Cucumber Sherpa is a vigorous vine that produces copious cucumber fruits all summer long. Unsurprisingly it has become a firm favorite in my own garden.
In this article I’d therefore like to discuss my own personal experience of successfully growing Cucumber Sherpa, so if you’re considering this variety you’ll know exactly what to expect.
How Difficult is Growing Cucumbers?
The first question I often receive when I tell my friends and work colleagues that we grow our own cucumbers is how hard it is.
In truth, growing cucumbers is really no harder than many other crops like aubergines or sweet peppers if you get the conditions right.
The growth rate of cucumber plants can be quite mind-blowing, and the time period between planting and harvesting can be measured in a matter of weeks. And when you pick that first sweet cucumber from your plant you’ll be glad you invested the modest amount of time required to get your plants going successfully.
Cucumber Sherpa: Indoor or Outdoor?
Cucumber Sherpa should be thought of as a greenhouse cucumber. While I have experimented with growing some excess seedlings outside in sunny, south-facing areas they simply didn’t thrive. In the environment of a greenhouse, though, the plants seemed to almost grow visibly by the day.
Cucumber Sherpa also grows to quite a decent size (we’ll discuss heights shortly) but this does mean that Cucumber Sherpa probably isn’t suitable for small cloches or suchlike. Instead you’ll need to be able to provide both width and height for them to really reach their potential.
If you do have a greenhouse, though, a space of just a couple of square feet could support a number of Cucumber Sherpa plants, yielding you more cucumbers than you know what to do with all summer long.
Growing Cucumber Sherpa from Seed
Cucumber Sherpa is an F1 hybrid. This means that you’ll inevitably need to buy new seed from your favorite garden supply company. It generally isn’t recommended to try and collect your own seeds of Cucumber Sherpa as the next generation is unlikely to grow true.
One downside of Cucumber Sherpa is that the seeds tend to be reasonably expensive. As a result it makes sense to really throw everything you’ve got at the plants, ensuring the maximum possible harvest and therefore the best value for money.
Cucumber Sherpa seeds are typically quite commonly available and can be found online without issue.
Plant Cucumber Sherpa seeds early in the season, such as when you might start your tomatoes and suchlike. March and April can work really well. This gives the seeds some weeks to germinate, and the plants to become established, before they’re planted out in their final growing position in your greenhouse.
I’ve even planted Cucumber Sherpa seeds as late as May and still managed to get a decent crop so don’t assume you’ve missed the boat if it’s a little later in the season.
Due to the fact that Cucumber Sherpa grows so rapidly it’s worth bearing this in mind when it comes to planting the seeds. Here are some tips I would recommend:
Plant Seeds Individually
Cucumber Sherpa seeds can be expensive. Even then, you don’t tend to get too many seeds in a pack.
The temptation is to pop them all into a pot together, label and wait. However Cucumber Sherpa grows really quite quickly when it gets going so I think it’s worth planting them into individual pots.
This way while your seedlings get established it’s easier to keep them separate. As climbers the risk is that seedlings kept too closely together will mesh together. As they grab onto each other’s stems it can create quite a mess when it comes to potting them up some time later.
Use Generous Pots
Just as planting Cucumber Sherpa seeds individually makes sense, so does using decent-sized pots.
Something with a diameter of 4-6” inches may sound like overkill, but gives your Cucumber Sherpa seedlings plenty of room to become established before repotting becomes necessary.
This cuts down on your effort, but also reduces the potential damage that manual repotting can cause to small seedlings.
Rich, Fertile Compost
As a fast-growing climber it’s unsurprising that Cucumber Sherpa appreciates a rich compost with lots of organic matter. I personally use a multipurpose, peat-free compost with excellent results.
Plant at a Depth of 2-3 the Seed Size
Seeds should be planted at a depth of roughly 2-3 the length of the seeds. I have seen no difference in the direction of planting so there’s no need to worry about laying the seeds flat on their side. Simply pop a seed into each of your pots and cover with a couple of centimeters of compost.
Cover Pots to Retain Moisture
Cucumber Sherpa seeds like to be truly moist if they are to germinate. Once you’ve planted the seeds, and assuming you’ve gently watered the seeds in, the next step is to cover the containers.
The easiest option is to place the individual flower pots into clear plastic bags and seal the top. Alternatively, carefully cover the top with a clear plastic bag, secured with an elastic band or masking tape, or pop a small piece of clear perspex or glass over the top.
It is important to consider this cover when deciding on how much compost to place in the pot. It is a good idea to leave an inch or so of space between the top of the compost and the top of the pot.
