How To Grow Perfect Outdoor Cucumbers

Cucumber Crystal Apple

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In the height of summer nothing beats a crisp, succulent slice of cucumber in a salad.

Modern outdoor varieties perform more productively in the fickle British climate, with greater tolerance of cooler UK temperatures, enhanced disease resistant, particularly against mildews, than in the past.

Also, by selecting those producing smaller, snack-sized fruit on compact plants you will get a more productive, steady supply of fruit.

Like courgettes and melons most cucumber varieties produce male and female flowers on the same plant, so will need cross pollinating. Although bees do this, you can help by taking a paintbrush and transferring male pollen to the female flower which has a tiny cucumber behind it.

A few outdoor varieties such as La Diva and Picolino are female only or parthenogenic, producing fruit without pollination, so are worth looking out for.

To get started you can either sow seeds now directly in the ground, start them off in pots under glass and then plant out, or purchase plantlets from online suppliers. If sowing directly or in pots position seeds on edge and give them warmth of around 18C (64F) for germination.

Outdoors, place a cloche or black polythene over the soil a week in advance to warm soil up. Cucumbers grown in pots and grow bags are more readily positioned in a warm, sheltered, sunny spot.

They will also require a netted framework or trellis on which to clamber, or if allowed to trail over the ground provide sufficient space for the vines to spread out, and mulch the ground with straw or bark chips to protect fruit from rain splash.

Pinch-out shoot tips at seven leaves to encourage side shoots to form and produce more fruit.

Feed plants with a liquid nitrogen feed first, then as flowers appear and fruits swell switch to a high potash tomato feed. Harvest fruits as soon as ready which will encourage more to form.

Reliable and compact cucumber varieties

Crystal Apple - Rounded yellow, sweet tasty fruit like a small bristled melon. Reliable cropper. Height: 3m (10ft) Stem: 45cm (18in). Available from DT Brown Seeds

Cucumber La Diva
Cucumber La Diva

La Diva - All female outdoor and indoor variety producing shorter, sweet, non-bitter fruit. Best harvested young. Available from Sarah Raven

Cucumber Marketmore
Cucumber Marketmore

Marketmore - Reliable and prolific, straight-fruited RHS AGM mildew-resistant variety. Height: 1.5m (5ft) Stem: 45cm (18in). Available from DT Brown Seeds

Cucumber Picolino
Cucumber Picolino

Picolino - All-female cocktail cucumber with small fruit ideal for snacking. Good disease resistance. Height: 3m (10ft) Stem: 45cm (18in). Available from Plants of Distinction

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