The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Cucumber farming

cucumbers in our greenhouseWe have grown cucumbers for three years in our PIUY (put it up yourself – from a long thin box marked “greenhouse” – it took us 2 long days) . The first year we grew three tiny cucumbers that shall remain nameless. As beginners, we were delighted with the result. The next year we grew even more of the same variety and then suddenly disaster.

Initially it was mouldy fluffy stuff on the leaves. I checked the Organic Gardening Book and dusted with the recommended treatment. Everything perked up. But within a couple of days they all declined dramatically. I dusted like mad again but all promise of cucumber life, including the baby-dolls-house sized, were looking very seedy. I wondered whether cucumber growing was some sort of art form as I pulled the dead plants out of their grow-bags a few weeks later.

This year I was determined to get it right. In March I was lured by the seed displays in a large Cambridge garden centre that we call Southfork. It’s a dangerous time of year for buying seeds as the display area is five deep in couples selecting their seeds for spring planting. It was impossible not to eavesdrop on their comments as I reached for the pack that I thought would do the trick. I gave up and replaced it. I drove out of town to an excellent nursery in Fordham. I needed some privacy. Loads of people were checking the plants but no one was even near the seed packet display.

I found our old brand and immediately discarded it, even though the picture on the pack looked good. As the choice was limited (two more varieties) it didn’t take me long to read the small print on the back and I bought the least disease resistant strain. I raised seven sturdy plants. They all survived and are incredible! I have been picking one or two cucumbers every evening for weeks.

Even cramming salads and sandwiches we can only eat three or four cucumbers a week. In desperation I ventured onto the internet and found a recipe, “Granny’s Very Sweet Cucumber Chutney”. Perfect. Ingredients: take ten cucumbers. Even better!

I made twelve enticing jars (needs a month to mature). What to do with the remaining 200?

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Bill

    I grow these in terracotta pots standing in saucers of water. The pots are not giants, just 8-10 inches. I feed once a week, most weeks when I remember (liquid feed). I top up the water every morning an evening.

    They are grown in a small, cheap greenhouse. The door is open whatever the weather and there is a window that opens automatically on the roof when the temperature rises.

    The cucumbers plants are trained on canes and eventually ramble along the inside ridge of the roof.

    I have experimented with seed and have good results with the more expensive brands (a pound a seed :)). The cheaper packs of seed require so much more time an attention that they work out very expensive by the end of the summer!

    I’m sorry but I don™t know what a shaving bag system is. Or a a salt based hydroponic mixture. I use soil from grow bags. These are long heavy duty bags filled with enriched compost for growing tomatoes, bell peppers and the like. We grow some of our tomatoes in them each year. Next year I’m planning to make my own from grass clipping compost (home grown) and the chicken droppings, hay and woodchip sweepings from the chicken house, as I’ve have wonderful results using this mix for my courgettes (grown in large pots) this year.

  2. Bill Yearley

    What kind of shavings do you put in the bags for English cucumber growing ? I have been using a salt based hydroponic mixture for my cukes for many years and plant in gravel or rock wool. This year things did not work out and I have very poor production.The seed was Stokes seeds ltd. Carmen T.M.(F1 hybrid Gynoecious country of origin Holland )
    I want to try the shaving bag system next time. Do you know where I might get information on this ?
    thank you, Bill Yearley
    Crofton B.C. Canada

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Mary

    I’ve not seen them for sale around here (in the sticks) but I’ve seen them in the markets in London. Where are you based?

    You could also try growing your own. They are easy if you find a variety that doesn’t succumb to mildew. They just need loads of water. They are fun to grow.

  4. Hi your comments on growing cucumbers are great, I would love to try pickling baby cucumber but cannot find a supplier for fresh baby cucumber do you have any ideas?

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Thanks for dropping by and many thanks for your tip about baby cucumbers. We’ll definitely try this as they sound delicious. The English are so often convention bound with roasts (particularly me). Why not try a pickle? Surely this is what blogging is all about.

    Any innovative solutions would be welcome as well.

    I flirted with the idea of raising quail (their eggs are wonderful) but was gunned down by Danny. I do work longish hours and already have the kitchen garden, chickens and Min Pins to look after.

    Goats and quail have to wait until I retire. However, I’d love to see your plans for the quail.

  6. S. Amir A. Husain

    I am a retired engineeer/business executive past 65. Am looking for something to do, to keep me busy and also net me some quick income.
    Small scale vegetable farming, Quails, Goats, Orchards (Apples,Olives,Peaches) & Soft-wood trees (Popular, Eucalyptus) came to mind. Actually I had taken to farming Quails 15 yrs back (but had to close down and move to my widowed mother’s in the city as she had become an invalid). Had designed & made effective/economic cage-cabinets and feed, etc.(Later found similar things in use when I got access to the net!) Enjoy producing innovative solutions.
    Why don’t you try pickling baby cucumbers in clear vineger with pinch of salt? Throw in a green chillie & garlic clove(cut lengthwise) for stronger flavour! Goes beautifully with Roasts!

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