The top mistake you're making when growing English cucumbers

The common mistake gardeners make when growing English cucumbers is easy to fix

English cucumber growing mistake
(Image credit: Miro V/500px/Getty Images)

If you've tried growing English cucumbers and failed, you're probably making a common mistake that results in misshapen, inedible English cucumbers. Don't give up just yet, though – Canadian gardener and author Larry Hodgson of the Laidback Gardener has the tips you need to succeed with this tasty cucumber variety. It's just a little different from learning how to grow cucumbers that are your regular slicing type.

What are English cucumbers?

how to grow cucumbers: cutting cucumber with secateurs

(Image credit: TommL/Getty Images)

But first, just what are English cucumbers and how do they differ from regular cucumbers? If you've grown cucumbers before then you'll know that there are literally hundreds of varieties to choose from, and different ones are better suited to different purposes. There are pickling cucumbers that aren't really any good for your salad, and then there are slicing cucumbers, which is what most Americans grow. Slicing cucumber have fairly tough skins that are best peeled off before eating, and they have plenty of seeds inside. They're usually fairly small and plump in shape.

English cucumbers, on the other hand, are long, thin, and seedless, with a thin skin that is edible. These are perfect for your salads, but you generally get them from the supermarket, wrapped in plastic film. What is the issue with growing these tasty cucumbers in your backyard?

The mistake you're probably making when growing English cucumbers

how to grow cucumbers: growing in a greenhouse

(Image credit: Anders Sellin/Getty Images)

Larry Hodgson explains in a blog post that the main thing to understand about English cucumbers is: 'they don't like company.' Basically, if you're planting your English cucumbers next to other varieties, you are encouraging pollination. But English cucumbers should not be pollinated – 'this kind of cucumber is parthenocarpic, that is to say it produces fruit without having been fecundated (that's why its seeds never fully develop).' If you grow slicing cucumbers next to this variety, bees will carry pollen from the slicing cucumber onto your English cucumbers. The result? Weird-shaped cucumbers that will be full of seeds and not taste that great. 

The solution? Plant them on their own, and 'make sure there are no regular cucumbers within 115 feet (35m).' Even better, try growing them in a greenhouse where no other cucumbers are grown. Our greenhouse ideas feature has lots of inspiration.

Anna Cottrell
Anna Cottrell

Anna is a keen urban gardener, with David Austin roses and Japanese acers among her favourite plants. She moved into the world of interiors from academic research in the field of literature and urban space a couple of years ago. She's always been interested in how people make houses into homes, and how our concepts of what's stylish change over time.