Although we are self-sufficient in all veg, we still buy fruits out of season. We make an exception for cucumbers though. Home grown cucumbers are so crunchy and fresh tasting we just can't downgrade to shop bought imitations.
As a result we grow a lot of them and we grow eat for a long time (April to November) because everyone loves them.
Because they are so tasty we now only grow snack sized ones too, because that's how they mainly get eaten.
I use a rating system to help me decide what to grow and it considers lots of factors, but the main ones are how tasty it is, healthy it is to eat, how expensive it is to buy, how big it's harvest is, when it's harvest period is and whether I can buy it organically and if not how much it's sprayed.
Cucumbers score highly in this system. They are incredibly tasty, so much better than shop bought and I don't say that for a lot of fruit (home grown doesn't always taste better). They are moderately healthy, most of the benefit comes from the skin and seeds, so small ones are much better than big ones. They are very prolific, a single plant can produce at least £30 worth of cucumbers and take up hardly any space and they also grow well early and late in the season, given enough night time warmth.
Cucumbers are very versatile, choose the right varieties and they can grow outside on the ground, or climb. They respond well to the warmth of a greenhouse or polytunnel, in containers, in the ground or even in large hanging baskets. They also grow well in a conservatory in containers, provided they get 6-8 hours of sun.
In my climate it's always best to start the plants indoors and to keep potting on to a minimum. The plants are vining and they grow very long, with cucumbers forming at the leaf junctions. These new cucumbers can form at any point on the vine, which seems strange, but true. I have a plant right now that has a 10 foot long vine with fruits at the very end, middle and start of the vine, it's been fruiting for 5 months!
Depending on the variety plants can produce male and female lowers, but if pollen from a male flower, fertilises a female one the fruits will be bitter. It's possible to remove male flowers before they open, but life is too short, so I only buy varieties that produce female flowers.
The leaves often develop mildew, but don't despair, cut off the very worst of them, but leave the rest, the plants will keep producing regardless.
For more details on the model that I use for describing harvest periods (first earlies, second earlies etc) please see the chapter on my growing framework
I grow my cucumbers for a very long season and as a result my timings and techniques are not for everyone. If you want to grow like everyone else, the RHS is a good place to start, if you love cucumbers and want eat them from April until November, my way is worth a read.
Cucumbers need lots of warmth and light. At night they need at least 50f/10c at night and for us that means we can only grow first earlies in the conservatory. We start the plants in February in a propagator, use only room temperature water and compost. We plant our first plants high up to maximise light and use deep troughs, which hold the water well.
Cucumbers up high to get maximum light and heat
Water little and often and by that I mean once every few days in early spring, once a day in late spring, twice a day in summer. I give them about 1/2 a litre per trough per water.
We harvest from late April until late-August from the same plants, they vine along strings and trail down from the trough and look lovely!