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.
Although the Cucumber comes from hot and sunny climes, nevertheless it must be shaded slightly from even our British summer jmn. If the "vines" or stems are trained to wires 1 ft. or 9 in. from he glass, there will be a good cushion of air between the leaves and the glass, and shading need not be put on so early in the season. As soon, however, as there is the slightest danger from burning, the brilliancy of the sun's rays should be softened by spraying some whitening over the glass, on the south side more particularly. If an eggcupful of oil be 'added to a bucketful of whitening it will make it stick better in case of of rain. Starch and flour, well mixed and dissolved in hot water, also make a good shading mixture for glasshouses in summer.
A CUCUMBER HOUSE.
Cucumbers must be cut down when they are exactly the right size for market, and the grower must exercise his judgment as to what that right size is at different times during the season. The first fruits may be cut about eight, ten, or twelve weeks after sowing in December, and in about six or eight weeks after sowing in April or May. If the fruits are allowed to hang too long on the plants they are not only a heavy strain on the nourishing sap, which would be better utilized for the development of fresh fruits, but they are also likely to lose somewhat in flavour. When the Cucumber season, therefore, is in full swing, and the plants are fruiting freely, it would be wise to cut every day all the saleable fruits. Beginners are apt to be deceived as to the size of Cucumbers, and may fall into the error of cutting them too small or too thin. To avoid this, a good plan is to feel the fruits before cutting if in doubt. A good saleable Cucumber should fill the hand well, whereas if a fruit is not up to this standard it should be left till next day or the day after. All deformed crooked fruits ("crooks" as they are called) should be cut off as soon as possible and sold for what they will fetch. As cutting proceeds, the fruits should be placed in wooden trays or baskets, previously lined with a little hay or clean litter to avoid bruising. The fruits are then taken to the packing shed, where they are sorted or "graded" into sizes, in accordance with the number of fruits likely to go into a "flat" - that is, a shallow basket or box that will hold a certain number of a certain size. It is thus possible for these flats to hold 1 1/2 dozen, 2 dozen, 2 1/2 dozen, 3 dozen, 4 dozen, or 5 dozen fruits, according to the size of the latter. After this the fruits are generally so small that they are sold as "gherkins", for pickling, etc, and at so much per flat.
Before actually placing the fruits in the flats or trays a layer of hay, wood wool, or any soft and clean packing material is placed in the bottom, and more packing material is placed between the layers of cucumbers to prevent bruising. The fruits must be packed firmly but carefully to prevent shifting about in transit. Each grade is clearly marked in some way indicating the quantity and quality, either by a special label attached to the handle when the flats are to be sent away, or by different-coloured paper coverings if the grower is taking the cucumbers to market himself for direct sale to his customers. Market prices vary a good deal. Some of the best fruits early in the year may realize from 10s. to 12s. per dozen; but from May to October, when thousands of fruits are sent to the markets every day, the price ranges from 1s. to 3s. per dozen fruits, and the grower now considers himself lucky if he can average 1s. 6d or 2s. per dozen for his entire crop.