Cucumbers on the balcony - how to get a crop?
Today, real mobile gardens are being laid out on window sills and balconies, and the “potted” or “balcony” characteristics have long ceased to be a novelty in a series of seeds of vegetables and greens. But so far everyone is seduced by risky peppers and tomatoes, where far less capricious cucumbers are not so popular. But demanding for lighting, heat and humidity, this garden favorite gives a small crop, even in a pot. But for this you should not try to transfer the usual varieties from the garden to the potted format. And you need to prepare in advance for the fact that cucumbers still require a lot of attention, time and place.
Three "whales" without which cucumbers cannot be grown on the balcony
If you are going to grow cucumbers on the balcony, do not expect too much. Including from the crop, which simply cannot be the same as in the garden. So you will always be pleasantly surprised by the result. Balcony cucumbers are rather a bonus and a pleasant addition to the menu, a treat that simply has no equal in aroma. And a special holiday surprise to the table, which can be torn directly from the bush.
Problems with growing cucumbers on the balcony are most often associated with lighting and placement, capacity, soil and access to moisture.
Lighting and a place for cucumbers on the balcony
Lighting is the key to harvesting cucumbers on balconies. It should be as bright as possible, but not extreme: on the southern balconies, the effect of heat eliminates all the advantages of an abundance of light (and even the screens will not hide the scorching heat).
Ideal for cucumbers are eastern or southeastern balconies with their soft morning sun. Even on the west and southwest balconies, plants may not have enough direct sun, and on the north it will be difficult to count on the crop. At the same time, drafts are as contraindicated for “urban” cucumbers, as well as shading.
In windy places with constant temperature jumps and without stable heat, cucumbers cannot be grown. On an open balcony, they are placed in the corners (or additionally study the wind "situation" to find the best place) and install protective screens.
Pot and soil
The selection of containers and soil for cucumbers is also not easy. For a normal plant, one plant needs at least 5 liters of substrate, and they should not be placed in any pots or boxes.
When choosing containers, it is best to immediately consider options with double containers and automatic watering systems, otherwise cucumbers will have to be watered several times a day in the summer to protect against drying out and overheating. Balcony cucumbers can be grown in ampels, allowing the stems to hang down or planted in boxes, pots, special double bags, buckets, tubs, etc. The presence of good drainage holes and a large pallet is a prerequisite.
Cucumbers need a loose, versatile and nutritious substrate with a high humus content and pH values of 6.3-6.8. Even neutral soil is calcareous with dolomite flour or chalk. It is advisable to add moisture-retaining and loosening additives to the soil - sphagnum, perlite, vermiculite, hydrogel.
Disinfection of the soil is only a desirable measure, but a drainage layer of 3-5 cm is mandatory.
When planting plants to the edge of the pot, leave at least 5 cm of space (height) for the gradual addition of the substrate as it grows and mulches in the summer to protect it from overheating.
For cucumbers, a support must be installed in the container. You can place separate supports for each plant or provide a common trellis against the wall, to which you can tie cucumbers as the plant grows.
Watering cucumbers on the balcony
Watering for cucumbers requires consistency and diligence. Fast-growing, large, water-loving cucumbers will not grow without abundant and frequent watering. Even short droughts are a big problem for them. In the summer, for cucumbers, often 1 watering per day is not enough. They will have to be watered in the morning or in the evening, allowing only the topsoil in the containers to dry and never completely dry it.
And plants will have to be protected from heat by humidification of air. Spraying in the evenings and installing pallets and containers with water for constant hydration are measures without which the growth of greenery and the yield of cucumbers will decrease significantly.
Balcony cucumbers begin with a balcony variety
To produce potted crops, cucumbers should be self-pollinating, compact and early - with the shortest growing season from sowing to flowering (ideally, only 45-50 days). Any variety suitable for the criteria for the greenhouse will not work.
Only special balcony varieties can boast a truly tasty harvest at home - unique parthenocarpic gherkin hybrids that are content with minimal conditions without losing the ability to bear fruit. Their trump card is not self-pollination, but endurance. They are stress-resistant, better adapt and not so undemanding to care. Among the main advantages are:
- drought tolerance;
- shade tolerance;
- strong root system;
- compactness - smaller leaves and shortened internodes with a sufficiently long and powerful stem;
- ability to form more ovaries;
- small fruition (not overgrowing, medium-sized, up to 10 cm and quickly ripening fruits);
- resistance to spotting, mosaic, powdery mildew and pests.
The choice of balcony varieties is still limited. Instead of searching for rare varieties, it’s best to check the seed catalogs of trusted growers and consult your local garden center.
In addition to the “balcony” mark, it is worth paying attention to the presence of other characteristics. The best varieties of balcony cucumbers belong to F1 hybrids "Balagan", Berendey, Courage, "The calendar", "Balcony", "April", "Zozulya", "City Cucumber", "Machaon", Hummingbird.
But even such balcony unique ones cannot grow and bear fruit without proper care.
Sowing with and without transplant
For growing on the balcony, cucumbers can be sown both immediately in containers in which they will grow until the end of fruiting, and in individual individual containers with subsequent transfer to permanent pots.
For sowing cucumbers for a balcony, the timing is chosen "according to the weather." If it is possible to illuminate plants and provide them with warmth even in early spring on a heated balcony, then sowing can be carried out at any time. But if they plan to grow cucumbers in a natural environment, they are sown so that by the time they are brought to the balcony, the temperature at night will be quite warm.
Cucumbers can be placed on balconies only from May to mid-June (from the first decade for a glazed balcony and from the second for an open). At this point, plants should have time to produce 2-6 true leaves and be between 10 and 26 days old. Accordingly, for the middle lane, the optimal sowing period is the last decade of April and the first decade of May with an open balcony.
Before sowing, it is advisable to soak the seeds of cucumbers or treat them with growth stimulants and rooting. They are sown on moist soil, to a depth of 1.5-2 cm, without compacting the soil. When sowing in large boxes, the distance between plants is from 30 to 40 cm, from the walls - at least 15 cm.
Crops should be kept at temperatures from 22 to 26 degrees at least during the day, if possible with lower heating, maintaining the soil temperature from 20 to 25 degrees Celsius.
Cucumber seedlings need stable soil moisture without dampness, heat (from 20 to 25 degrees) and bright diffused lighting. Hardening and accustoming to the direct morning sun is carried out after the appearance of real leaves.
Care for balcony cucumbers
Daily care for balcony cucumbers in addition to watering and moisturizing should include:
- garter to the trellis with soft twine or twine, re-dressing as it grows, even distribution and direction of the stem along the support; if desired, pinching the apex after the plants reach the support height;
- pinching (several long side shoots can be left additionally to create a more decorative bush);
- top dressing every 2 weeks, starting from the third week after the release of the first pair of leaves, with universal fertilizers for vegetables and fruit trees or organic and bio-fertilizers (when applying top dressings, it is worth strictly following the manufacturer's directions and remember about their influence on the benefits of fruits);
- dry leaf removal and leaf and soil hygiene;
- mulching the soil with moss to protect against overheating and additional wrapping of containers or using an external container to protect against overheating at the height of summer;
- container protection against hypothermia when the temperature drops at night below 12 degrees (usually from the beginning of August).
The crop is removed as it ripens, not allowing the gherkins to rematch. As soon as the cucumbers complete fruiting (and at best on the balcony, the cucumbers will delight almost 3 months), the plants can be cut and discarded.