It’s a salad staple so why are cucumber seeds so dear? - Brian Kidd
Aren’t cucumber seeds expensive? Five seeds of an F1 hybrid called Petita, which is a half-sized cucumbe, for £3.99.
A very similar one called Picolino F1 is the same price. Both cultivars produce an abundance of fruits as long as they are kept well fed.
Why are they so expensive?
They are hand-pollinated and produce only female flowers. Greenhouse cucumbers must not be pollinated.
With cheaper varieties such as Telegraph, which is a normal length, excellent cucumber, every male flower has to be removed otherwise the fruits are misshaped.
Seeds can still be sown now and good germination is possible if the seeds are sown on their edge rather than flat. When sown flat they often rot.
Once large enough to handle, about 10 days after being sown, each one is planted into a three-inch diameter pot. They grow rapidly in hot weather.
Cucumbers grow well when planted in a growing bag, three plants in one bag. But instead of cutting out space just for one plant, place the growing bag in its permanent place and with a sharp knife cut out the polythene in the centre to expose a large surface. Keep the ‘shoulders’ so the compost isn’t washed over the edge.
A metal tomato frame will support canes required to train the fast-growing shoots and horizontal canes are then tied in to form a kind of trellis for the shoots. There are differing ways to train the shoots but I simply let them grow and tie them in.
Feeding is essential and a weak feed of Maxicrop Complete plant food is an excellent choice because it has a high percentage of nitrogen. This element makes plants grow like mad in hot weather. This feed is added to water every time the plants are watered.
When I was an apprentice at Leigh Park we grew cucumbers in a special cucumber greenhouse which could only be entered during the early mornings because it was too hot in the afternoons. It was there that I was taught the secret of success.
Here it is…
Once white roots are seen on top of the compost in the growing bag, top dress the surface with a dressing of fertiliser added to some potting compost – a dessertspoon added to 7lb of compost, mixed well and watered afterwards.
Can these be grown outdoors? Sadly no, but look at the seed packets and you’ll find varieties of ridge cucumbers. These too can be sown now. Plant them in an area into which plenty of well-rotted manure has been incorporated and plant them on a slight mound to avoid watering the base of the stems.
They produce male and female flowers but you will soon see which are the females because they produce the cucumber fruits. The tips are taken out of the shoots once they are two feet long and if fed every time they are watered you will get more than a dozen fruits on each plant. If you’re short of space, they can be trained up a wigwam of canes if tied in regularly.
THIS WEEK’S TOP TIP
Summer-prune apple trees. This means cutting the side shoots to half their length. The prunings will be soft and should be composted.
This practice will induce fruit buds for next year’s apples.