Growing Cucumbers in Texas
Cucumbers are super easy to grow and very prolific producers. Cucumbers are a low-calorie food with small amounts of potassium, vitamin C, magnesium and fiber.
Cucumber Varieties: There are many varieties of cucumbers. Two varieties that I like to grow are Persian and English cucumbers. Both have hardly any seeds and a thin skin that does not need to be peeled. Persian cucumbers are small, usually 4" to 5" long while English cucumbers are 12" to 15" long. Persian cucumbers are sweeter and crunchier and have less water than the milder tasting English cucumbers.
Cucumbers are self-pollinating. They make male and female flowers on the same plant. Pollen from male flowers is carried to female flowers by pollinators. You can also hand pollinate the female flowers by dipping a tiny paint brush in a fresh male flower to pick up the yellow pollen and then gently dip it in the female flower. Pollinating is easier to do when the flowers open up fully by late morning.
Only female flowers turn into cucumbers. If you look closely, you will see a very tiny ovary or cucumber-to-be above the female flower. Male flowers will eventually fall off the plant. So don't worry when you see some yellow blossoms on the ground.
When to Plant Cucumbers in Texas:
Cucumbers are easily grown from seeds planted directly in the garden after all danger of frost has passed (March 21st - 2nd week in April usually). Cucumber vines will grow along the ground or climb a trellis. I would advise planting them along a trellis because the trellis saves space, it keeps your cucumbers clean, and it lessens the amount of splattered water and dirt that could contribute to powdery mildew.
Types of Trellises:
There are many types of trellises you can buy or create. Cucumbers send out a lot of thin curling tendrils that curl around forms to anchor the plant and help support the weight of the cucumbers. The tendrils seem to choose to curl around thin structures such as wires. For this reason, I would choose a cucumber trellis that is made of mesh wire or something similar. Rolls of 4" square wire fencing, and feedlot panels are ideal materials. They are available at hardware and farm supply stores. The roll of wire fencing is very versatile for creating flat panels, or A-frames over 2"x4" boards, an elegant arch, or even a tubular form. You can also buy small wire folding A-frame trellis.
Build one long raised mound row along the base of the trellis that is 12" wide and 4" tall. If not using a trellis, build 12" wide x 4" tall individual mounds spaced 18" apart. Plant seeds 1/2" deep in well-drained soil with aged compost or manure in full sun. Cover seeds with fine soil and gently mist the mounds with water. Seedlings will emerge in 7-10 days.
Once the plants have at least two sets of leaves, thin them to 12" apart along the trellis, or 1 plant per mound.
Cucumbers likes moisture and good drainage. You can also add straw or other mulch over the top of the soil to help maintain the moisture level. It is good to water in the evening so the plants can enjoy the moisture longer over the night hours.
Cucumber vines mature in 60 days. They produce cucumbers for a few months. Harvest Persian cucumbers when they are only 4 to 5 inches long and English cucumbers when 12 to 15 inches long. Harvest them by cutting the stems with scissors or a paring knife (don't pull on the vines). Cucumbers are tastiest and have less seeds when smaller.
If you do want to grow seeds for your next crop, then wait until the end of the season and allow one cucumber to grow large and produce seeds (for heirloom varieties).
Wash cucumbers and set them on a towel to air dry until they are almost dry to the touch. Then place them in the vegetable crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
Culinary Uses for Cucumbers:
Cucumbers can be used in salads, cucumber water, green smoothies, sauces such as tzatziki, pickled, or cooked.
Pests and Diseases:
Cucumber pests include aphids and cucumber beetles (small lime green beetles with black spots). The most common disease is powdery mildew (leaves have a white, powdery appearance). The pests and powdery mildew can be treated with organic neem oil sprayed on the plants (mix as recommended on the bottle). Never store neem oil, always use it fresh.
A homemade treatment for powdery mildew:
Make a spray solution out of the following ingredients: 1 tablespoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of a biodegradable liquid dish soap such as Seventh Generation, mixed into 1 gallon of water. Shake well and add to a spray bottle. Spray the plant in the evening, when sunlight is not shining on the leaves.
- Planting Time: Spring, after the last frost (March 21st - April)
- Light: Full sun
- Seed Planting Depth: 1/2"
- Soil: well-drained, with aged compost or manure
- Spacing: 12" apart if grown on a trellis
- Water: Likes moisture, add a layer of straw or other mulch to maintain moisture
- Height: 6' tall vines
- Culinary Use: Salads, tabouli, green smoothies, tzatziki.