Cucumbers can be very bitter if they are pollinated. In the old days, gardeners had to be vigilant and remove the male flowers as soon as they appeared. Nowadays, we have F₁, varieties that only have female flowers, so you do not have to worry. These are much more vigorous than the old fashioned ones so you can take ‘stem fruit’, that is fruit growing directly on the main stem. It is important to manage your plant and make sure it is only carrying a few cucumbers at a time otherwise it will be exhausted and take weeks to recover. Commercial growers expect about 120 cucumbers per plant over the growing season.
The ridge (outdoor) cucumbers we sell are also F₁ hybrids but confusingly they do produce male flowers as well. These seem to be sterile so ignore them – the fruit will be fine.
Marrows, courgettes, melons, pumpkins and squashes all need pollinating. Infuriatingly the first flowers always seem to be male. The bees seem to take a time to find the plants so the first few fruits can wither through lack of pollination. You can always help things along with a paint brush if you have the patience.
We have added a Gem squash (Rolet F₁) and a round courgette (Eight Ball F₁) to the list this year in response to customer requests. Round courgettes are ideal for stuffing apparently and the Gem squash is good for roasting or microwaving.
See our vegetable and salad listing for plants ordered for the beginning of the season