A well-grown specimen
of a greenhouse (‘frame’) cucumber,
straight and cylindrical, smooth-skinned and glistening,
may reach 18in (45cm) or more in length. A thing
of beauty, especially on the show bench, but also
a thing which is difficult to grow. Cucumbers
under glass need warmth and care plus regular
watering and feeding, tying and stopping, protecting
from pests and diseases, and so on. Ideally the
humidity should be higher than that provided for
tomatoes, but many people grow the two vegetables
together under glass quite successfully. The temptation
these days is to grow cucumbers outdoors as there
is so much less work involved and varieties have
improved. But if you want to pick fruits in May
or June for early summer salads then growing under
glass is the only answer.
Expected germination time: 3-5 days
Expected yield per plant: 25 cucumbers
Life expectancy of stored seed: 6 years.
Approximate time between sowing and cutting: 12
Ease of cultivation: Difficult – growing
cucumbers under glass is time-consuming and costly.
· Usually only a few plants are grown –
do not plant in border soil. Use J.I. Compost
No. 3 in 10in (25cm) pots or buy growing bags.
Sowing and Planting
· Raise seedlings under glass – warmth
(70-80°F (21-26°C)) is essential. Place
a single seed edgeways ½ in (1cm) deep
in seed compost in a 3in (7cm) peat pot. Sowing
should take place in late February or early March
for planting in a heated greenhouse or late April
for an unheated greenhouse or frame. Keep compost
moist – feed if necessary.
· Plant out in late March (heated greenhouse)
or late May (unheated greenhouse) – 1 per
pot, 2 per growing bag. Water in after planting.
Sowing and planting time: as above
Cutting time: Usually mid June to the end of September;
can extend from mid May to mid October.
Looking after the crop
· The temperature after germination must
be maintained at a minimum of 60°F (15°C)
(Ordinary varieties) or 70°F (21°C) (All-Female
· Keep the compost thoroughly moist but
never waterlogged – little and often is
the rule. Keep the air as moist and well ventilated
as the other plants in the house will allow. Spray
the floor (not the plants) to maintain a high
· Train the stem up a vertical wire or
cane. Pinch out the growing point when this leader
reaches the roof. The tip of each side shoot is
pinched out at 2 leaves beyond a female flower.
Female flowers have a miniature cucumber behind
them – male flowers have just a thin stalk.
Pinch out tips of flowerless side shoots when
· Remove all male flowers from Ordinary
varieties – fertilized fruit is bitter.
· Feed every 2 weeks with a tomato fertilizer
once the first fruits have started to swell.
· Cut (do not pull) when the fruit has
reached a reasonable size and the sides are parallel.
Cropping will cease if you allow cucumbers to
mature and turn yellow on the plant.
These are the cucumbers for the exhibitor. They
are the traditional cucumbers of the summer salad
– long, straight, smooth and dark green.
Telegraph: An old variety, named when the telegraph
was a new invention. Despite its age, Telegraph
is still popular.
Butcher’s Disease Resisting: Another old
favourite which is not as smooth-skinned as Telegraph
but is reputed to be a heavy cropper.
Conqueror: An excellent choice for a cold greenhouse
or frame – the fruits are long, smooth and
high in flavour.
Sigmadew: Something different – an almost
white cucumber noted for its flavour and thin
These modern F1 hybrids have several advantages.
As they bear only female flowers the tiresome
job of removing male flowers is unnecessary. They
are also much more resistant to disease and rather
more prolific. There are two drawbacks –
the fruits tend to be shorter than the Ordinary
varieties and a higher temperature is required.
If your house is unheated, choose an Ordinary
Pepinex: The first of the females, formerly known
as Femina. A good example of the group –
high yields, lack of bitterness and no gummosis.
Topsy: Tops for flavour, according to the experts.
Yields, however, are not very good and the seeds
are not widely available.
Petita: The fruits are only about 8in (20cm) long
but a large number are borne. Stands less than
ideal conditions better than most All-Females,
but often produces some male flowers.
Fembaby: A cucumber for the windowsill –
small plants, small fruits and easy to train.
Uniflora D: The self-pruning cucumber. Side shoots
grow about 6in (15cm) long and then stop –
no more tying or pinching out.
See Cucumber, outdoor