My Top Tips For Growing Cucumbers In An Urban Home.
Remember my recycled tyre project from earlier this year? I had to leave it behind after the wedding as they still had ginger and radish growing in them. I now had to start over in our matrilineal home and this was going to be tougher to even get started on. We live in an apartment building which has two other couples in the other spaces. With respect to land, we had a small backyard filled with plantain and a side area filled also with more plantain. The front yard is gravelled for car parking space. However, we had a soil-filled concrete wraparound which served as a flower pot for the entire building. That’s when I decided to use that area to grow my new batch of vegetables. There was also a a side yard which I got weeded for more direct soil planting but there are some stubborn Dandelions growing there and no matter the amount of uprooting they just seem to spring out all the time.
Harvested cucumber and seeds
There is usually one place I buy vegetable seeds from: the Agric shop (totally forgotten the name 😅) at the old Ministry of Agriculture on the Accra High Street opposite the Law Complex . Another place I recently bought more seeds from is the gardening aisle at ShopRite which stocks seeds from Starke Ayres. Sometimes the Agric shop doesn’t have what I am looking for so I go to my backup at the mall.
The cucumber seed packet had basic beginner planting instructions at the back so that was easy. Noteworthy: The seed packets at the Agric shop does not come with any planting tips. The following are planting tips on how I grew cucumbers in the concreted ‘flower pot’ portion of our house. I hope these will be a useful guide for you to start on your own home vegetable gardening project.
*Note- I am not a professional gardener or expert. I have followed gardening advice from several gardening websites which have led me here and in my pursuit of encouraging OFY (Operation Feed Yourself) I am sharing this with my audience.
I mixed the existing black soil with compost and mulch, which I bought at the Agric shop to enrich it. If you are looking for black soil to buy that’s pretty easy. Ask any of the guys selling the potted plants by the roadside especially in Cantonments and on the Spintex Road. Black soil is a mix of loam, sand, silt and clay soil which is pretty excellent for most vegetables you want to grow.
2. Planting the Cucumber seeds
Cucumber seeds are pretty large and delicious to some pests. Use your index finger to create about 2cm deep hole, place a seed in and lightly cover with soil. To prevent some pests from digging them up, cover the seeds with palm tree branches or plant in seedling containers for later transplant. I planted directly into the soil to avoid transplanting.
The seeds started germinating within 3 to 4 days to my utter surprise and delight. Keep watering lightly everyday.
Cucumbers love moisture so you have to make sure the soil is moisture-happy but not soggy. You can buy a small watering can to help you with this. Avoid over-watering and stick to once a day and early in the morning watering. Once the cucumbers germinate and reach a height of about 6 inches, increase to twice a day. Because I planted in the less rainy season towards harmattan, I increased watering to twice a day; morning and evening.
My compost from the Agric shop works wonders on the growing cucumber plant. Composting allows air, water and energy to move freely for the roots to enjoy healthy growth, increases nutrient content, ward of plant diseases etc. You can always create your own compost to ensure that the mix is indeed really organic. Check out this tutorial on how to make your own compost at home.
Cucumber plants are vinery, i.e. they creep and climb over surfaces. You have to plan to make a trellis-which is easy to have made- for the plant to climb over. Why is this important? Because you also want to keep the cucumbers from being eaten by lizards and other pests, this will happen when the cucumbers develop on the soil. Thankfully, we don’t have lizards in our house. Well I actually haven’t seen any around yet which is quite odd, isnt it? I called Moses our joiner to make a simple trellis which I found on Pinterest. It can be a pyramid-shaped trellis like the photo below depending on where it’s being placed. There isnt much space in my concreted flower pot garden so I went with one-sided. Much to my chagrin, the plant is now climbing the window.
7. Pest Control
Lizards are common pests of cucumbers. Other pests are also listed here but I am yet to come across any in my garden. I nevertheless use neem leaves to control any pests that may be planning to stop by. Lucky for me, there's a neem tree growing right behind the outer wall so all i did was break off a branch, soak it in water for a day and using the same branch shake off droplets onto the cucumber leaves. Did you know Neem extracts have a rather unpleasant strong smell? 😖 Kai! But it works wonders 😀.
Would you believe that I almost missed a full grown cucumber? It was hiding beneath the wide leaves in splendid silence. 😄 It takes 50-60 days for cucumbers to fruit. A little reading I did, educated me on how to identify a male flower from a female. My husband was pretty shocked to know that flowers had sexes 😂. Agriculture wasn’t one of his subjects in his Pure Science class. Forgive. So like I was saying, you need to know how to identify a male flower from a female. The male flower has a very short stem whilst the female’s is elongated at the bottom and once it’s pollinated, a cucumber starts developed. Fascinating!
Female flower with elongated stem growing into a baby cucumber
There will be about 10-20 male flowers before one female flower gets pollinated so don’t be alarmed when you see that many male flowers. Competition ay3 basaa!
Harvest cucumber when they are about 2 inches thick. You have to ensure they don’t ripen ( turn yellow) whilst on the vine. Delaying harvesting also can give you bitter cucumbers. That’s not cool for your salads though edible.
It’s been a real learning and fulfillingexperience for me from the time I started planting down to harvesting that single cucumber. There are currently 8 more growing steadily and I am super stoked! 🔥🔥
I made a decision for my home to eat homegrown vegetables not only for health reasons but also to inculcate that attitude of growing what we eat into our family’s lifestyle culture. It’s a lifestyle investment which will yield a rich harvest- all puns intended 😜-for me and my husband. Growing vegetables in our homes isn’t that difficult or time-consuming as some think. I am able to work on the garden for at least 15minutes and do other things as well.
Many modern houses in Ghana are concreting every available bare land during the construction stages. Most apartments are treeless. I recently saw a newly constructed apartment in Osu having artificial vine foliage hanging out of the balcony. Imagine! Garden areas in these modern complexes are mini-patches of grass with little left for even a rose bush. I have heard a number of people explaining this phenomenon as “no time to garden” and more popularly who’s going to clear all the leaves?” Excuses will not get us anywhere. Let’s develop that attitude of eating what we grow and growing what we eat like my friend Abigail does in her home. I do so admire her!
My friend Abigail proudly displays her harvested vegetables. What joy!
Have you planted any vegetables in your home before? What did you plant and what were the results? I would love to know more about your techniques too in home gardening.