Growing cucumbers in Uganda is gaining momentum courtesy of a growing health-conscious middle class, influx of expatriates from major cucumber consuming countries and increased awareness about its nutritional value.
Although there are no readily available statistics on how much cucumber is grown in Uganda, Monica Nabirye who grows them in Luweero says growing fast-maturing crops as cucumber translates into generous income within a short period.
Nabirye says cucumber can grow in any space; the plant has sprawling vines with large green leaves.
She says cucumbers do well in well-drained, fertile soils. Soils should be high in organic matter with nearly a neutral pH.
“With appropriate care, growth of this plant is fast and it yields in abundance. Seeds take three-10 days to germinate into seedlings,” she says.
Common varieties include; salad bush hybrid, Bush champion, Pickle bush space Master, Midgets Bush pickle among others.
According to Nabirye, planting cucumber can be done on hills or in rows. Hills are a traditional method of growing cucumbers; it requires you to create mounds of soil approximately 2ft in diameter, and six-eight inches high.
Hills should be built 6ft away from each other so that the vines have room to spread.
For a person interested, Nabirye says you drill five holes into the hill giving them three inches spacing apart.
The holes should be one inch or one-two cm deep. Place a seed in each hole, cover with soil and then water.
Alternatively for the rows, create raised rows of soil approximately four-six inches high.
The raised rows will provide additional warmth for the plants.
When growing multiple rows, ensure they are spaced 6ft apart from each other to create room for vines to grow upwards.
Once the rows are in place, plant the cucumber seeds one inch or 1-2 cm deep and six inches apart.
Gently cover with soil and water the soil to keep the ground moist.
Harvesting should be done when cucumber gets a suitable size.
This is normally around 50-60 days after planting. The skin of the fruit should be dark green.
Uses of cucumber
Sharon Naluwende, a nutritionist at Mulago Hospital says they are a good source of vitamin B and ascorbic acid which do not only boost the immune system but are also associated with healthy skin condition.
What makes cucumbers bitter?
Denis Kimuli, a trader in Kawempe, Kampala, says when cucumbers are grown in extremely cool temperatures and limited soil moisture, they tend to become bitter.
“Cucumbers are mostly water, so they need regular moisture to do well,” Kimuli says.
“You need to control pests and remove any disfigured fruits from the plants. They are a sign of incomplete pollination caused by extreme weather conditions and low soil fertility. One has to feed the plants and water them well,” he advises.
With their benefits and fairly good demand on the market, cucumbers should be on your list of vegetables to grow.