One of the 1st cucumbers of the season!
At long last…better late than never I have planted up my cucumbers and squashes….yey 🙂 Cucumbers are one of those veggies that you either love or hate. I love homegrown cucumber but really don’t enjoy shop bought ones, similarly I feel the same about homegrown and shop bought tomatoes. Cucumbers and squashes are member of the cucurbitaceae (curcurbits) family along with vegetables/fruits such as melons, pumpkins and courgettes/zucchinis. They are all pretty similar in a lot of ways as they generally produce both male and female flowers (although there are some all female varieties available). Their fruits swell, they contain a very high proportion of water and prefer a warmer environment to grow well.
The cucurbits family love the sun, need plenty of water and a good fertilizer once the plants start to produce flowers…again I use tomato feed for this purpose. I have in the past tried to grow cucumbers and squashes outside but in recent years have found this very difficult due to the vast amount of rain we have been getting, as when the flowers of the squash family fill with water the wet pollen doesn’t set fruit in the same way as dry pollen (when growing under cover try not to wet the flowers too much when watering). I find growing under cover no problem at all and get more cucumbers and squash than I know what to do with….I do have a few preserving recipe tips for the ‘cucs’ which I will share with you as we start to harvest.
Planting your cucumbers and squash is quite simple…watch the you tube video for instructions on how this is done and don’t forget to subscribe on the link below the video so that you don’t miss out on more great tips and advice on Garden Of Eve 🙂
Feeding your cucumbers and squash should be done on a weekly basis, I feed all my flowering fruit and veg with fertilizers such as tomato feed, homemade liquid seaweed or compost tea. The cucurbit family are pretty heavy feeders and need plenty of nutrients so feeding is essential if you want to get a good crop from your plants.
Male And Female Flowers And Pollination
The female flower on the cucumber and squash plant have a small swelling behind the flower which will become the cucumber or squash, the male flower however only has a thin stem and no swelling. There are some all female species which do not need pollinating and will produce fruit without any problems, but most of the plants produce both male and female flowers and they need insects to pollinate the flowers in order to produce the fruits. When growing under cover it is very important to open doors etc to allow the insects in….some uninvited as well as the ones we want 🙂 The experts will say that you need to remove the male flowers as the cucumbers can sometimes be bitter and very seedy if you dont…I dont always do this and very rarelyhave had bitter fruits…I do get the odd seedy cucumber though which I dont mind.
The female flower will have a baby cucumber behind it (always the females left holding the babies!!)
The male cucumber flower has a thin stem behind the flower and no fruit!
When To Harvest
Remember that cucumbers don’t always look like the shop bought variety, they can big, long, short, fat, curved, spiky or even white (I grow a variety including white cucumbers). Pick these as soon as they are ready and this will encourage the plant to produce more. Try not to leave fruits on the plant too long as they will produce seeds, go bitter and too much energy will be given over to the ripe fruit and inhibit the plant from producing more flowers.
When harvesting your cucumbers always be very careful not to pull them from the plant as the stem is very fragile and can break easily, I either twist the cucumber or use a secateurs or a sharp knife.
Cucumber and squash have very large leaves to protect their fruits from scourging but sometimes they could do with a little bit of shading from the sun (ha ha), I use some green netting which I attach to the inside of the poly tunnel.
A great companion plant for cucumbers and squash is nasturtiums, which has a really pretty flower, trails over the trellis with the cucumbers and squash and the flower petals are edible which makes a really nice accompaniment to your salad bowl! They do grow very large when grown under cover so you only need maybe 1 or 2 plants.
I have been asked by a few of my followers about the bitterness issue when growing your cucumbers and apart from the removal of male flowers if there are any other reasons that the fruits maybe bitter….the answer to this is yes….and why….well in order to prevent bitter fruit, we need to find out what causes bitter fruits in the first place so if you follow these simple steps hopefully you will have bitter free cucumbers!
Try and keep cucumbers at an even temperature which can be difficult considering the strange weather patterns we are all experiencing right around the world. If you live in a hotter climate then plant in an area where it is not getting the sun all day (slight shade) and if you are planting in a cooler area (like here :() then you need to make sure you plant your cucumber where it will get full sun.
Always use best practice when you water your plants, making sure you water evenly and regularly, especially if we do get some sunshine 🙂
I hope this information is helpful and that you are not too confused with the male and female thing and bitter cucumbers!!
Happy Gardening 🙂