” A cucumber, ” said Dr Johnson, ” should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing.”  I am inclined to disagree. Very good in a raita, of course, and goes curiously well with peanut butter. They are supposed by herbalists to purify the blood, but I have never quite understood what this means.

If you want cucumbers like those sold in the shops, you really need to grow them under glass. Greenhouse cucumbers need a temperature of at least 15 degrees C – more, for all-female types – and they enjoy humidity, so it helps if you damp the greenhouse down, by watering the floor. Of course by doing this you also increase the risk of your tomatoes developing blight or mould. This worries me, so I grow the outdoor (ridge) cucumbers instead. These tend to be knobbly and thick-skinned (Japanese varieties less so) but the flavour can be excellent. Some of them are rather lethargic climbers, and will do well if sprawling over an old pallet. When the fruit comes, harvest quickly, and more will grow. And don’t twist off – use a knife or scissors.

May is a leguminous month; the last in which you should plant broad beans, but the best for the French and runner. Dwarf forms crop earlier, but climbing varieties give a heavier crop. The latter need a well prepared soil, and – if you are new to this – remember to build a good structure to support them. Not easy to retro-fit. Main crop peas, of course, can also go in at the end of the month.

In an ideal world we would all grow everything from seed, but things fail, and damp off, and get forgotten, and get dug up by enthusiastic dogs. Garden centres are full of plug plants. Not cheap, but easier, and they establish well.

Jon Gunson, TTL.


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