You know that summer is on its way when it is time to sow your cucumbers and there are some great varieties to choose from for both indoors and out. Having revealed some award-winning cues for outdoor growing last month, in this issue we’re looking at their tender cousins, the greenhouse cues. These are the smooth-skinned beauties of the cucumber world – no spines, tough skins or bitterness here – just cool and refreshing fruit with that subtle yet distinctive fresh flavour – a true taste of summer.
SOURCING YOUR PLANTS
Seeds can be sown from February onwards, but unless you have heated undercover space it’s best to delay sowing until late April/May. Alternatively, young plant specialists and local garden centres will offer established young plants at just the right stage for potting on into their first small pots.
For seeds you’ll need to provide a temperature of at least 20C (68F) for germination – a heated propagator, heated mat, sand bench or south-facing windowsill are all ideal. Sow into individual small pots – one seed per pot is usually fine, but you can sow two and thin to the strongest if you wish. Maintain moisture and humidity by covering with a propagator lid until the seedlings emerge, which can take as little as seven to 10 days. At this point they can be uncovered and grown on, still in warmth, until the first true leaves appear.
As mentioned, if more convenient, you might prefer to buy in your young plants, so avoiding the sowing stage and the need to provide early heat. Choose healthy plants with no signs of pests or diseases; check the stems in particular to be sure there are no signs of rotting.
Modern greenhouse varieties tend to be F1 hybrids, which produce reliable heavy crops, often have some resistance to common diseases such as mildew and viruses, and also lack male flowers (pollination can cause bitterness and although it is essential if outdoor types are to bear fruit, it is not necessary for the hybrids). But they are not the only choice and there are a number of heritage varieties to choose from which provide excellent yields and flavour.
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