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  How to Grow Cucumbers - Including soil preparation, planting, fertilising and harvesting

how to grow cucumbers The cucumber originates from India and has been cultivated for over 3,000 years. It is a member of the courgette, melon, squash and pumpkin family and is one of the staple vegetables found in a healthy summer salad.

This long, green and slender salad food is 96% water and is said to be a good blood purifier, which can help to relieve pains caused by arthritis and gout.
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The cucumber contains small amounts of vitamins A and C, as well as traces of calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and iron. The juice from the cucumber is often used in beauty products such as cleansers and moisturisers for the skin due to its cooling and cleansing properties.

The best method to grow cucumbers

There are around 120 different varieties of cucumber but two main types - hothouse or frame cucumbers and ridge cucumbers, the latter which are grown outside.

Cucumbers can be cultivated along the ground in hills, in rows along a wire trellis, or trained to climb upwards, on supports such as an untreated wooden trellis, fence or a wall.

Growing the cucumber vines upwards on wooden trellises is much more advantageous for a number of reasons. This method leaves space to plant other vegetables, it produces a greater yield of cucumbers, sometimes two or three times as many, the cucumber is more uniform in shape and size and is also less prone to disease and attack from insects.

Optimum soil and climate conditions for cultivating cucumbers

Ideally, cucumbers should be cultivated in soil that is fertile, warm, moist and loose with a pH of between 6.0 and 7.0. It should be well drained with plenty of nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. A fertile clay soil would be optimal.

Cucumbers should be planted in a spot that averages at least 5 hours of sun a day. The plants are able to cope with sun throughout the morning and partial or full shade in the afternoon if sunlight is not available all day.

Do not plant cucumber seeds when there is still morning frost on the ground, as they do not like the cold. The temperature of both the air and the soil should have reached at least 65F, as this is when the cucumber seeds will start to germinate.

Cucumbers are usually planted in early May or in order to make the most of the season and to achieve a second planting, start off inside by sowing the seeds in pots before moving them outside a few weeks later.

Soil preparation

When planning to grow cucumbers the soil should be prepared up to a month in advance. Remove any rubbish, large rocks or sticks from the area where the seeds will be planted but leave any small pieces of plant matter, which will ultimately enrich the soil.

Dig a hole approximately 1ft (12 inch) deep and add compost or well-rotted manure to the lower part of the hole, and cover with the turned soil. When replacing the soil, make a small mound of about 2 inches high, as the plants grow better this way. Leave a space of approximately 1ft between each mound.

Then, erect the trellis, which should be made from untreated wood and should be between 4 - 6ft high.
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Planting the cucumber seeds

If you are going to plant the seeds directly into the soil in late spring, sow 3 seeds with the pointed end facing downwards about 1 inch deep into each mound. Water well.

The seeds will germinate (sprout) within 10 days under the correct conditions. At this point the weakest two plants from each mound or ridge can be removed, just leaving the strongest and healthiest to produce the cucumbers. Cucumber plants do not like their roots being disturbed, so therefore dispose of the weaker plants by cutting with scissors or secateurs.

As soon as the tendrils of the cucumber vine appear, gently coax them onto the trellis. Once positioned, you will not have to touch them again and they will begin to grow upwards. Just to make sure, you can loosely secure the tendrils with twine if necessary.

Many cucumber plants will produce male and female flowers. The female flowers must be pollinated by the males. However, if you have a garden bustling with insect life, then they will do the job for you and you don't have to worry.

Watering the cucumber plant

As cucumbers have such a high water content, they naturally need a lot of watering during the growing procedure.

The soil should be kept moist but not soaked at all times otherwise the cucumbers will turn out small and bitter tasting.

Ensure that the base of the plants are watered, staying away from the leaves.

The plants should receive an inch of water per week, which should be administered first thing in the morning whenever possible.

So as to keep the moisture within the soil and to minimise the spread of weeds, mulch the soil at the base of the plants.

Fertilising the cucumber plant

As the cucumber plant grows so quickly, there should be an adequate supply of nutrients present throughout the process. Once the plant is established add liquid vegetable or nitrogen fertiliser once every 2 weeks. This can be done through your garden hose.

Harvesting the cucumber plant

Pick the cucumbers from the main plant once the vegetables have turned a dark green colour and are approximately 8 inches long (3-4 inches for pickling variety). Cucumbers should be picked before they turn yellow, as this means that they are overripe and will not be pleasant to eat. As cucumbers are so prolific and once harvesting begins, you should check daily. Try to harvest in the morning and refrigerate the cucumbers as soon as possible afterwards.

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