Did you know that planting cucumbers with sunflowers makes cucumbers sweeter?
Cucumbers like a hot climate to grow in, so temperate regions may find they don't show significant growth until December. However, they will more than make up for this in the coming months.
Prepare the soil with compost, manure, coconut coir and rock minerals. This combination will provide a healthy soil environment and the nutrients your cucumbers need to thrive. In addition, cucumbers need high levels of potassium and phosphorus. To achieve this, place banana peels and fish heads in the bottom of each hole where you will plant cucumbers, one week prior to planting. Alternatively, you can add a potassium fertiliser and bone meal for phosphorus to the soil before planting.
Place plant support for the cucumber prior to planting to prevent the roots from being damaged. You may use sunflowers as a climbing trellis for cucumbers. It is recommended you plant sunflowers which are more mature than the cucumbers so they can support the cucumbers.
Space your cucumbers according to the seed instructions around the plant support. Seeds should be approximately 2cm deep.
Mulch straight away. If you plant with seeds, do not cover the area above your seed with mulch, or it may prevent the seed from sprouting. However, cover the soil around the seed, and once sprouted, mulch again. Mulch should be a minimum of 3cm thick. You can also mulch with compost or coconut coir.
Water in with a seaweed concentrate and magnesium water.
We have already discussed the benefits of sunflowers. The other great companion combination is a method known as the Three Sisters. When planting corn, legumes and cucumbers or squash together, these plants grow in harmony, all providing each other with the nutrients they need to thrive. Plant the corn first, spaced 30cm apart. Then plant one legume per corn plant (beans or snow peas are best in the warmer months) which will use the corn as a climbing trellis. At the same time as the beans, plant cucumbers. There should be no more than one cucumber plant every 50cm x 50cm otherwise the garden bed will become too crowded. The cucumbers will grow around the base of the corn and shade the soil to prevent evaporation.
Cucumbers are hungry plants and require regular feeding to get the best growth, flowering and fruiting. I recommend alternating a seaweed concentrate and a fish emulsion every two weeks.
Watering regularly with banana peel water or adding a potassium fertiliser, will help encourage fruiting. Banana peel water can be made by soaking your banana peels in water until the water is cloudy. Then pour the water and the banana peels around the base of any fruiting plants.
In addition, magnesium water is recommended every month. You can do this by adding half a cup of epsom salts to 10L of water.
Remember to harvest your cucumber regularly as this promotes more growth and more cucumbers. The suitable size for harvest will depend on the variety you are growing.
Author: Diana Barnes, Growing Vegetable Down Under