumbers up a string; it is really easy and provides incredible support.
Simply suspend a string above your cucumber plant and then tie it around the base of your cucumber or bury it under the rootball at the time of planting.
As the cucumber grows, twist it around the string. It will cling to the string itself and will require no tying in, saving you a time-consuming job!
As tomatoes have side shoots, so do cucumbers. You want to cut these off, I know I know it’s hard to cut off productive growth which may even have little baby cucumbers on. But believe me; it is for the best for you and the plant.
Here you can see a perfect example of a side shoot on a cucumber. They are essentially any growth coming away from the main stem. These will grow and grow, which sounds good but is actually a problem.
Removing all this side growth promotes more growth on the main stem. If you leave it up to the cucumber, you will end up with vines everywhere and no cucumbers. There is a limit to the amount of fruit a single cucumber can produce so we need to encourage the plant to put extra effort into growing fruit rather than leaves.
There are other added benefits too, such as extra airflow, which will help to keep your cucumber plants in tip-top shape. Another plus is that it will make it easier to see the fruit growing. If you have ever let cucumbers grow wild you will know how quickly they can turn your greenhouse into a jungle and it can actually get quite difficult to spot the fruit on the plant.
One of the secrets to a succesfull cucumber harvest is to pick often. Cucumbers grow quickly; if you leave them on the vine for too long, they can become overripe and bitter. To avoid this, check your cucumber plants every day or two and pick any ripe cucumbers you find.
Regular harvesting also encourages the plant to produce more cucumbers. When you leave ripe cucumbers on the vine, the plant thinks that its job is done and will slow down or stop producing new fruit. The cucumbers also just keep on growing and growing, using up vital nutrients and energy that could be going into producing more cucumbers!
Removing ripe cucumbers regularly signals the plant that it needs to keep producing more to replace the ones you’ve picked.
Another benefit of picking often is that it helps keep the plant healthy. When you leave overripe cucumbers on the vine, they can attract pests or diseases that can spread to the rest of the plant. By removing them promptly, you can help prevent these problems from occurring.
Remove Lower Leaves
These leaves are often the first to show signs of disease and can be a breeding ground for pests. By removing them, you can help prevent the spread of disease and keep your plants healthy.
Removing the lower leaves also helps improve air circulation around the plant, reducing the risk of fungal diseases. This is especially important if you live in a humid climate or if you are growing your cucumbers in a greenhouse.
When removing the lower leaves, be sure to use clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears. Cut as close to the stem as possible without damaging it. You can also remove any lateral runners that are growing from the main stem. This will help to redirect the plant’s energy towards producing more fruit.
Keep Them Warm
Cucumbers thrive in warm weather, and they need a lot of sunshine to grow. One common mistake we make in the UK is planting them out too early.
This is particularly true of greenhouse cucumbers, which like it really hot. I myself am often guilty of this, I cant wait to get them in the ground and often plant them too early.
I justify it to myself by saying they will be fine in the greenhouse. But overnight, even in the greenhouse, the temperatures can still get very low in April and even early May.
Cucumbers hate this, and it can lead to stunted growth. So you are better off keeping them indoors and potting them on until overnight temperatures regularly stay above 10 celsius in your greenhouse.
So you have any top cucumber tips? Let me know in the comments below!