This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol4", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
Certain kinds of Cucumbers may be grown well in the open air during the summer months, and if grown extensively, as they are in some places, may realize profits ranging from £20 to £80 per acre. The seeds are sown in April, and the young plants are in due course put under handlights Or bell glasses on ridges made over hot dung. Before the ridges are made, trenches about 3 ft. wide and 1 ft. deep are taken out on a piece of land having a gentle slope to the south if possible. The trenches are then filled with hot manure to a depth of 1 to 2 ft. The manure is covered with about 9 in. of the soil dug out of the trench, and when this is nicely warmed through the young Cucumbers are planted under the glasses. These are retained for protection against cold until the weather becomes genial; and it may be necessary to cover with mats at night if the temperature falls too much. Indeed the system is almost identical with that adopted in French intensive gardens (see p. 203). Copious supplies of water must be given during the growing period, and the leading shoots must be stopped when about 2 1/2 to 3 ft. long. The side shoots are also stopped a couple of joints beyond the fruits, and the latter are cut as soon as they are judged to be fit for use. Amongst the best kinds of Ridge Cucumbers are Best of All, 12 to 15 in.; King of the Ridge, 12 to 16 in.; and Stockwood, 9 to 12 in. To these may be added the Gherkin or Short Prickly, grown chiefly for pickling. [J. W].
Ridge Cucumbers were largely grown in the Evesham district until recent years, since when they appear to have decreased in favour as a remunerative crop. A variety named "Stockwood" was the favourite, and a grower has informed the writer that he has known them to realize £90 per acre; but he estimated their average value until recently at about £45 per acre.
Generally the Cucumber plants are raised from seed sown where the plants are to be grown and fruited - viz. on small mounds under which has been placed one or two forkfuls of warm stable manure, the soil being raised thereby. The top of each mound is flattened or slightly hollowed, three or four seeds are planted in the middle and about 1 1/2 in. in depth; a metal ring 10 or 12 in. in diameter and 4 or 5 in. in depth is placed over them, and a piece of glass which is a little larger than the ring placed over all. Until the seed has germinated the glass is kept covered on cold and sunless days; but advantage is taken of a warm sun to raise the temperature under the glass. When the plants appear above the soil the weaklings are destroyed and the strong plants left to grow. Every night the glass over each is covered with old bag, canvas, carpet, or anything of the kind available, to prevent an undue lowering of temperature and possible injury. By the time the plants outgrow the protection of ring and glass, June is some days old, and the glass may be dispensed with. These mounds are made about 5 ft. apart on warm borders, or between triple and quadruple rows of early Broad Beans, which shelter and keep them warm.
Those who have a warm frame or greenhouse usually raise a few hundreds or thousands of plants by sowing two or three seeds in pots 3 in. in diameter in light soil, and plunge the pots close together; the strongest plants only are allowed to remain, as in the case of the seedlings raised out-of-doors. By these means a few days are gained in cutting the first fruits, and the surplus plants are sold at remunerative prices.
The rows of mounds are about 6 ft. apart and about 5 ft. apart in the rows. It will be readily understood that three or four rows of broad beans 1 ft. or more high at the end of May and early in June, with a space between of 3 or 4 ft. for these Cucumbers, form a very cosy and early plantation when carried out to the extent of fifty or sixty rows of Cucumbers and as many blocks or beds of early Beans. And it is not difficult to realize what a substantial sum will be returned from a 1/4- or 1/2-ac. plot of early Broad Beans and early Cucumbers, especially when there is added the returns from early Radishes, which preceded the Cucumbers the same season, the seed of which had been sown in December or January. [J. U].