Today, I started sowing cucumbers, a firm favourite in the summer garden. I sowed the varieties “Long Green” and “Continental” from Yates Seeds, which I have grown successfully in previous seasons. Both expired in August 2017, but if the germination rate of my “Queensland Blue” pumpkins from Yates which had the same expiry date is anything to go by, I’m sure these will do just fine. The only difference is that these packets were already opened. I’m still using my heat pad to germinate a lot of seeds, including the cucumbers, as the temperature drops at night. At the moment it’s around 8 degrees, I think the heat pad is consistently a nice warm 20 degrees. Heat pads are ideal for germinating heat-loving veggies such as peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini, pumpkins and cucumbers. If you don’t have a heat pad, don’t despair. Your hot water cupboard works perfectly. A lot of the time, seeds need warmth but not light to germinate. Just don’t leave them in there for too long after they’ve germinated or you might find your seedlings become spindly and discoloured due to the lack of light.
The process of raising cucumbers from seed is very similar to zucchini, pumpkins, squash and melons. I like to wait until the plants have developed at least three large, healthy leaves before planting them in the garden, usually after Labour Weekend. When I first started gardening, I grew cucumbers along the ground. A couple of years ago, I discovered that cucumbers love to climb! I started growing them up obelisks after reading some discussions in gardening groups on Facebook. I usually put three plants around each obelisk. This has the added advantage of keeping fruit off the ground, so they don’t rot. If you don’t have obelisks, you could use any kind of frame, including trellis, an archway or a fence. When it’s warm enough, cucumbers can be sown direct if you prefer.
Like other curcubits, cucumbers do best in full sun. I recommend liquid feeding them regularly. This summer, I’ll be using some of my Yates Thrive Tomato Liquid Plant Food on them (which is fine for other fruiting veggies). Keep picking cucumbers as they develop to encourage further fruiting.
It is also possible to grow cucumbers in containers. Last summer, I grew “Patio Snacker” from Egmont Seeds in a 35 L container with an obelisk. It did really well. You could also try growing the mini cucumber “Iznik” (also from Egmont Seeds) in a container, which I’m going to do this year.
I also harvested more Swift potatoes (see photo) and planted some Liseta seed potatoes in the same place. The potatoes I harvested were planted on the 1st of August. I took them out a couple of days shy of the recommended 60 days for Swift as I’m on a tight schedule with this space. Every day counts! I’ll leave the Lisetas in until the 6th of December, but will need to get them out of the ground quickly so I can plant my melon seedlings, otherwise they won’t have enough time to mature. I found some more Yates Dynamic fertiliser for root crops in the garage (I don’t think this product is available anymore), so I used a packet of this when planting the Lisetas, as well as some compost, Nitrophoska fertiliser and potato food. Sheep pellets are incredibly expensive at the moment, so I went without.
We still have other potatoes in the ground – Lisetas due on 9th October, Jersey Bennes due on 31st October, Agria due in mid-November and Heather due on 20th November. To help store potatoes better, I have been using Morton Smith-Dawe’s propham potato dust but it is too soon to comment on the effectiveness of this product. Next year, I’m growing to try growing quick maturing potatoes in autumn (planting in March) so we can keep these for consuming over the winter. We never have enough from our summer crops to last over winter, not to mention previous difficulties with preserving them. The idea is to lift them before the frosts in May. Has anyone else managed to grow potatoes in autumn successfully? Collette, if I recall correctly, one year didn’t you get some seed potatoes on special from Kwan in Kerikeri and plant them in February? How did they do?