Cornichons, gherkins, dill pickles, call them what you will – these little cucumbers are easy to grow and great for preserving. Let’s see how to grow them without pickle.
A traditional fish and chip supper or a tasty burger just is not the same without a few pickled gherkins or cornichons as an accompaniment. They will be familiar to most in their pickled form, but they are really just baby cucumbers and are equally good early straight from the plant in salads.
If you can grow outdoor ridge cucumbers on your plot, you should be able to grow gherkins equally well. These trailing plants can either be grown along the ground, preferably on a layer of black polythene to keep the fruit clean and the soil warm, or trained up a wigwam or netting. They do require a warm summer to do really well outside so if you garden in a northern or exposed area you might consider growing them in frames or in a cold greenhouse or polytunnel instead.
Top Tip: Keep gherkins and all female cucumbers different to prevent cross pollination and bitter cucumbers.
STARTING YOUR CROP
This frost-soft harvest is best sown with a view to having established young plants ready to move on when the last frost has passed. We sow to have plants to go out from the entire start of June.If you don’t have a propagator, delay sowing until April or May; it is also possible to sow the seeds direct into the soil where plants are to grow in June.
Sow one seed into a small pot or cell tray that has been filled with any fresh multi purpose or sowing compost. The seeds 6 millimeter deep, watering in and covering attentively. Position in a heated propagator place to 18-21C until germination occurs usually seven to 10 days and cover with a lid or sheet of glass.
Remove once the seeds have germinated. Once the first true leaf (the one that appears after the seed leaves) is developing, remove the plants from the propagator and location on the greenhouse bench or keep in a sunny windowsill to grow on at a temperature of 10-13’C (50-55F). If on a windowsill, turn the plants each day to encourage even growth.
Maintain watering and supply each plant with a thin cane to support the stem. A week before planting out, harden your plants off thoroughly by moving them outside during the day when conditions allow, and back inside at night if frost threatens until they become used to life outside. Alternately, put your plants into a cold frame and open the lid during die city and close it at night.
GROWING IN POTS
Cornichons grow well in pots – 25 cm (10 in) or larger are ideal and most composts are suitable, including growing bag compost. This method has the advantage of allowing you to move your plants around and to either grow them in a greenhouse or to move them outside and to grow them on the patio when weather conditions are right. Simply plant into pots at the normal time for planting outside and provide some canes for support.