Cool, crisp and refreshing, the humble cucumber works brilliantly in a huge range of recipes from salads and dips, to pickles and cocktails. Growing your own is easier than you think, especially when we’ve gathered some of the best independent articles, Instagram posts and YouTube videos to help you succeed.
- Best expert advice on sowing cucumber seeds
- Best expert advice on growing cucumbers in a greenhouse
- Best expert advice on growing cucumbers outside
- Best cucumber varieties to grow in the UK
Best expert advice on sowing cucumber seeds
“I love growing cucumbers from seed, because it’s so exciting when you see the first sign of the new cucumber plant,” enthuses the green-fingered gardener behind Vegetable Growing. Cucumber seeds germinate quickly and it’s thought that planting the seed on its side increases germination rates and prevents rotting. Read this comprehensive cucumber growing guide for more secrets to success.
Growing cucumbers from seed is a great way to get children interested in growing food, says Carol Bartlett at The Sunday Gardener. She sows two seeds per pot and keeps them at around 18°C while they germinate. For faster, more reliable germination, her top tip is to place them in a propagator or cover them “with a poly bag fixed in place with an elastic band or string”. Just be sure to take them out once they’ve sprouted or your seedlings might go soft! Read Carol’s full article for more advice.
Decide where you want to grow your cucumbers before you buy your seeds, says Richard Suggett in The Veg Grower Podcast. Some varieties are best grown in a greenhouse, while others can withstand cooler outdoor temperatures. Richard sows his cucumber seeds in propagators in April, but says you can direct sow outside from late May or early June. Listen to his excellent podcast for practical advice and his favourite variety tips.
Jayne at @allotmentcooks sowed her cucumber seeds “way too early” and kept the seedlings in an unheated greenhouse where, by late April, “they’re not any bigger than they would have been had I sowed them at a more responsible time.” The moral of the story is that the early bird doesn’t always get a head start! Follow Jayne on Insta to see what happened to her cukes.
Best expert advice on growing cucumbers in a greenhouse
Cucumbers thrive in a greenhouse and you only need a couple of plants to provide a steady supply of fruits, says Carol over at her YouTube channel. Visit The Sunday Gardener to see how just two cucumber plants can produce such high yields. Want to know more about greenhouse cucumber growing? Watch her video to learn why her plants are doing so well…
Greenhouse cucumbers need plenty of space to grow, says Sarah of Lets Grow Cook. She recommends planting your seedlings around 45cm apart, or just one per pot. If you plant directly into grow bags, limit yourself to two cucumber plants per bag. She also wisely keeps the humidity high by misting inside the greenhouse – after all, “cucumbers are 96% water.”
Cucumbers are vines that need supporting as they grow. Patient Gardener, Daniel, is a fan of growing them up taut pieces of string suspended from his greenhouse frame. “This method is incredibly easy as the cucumber plant really clings on tight,” he explains. Read his full article for more tips on how to support and train greenhouse cucumbers.
If your greenhouse cucumbers don’t grow very large, poor pollination could be the problem suggests Trev at Garden Doctor. He recommends luring more pollinators inside “by growing plants…such as black-eyed Susans, basil, dill and sunflowers”. Careful watering, appropriate nutrition and watching out for pests are also crucial to the success of greenhouse cucumbers – all covered in Trev’s excellent article.
Best expert advice on growing cucumbers outside
If you want to grow your cucumbers outside, it’s important to choose an outdoor variety like ‘F1 Burpless Tasty Green’, says the expert horticultural team at Suttons. Outdoor cucumber seeds can be direct sown outside from late May, but be ready to protect them with a cloche or fleece should the temperature suddenly drop. Want an earlier harvest? Get your outdoor seedlings started under cover in April and then plant out in May instead. It’s just one of many tips to be found in the Suttons guide to growing cucumbers.
Indoor and outdoor cucumbers are different, as Ben of GrowVeg explains in his video on how to sow, grow and harvest cucumbers. Also called ridge cucumbers, outdoor varieties are “often spiny or rough to the touch”. You can train your outdoor cucumber plants up a frame or trellis, or if you have plenty of space, just let them “sprawl over the soil surface”. Watch Ben’s informative video to learn how to make a DIY cucumber frame to support your plants.
Outdoor cucumbers need “a sunny position that’s sheltered from wind”, explains Georgina Starmer at Let’s Grow Wild. Unlike indoor varieties, male flowers should be left on outdoor cucumber plants as some varieties need them in order to be pollinated, she says. Do you know why people remove the male flowers on indoor varieties? Read Georgina’s full article to find out!
Best cucumber varieties to grow in the UK
There’s an astonishing number of cucumber varieties to choose from, and John Harrison of Allotment & Gardens has kindly taken the time to describe his favourites. Zingy cucamelons, which look like tiny watermelons, are high on his list for several reasons: “They’re ignored by pests, resistant to drought & perfectly happy to grow outdoors in the UK, given a sheltered sunny site.”
Suburban gardener Greg Holton was surprised by the size of his cucamelon vine: “It’s tiny!” He creatively uses this mini-climber to weave in and around his pepper plants and he can’t wait to enjoy cucamelons in his garden salads. Greg’s enthusiasm for growing fruit and veg is obvious. Follow him at @greggrowsuk for inspiration!
Karen from @welliesandwaffles grows some very unusual cucumber varieties in her home garden. She describes her ‘Crystal Apple’ and ‘Crystal Lemon’ cucumbers as “crisp, full of flavour, prolific growers and of course fun.” Hers are grown in a polytunnel, but they’ll also do just fine outside. Follow her account to see some truly impressive homegrown fruit and veg!
Although calling himself an ‘amateur vegetable grower’, @craig_grows_veg has produced some very healthy-looking ‘Burpless Tasty Green’ cucumbers. Craig wholeheartedly recommends this variety because “it’s easy to digest, has no bitterness, and is packed full of vitamins.” What’s more, it grows well outdoors in the UK, produces fruits into the autumn, and just happens to be his son’s favourite!
Cornwall-based gardener Sam Corfield grows several varieties of cucumber but the earliest to bear fruit is ‘Merlin’. As you can see from his post, ‘Merlin’ cucumbers are small but perfectly formed. Sam’s fun Insta account is full of vibrant colours and delicious crops – give him a follow @the_hairy_horticulturist.
Gardening blogger Chris from @VeggiePlot shares a beautiful example of his first homegrown gherkin – an ‘F1 Partner’. Reading his evocative description, it’s easy to understand why he’s so proud of it: “The inner body is of the palest apple green with a soft seeded centre that is cool and crunchy on the bite.” Visit his Instagram account for the whole story – and while you’re there, why not check out his recipe for ‘fridge pickles’?
Whether grown outside or in a greenhouse, there’s no denying that homegrown cucumbers taste so much better than shop-bought. Plus, growing your own means you can choose varieties that you’d never see in the supermarket. Share your cucumber progress with us on Instagram using the hashtag #mysuttonsjourney
Image: Cucumber Seeds – ‘F1 Baby’ from Suttons