In this way when your Cucumber Sherpa seeds spring into life and burst through the soil they’ll have a little growing space before reaching the cover.
Assuming you’re checking your seeds twice a day this should give plenty of time for you to remove the cover when the seeds appear.
Keep Warm for the First Few Weeks
Cucumber Sherpa seeds appreciate warmth if they are to germinate quickly. A sunny, south-facing windowsill can work well.
Otherwise a low-powered heat pad or soil warming cable can work wonders for not just Cucumber Sherpa but a whole host of other crops. I use them extensively in the spring to kick-start most of my seeds.
Unless you’re starting your Cucumber Sherpa seeds later in the season, an unheated greenhouse probably isn’t the best place for them initially. Even though unheated greenhouses can still get nice and warm when the sun shines, in February or March they can still drop down to below 5’C easily at night. Such cold may stunt or even kill your seedlings.
Think of Cucumber Sherpa seeds as something to start indoors until the weather warms up to a comfortable night-time temperature.
Planting Out Cucumber Sherpa Seedlings
So your Cucumber Sherpa seeds have germinated, and are rapidly growing into healthy plants. What next?
Once you’re happy that night-time temperatures are past their worst it’s time to plant your Cucumber Sherpa in their final planting position.
Assuming you’ve got a greenhouse a whole host of options will work. For example I’ve grown a number of plants successfully in grow bags. They can also be grown in containers or even planted straight into your greenhouse borders.
Cucumber Sherpa plants should be planted 30cm or so apart, to give enough space for the roots to grow properly.
If you’re growing Cucumber Sherpa in containers then try to use pots of 30-45cm in diameter.
Cucumber Sherpa Care & Maintenance
Once your Cucumber Sherpa plants are in their final growing position it’s just a matter of basic maintenance and a little patience. Here are some tips for growing Cucumber Sherpa…
Lots of Nutrients
Cucumber Sherpa does best in very fertile compost. Of course, you should start with a decent multipurpose compost at the start of the season. However don’t forget about providing additional nutrients throughout the season.
I recommend providing a liquid fertilizer every 2-3 weeks throughout the growing season. I’ve had good results from tomato fertilizer, which is pretty easy to source, so comes recommended.
Cucumber Sherpa develops large, floppy leaves that almost resemble elephant’s ears. While these are beautiful and impressive, they do mean that Cucumber Sherpa transpires quite heavily and can quickly become dehydrated.
In hot weather the leaves of your cucumber plant may suddenly start to droop and wilt. Left too long and your cucumber plants may really start to struggle.
If you’re growing Cucumber Sherpa, especially bearing in mind how hot even unheated greenhouses can get in summer, be prepared to water regularly and heavily. Twice-a-day watering may be required in warmer weather, and sometimes even more.
Cucumber Sherpa is a climbing plant. This means that it needs a support to cling onto. Without this the plants will scramble across the floor of your greenhouse. Fruit may not set properly or can become damaged as a result of coming into contact with the ground.
A whole host of different supports can work. Some growers like to add netting that their plants can grow up. Personally I have had good results from creating a “lattice” of garden canes to grow up.
Whatever form of plant support you offer, be mindful that a Cucumber Sherpa plant laden with fruit can be surprisingly heavy. Whatever support you offer will need to be capable of dealing with a fair amount of weight.
Regularly Tie In
Cucumber Sherpa seems to take off like a rocket as the weather warms up, so spend time every few days gently tying the new stems onto your supports.
With the garden cane framework I make this is quite simple; I weave the plants together and around the canes, giving support with garden twine as necessary.
Cucumber Sherpa Fruiting
Cucumber Sherpa is a self-fertilizing cucumber variety. This means that you don’t need to worry about manually fertilizing the flowers. Furthermore, unlike many other varieties, you don’t get bitter fruits if things go wrong.
As a result Cucumber Sherpa can largely be left to itself. Soon enough you’ll find yellow flowers starting to appear. As the flowers fade away, you’ll see tiny fruits starting to swell on the stem.
Cucumber Sherpa fruits can be harvested at any point – you do not need to wait for them to reach a specific size before picking. If you’re impatient there’s nothing to stop you picking some very early fruits when they’re just a few inches long.
Eventually, Cucumber Sherpa fruits start to turn a lighter green, at which point they are really past their best in terms of flavour. If you see any of your cucumbers turning from a dark green to a lighter tone they should be picked as soon as possible.
Collecting Cucumber Sherpa Seed
Cucumber Sherpa is an F1 hybrid. This means that any seeds collected won’t come true. Sadly, this means you shouldn’t bother trying to collect seeds from Cucumber Sherpa, and instead will need to re-order fresh seeds each spring.