Cucumbers are a highly popular vegetable any time of the year due to their refreshing taste. In addition to that, they are rich in vitamins, mineral acids and contain hardly any calories, whilst also being one of the most alkaline-rich vegetables. Cucumbers can be used fresh in a salad on their own, part of a mixed salad or just as a general snack.
The plant bed
Cucumbers need a lot of warmth and grow best outside in a warm location protected from the wind. In order to prepare the bed for sowing cucumbers, dig a trench approximately 4cm wide in the centre of the bed and backfill with compost and garden soil. The centre of the bed should then be raised to form an embankment, this allows the sun to heat the soil, promoting greater growth.
Cucumbers ideally need to have other vegetables such as peas, beans, lettuce or celery growing in close proximity. They should not, however, be planted close to tomatoes, radishes or cabbage plants.
Spring through to summer is the perfect time for the cultivation of cucumbers. Preferably choose varieties of cucumber that are resistant to mildew when selecting your seeds. Cucumbers can be sown directly outside or in little pots, make sure that water can drain off easily. It is best to select a pot with a hole in the bottom and to lay a flat stone onto the hole, water regularly. Once the seeds have started to grow, it is essential that they stand in a well-lit location.
Cucumbers are highly sensitive to frost, they should not be planted out until day temperatures at ground level rise to at least 15 degrees. For further protection, non-woven garden covers or slit foil can be used.
Cutting back cucumbers
Cutting back cucumbers helps the plants to grow and improves the quality of the vegetables. The main shoot should not be cut back, cut the side shoots back to approximately three leaves.
Salad cucumbers can be harvested approximately two weeks after flowering. Cut the cucumber at the stem using a sharp knife. When harvesting, the cucumber should have a smooth skin and an even green colour. Harvest the growing cucumbers before they are completely grown as they will taste better. Harvesting this way ensures the overall yield will be larger as early harvesting promotes further flowering. If there are lighter patches on the skin of the cucumber, it may mean in fully-grown cucumbers that they are ripe or overripe.
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