Jolly green giants: Anna Pavord's first attempt at growing greenhouse cucumbers has resulted in a bumper crop

The cucumber harvest has been sensational. Millie (my granddaughter, aged 11), took advantage of the fact that I was laid out in Plymouth hospital with a broken leg to raid our new greenhouse for a charity stall she was running with a friend. In one swoop, she gathered 30 cucumbers. They sold straight away, she said. So that's good.

Of course, I would have dearly loved to gather them myself. But wobbling on crutches like a drunken crane, I dare not try. From a distance, I gaze through the double doors and think "perhaps next year". It's what gardeners always say. By nature, we are optimists.

The cucumbers were sown earlier this year, on 23 April – an F1 hybrid variety called 'Zeina' (Thompson & Morgan £5.99). Since there were just five seeds in the packet, that seems expensive. But the cucumbers are superb – sweet, juicy, lunchbox-size fruit that you harvest when they are 17-20cm (7-8in) long. 'Zeina' is an all-female variety, so every flower turns into a fruit, which is why they are so productive.

They could not have been simpler to grow. I sowed late, because though we keep our greenhouse frost-free, we do not heat it. Each of the seeds went into an 8cm (3in) pot full of compost. I watered them, set the pots on the top shelf of the greenhouse, as close to the glass as possible and covered the row of pots with a sheet of glass to keep in the moisture.

All the seeds germinated and when the roots had filled the small starter pots, I transplanted each cucumber into its final home. This was a black plastic pot 30cm (12in) across, three-quarters filled with our own compost, then topped off with Levingtons multi-purpose stuff.

The cucumber plants in their pots sat along the far side of the old pig-salting trough (185cm long x 70cm wide) that stretches along the south-facing side of the greenhouse. I jammed bamboo canes 120cm (4ft) tall into the pots and as the plants began to grow, tied them in. When they reached the top of the canes, we strung a wire under the wooden struts of the greenhouse roof and trained the stems along that. They've been watered once a week, with a splash of Tomorite added to the water each time. That's it.

This is the first time I've grown greenhouse cucumbers. In our old garden, I grew some outside, but the skins were tough and the crops not great. 'Zeina', which has an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society, is nutty and crunchy and in every way terrific. I'll certainly grow it again.

Last season, the RHS ran a new trial of 22 different all-female cucumbers in an unheated polytunnel at Wisley, their garden in Surrey. Judges gave points for taste, quality and length of fruit, the colour and texture of the skin, crop size and disease resistance.

Nine of the varieties grown in that trial got Awards of Garden Merit: standard cucumbers 'Carmen', 'Naomi', 'Tyria' and 'Tiffany'; intermediate 'Byblos' and 'Emilie'; mini cucumber 'Socrates' and super-mini 'Cucino' and 'Mini Munch'.

The whole of the south side of our greenhouse opens out, in three separate windows. This, combined with the double doors and the three automatic ventilators in the roof, means that the air inside is constantly on the move. That cuts down the danger of disease.

The only pest I noticed in the greenhouse earlier on was red spider, spinning its irritating way round the new shoots of the nectarine. It never found the cucumbers, though, and next year, I'll be more thorough about damping down the floor, which is the best way to discourage red spider from moving in.

Millie was so taken by the cucumber harvest, she wanted to sow some seed of her own. "Sorry. You've lost the slot," I said, but we sorted out some other veg that would still be worth growing even though the season now, in the third week of August, is getting rather late. Top of the list are salad vegetables. For weeks through the summer, we've been harvesting mixed cut-and-come-again leaves, sown in a half barrel after the tulips were lifted out.

Now, to guarantee a supply through till November, I've started pots of salad rocket 'Apollo' (Thompson & Morgan £1.99) and some 'Red Giant' mustard (Chiltern £1.80) which is very hardy and slow to bolt. You don't need much in a mixed salad as the taste is hot, but it adds a good kick to lettuce. Corn salad, also known as lamb's lettuce, is equally tough. Sown now or in early September, it will provide leaves to pick all through winter. Look for 'Coquille de Louviers' or 'Verte de Cambrai' (Chiltern £1.67) which produces compact little rosettes of leaves, dark and tender.

Chicories such as 'Late Rossa di Chioggia' (Chiltern £2.59) and curly endives could both be sown now, but the later you leave it, the less likely it is that they will have picked up enough oomph to get themselves through the wintertime. So much depends on the weather, of course. Curly endive can bulk up surprisingly well in November, if it is not too cold. Water all the seed drills before you sow as the ground is still very dry.

I'm thinking, too, about crops that I can slide into the greenhouse, once the cucumbers and tomatoes have come to an end. If I sowed a potful of lettuce 'Red Grenoble' or 'Rougette du Midi' (Suffolk Herbs £1) I could prick out some seedlings into the same big black plastic pots in which I've grown the cucumbers. Set in the same place in the greenhouse, I think they'd give us leaves to pick from November right the way through winter.

Since this is our first year with the greenhouse, I'm still working out ways of using it to its full potential. Food comes top of the list. All in all, it's not been a bad season, with lots of sweetcorn still to come and masses of tomatoes to harvest. All I need is a new leg.

Chiltern Seeds, Bortree Stile, Ulverston, Cumbria LA12 7PB, 01229 581137, chilternseeds.co.uk; Suffolk Herbs, Monks Farm, Coggeshall Road, Kelvedon, Essex CO5 9PG, 01376 572456, suffolkherbs.com; Thompson & Morgan, Poplar Lane, Ipswich, Suffolk IP8 3BU, 0844 5731818, thompson-morgan.com

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence