Cucumber: a salad essential

Simon Webster loves his cucumbers and has had bumper harvests over the years. Read on for his tips for growing this summer salad essential.

'Gympie Gold' cucumber.
Photo: GAP Photos/Tim Gainey

The cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is part of the cucurbit family, so related to pumpkins and melons. Here, we’re looking at salad cucumbers (rather than gherkins, or pickling cucumbers, although some can be both). 

How to plant

Sow seeds in a sunny spot directly in the garden into loose, compost-rich soil with a pH of 6.0–7.5. 

Create mounds 30–50cm apart to ensure good drainage. Sow four or five seeds into each mound, with the intention of keeping only the strongest plant that emerges. It won’t take long – in warm soil (above 20°C) plants should appear in about a week.

You can save a bit of time and buy seedlings if you like. But cucumbers are easy enough to grow from seed.

Use an organic mulch, such as sugarcane, to keep weeds at bay, retain moisture in the soil, keep soil temperatures stable and reduce the risk of fungal spores splashing from the soil to the leaves. 

Support and pruning

It’s a good idea to provide some sort of trellis to get the cucumbers up off the ground. This will provide air circulation to help prevent disease, as well as saving space. Because they grow vertically, cucumbers work well in small spaces such as balconies.

Some wire mesh between star pickets, some lengths of twine tied to a wooden frame, an archway, or even a tomato cage will do the trick. You might have to tie the cucumber vine on to the trellis when it’s young, but it will soon get the hang of things, and use its tendrils to reach for the skies.

If you pinch out the growing tips of each main leader this will encourage branching and means you’ll get more flowers and fruit.

Cucumbers supported by trellis by Gap Photos Tim Gainey

You'll find more tips for growing cucumbers in the 2021/22 Summer Issue of OG (130). You can get a copy here

By: Simon Webster

First published: December 2021

Related topics

Gardening Basics, All Gardens, Cucumbers, Cucumis sativus, Summer salad, Issue 130 -- December 2021/January 2022, Vegetables