In moderate climates (like Melbourne) cucumbers thrive in a warm and sunny position. In other parts of the country where it is warmer year-round, cucumbers can tolerate 30 per cent 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 transplanting them as the weather warms up, it just requires a little bit more effort and they can be a little temperamental when transplanted.
Warm, well drained soil.
Cucumber plants like to stay well-hydrated so make sure the soil is moist at all times. Especially when they start flowering and producing fruit. Opt for deep watering in the morning and remember to water the soil, not the leaves.
Cucumbers are a hungry plant that will eat pretty much anything you feed it. They love a good dose of worm pee and compost every couple of weeks.
Cucumbers are a favourite among rabbits in particular so you might need to cover your seedlings with netting. All-day sun and good air circulation help prevent downy and powdery mildew.
Support your vines with a frame, either a trellis, wire fence or teepee. Fruit that lies on the ground can quickly rot.
It is really important to care for your seedlings, once they pop up place some mulch in the bed to prevent any weeds from shooting through.
If you think that the cucumbers that you buy in stores are a big, wait until you grow your own. Depending on the variety cucumbers can grow up to 40cm long.
- Lebanese - the most popular variety to grow in Australia. They grow to between 15-20cm in length.
- Continental - the longest of the cucumbers, continental cucumbers can grow up to 40cm long.
- Apple cucumbers - are relatively new on the scene but make a crunchy addition to fresh salads.
- Baby cucumbers - on the other end of the scale are these little guys which make the perfect snack.
- Gherkin - pickling cucumbers have small distinct nobs throughout their skin which gives them the perfect pickle texture.
- Parisian gherkins or cornichons - Sweet-flavoured, crunchy, textured fruit that is picked when still tiny for the perfect pickle.
- Kiwano - A jelly melon or African-horned cucumber is orange-coloured with a spiky skin. But inside, the flesh yields a subtle banana and passionfruit flavour. It can be eaten fresh, made into juice or tossed in a salad. Or take advantage of the sweet, gelatine-like substance that covers the seeds and turn it into a savoury jelly.
- Lemon cucumbers - grow to the size of a cricket ball. The fruit has a lovely yellow skin and the flesh tastes less bitter than normal cucumbers, but with a slight lemony touch. Fruits mature quickly and don’t need long, hot summers to thrive. Serve fresh in a salad.
- Boston pickling cucumbers - A scrumptious, crunchy texture and are a great pickler if picked when young. Mature Bostons are good for slicing in salads.
- Cucamelon, Mexican gherkin or mouse melon - The size of a grape and looks like a miniature watermelon. Very drought tolerant and easy to grow, it offers a slight citrus tang to freshen up a salad.
How to plant
Ever wondered how cucumbers grow? Cucumbers grow on vines or in a bush depending on the variety you choose.
Here’s a step-by-step guide for growing cucumbers from seeds:
- Remove any weeds, rocks or obstructions 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 2cm into the soil. This will allow you to select the strongest plant when they start growing.
- You can either let cucumbers crawl along the ground or using a trellis. Cucumber vines can grow up to 2.4m long so make sure you give them enough space to crawl, if cucumbers are too cramped they become stressed and will produce a smaller, more bitter yield.
Growing in pots
If you’re short on space you can also grow cucumbers in pots, just be sure not to overcrowd the pot so leave only 1-2 seedlings. As they grow to use a trellis to support the vines and pick fruit regularly for a healthy harvest.
How to harvest
It takes cucumbers between 50 to 70 days to grow to full size.
When it comes to harvesting pick cucumbers when they reach your desired size. Using sharp shears cut the stem 0.5cm above the cucumber. Don’t be afraid or get too attached to a particular cucumber the more frequently you pick cucumbers the more often they’ll grow.
Pick fruit at least every second day and removing growing tips that have formed about 5-7 leaves, and side shoots that have 8-10 leaves to encourage more fruit.
- It is really important to keep your cucumbers happy because when they become stressed they can taste bitter and grow smaller in size.
- The best companion plants for cucumbers are basil, broccoli, dill and corn.
- Store cucumbers in the fridge to keep them nice and crunchy and if you’re worried you won’t get through them all make your own gherkins.