When to grow cucumber in central Texas?
Cucumbers are warm-season crops, grow them in central Texas after all danger of frost has passed. Usually, that is around the last half of April.
One needs to mention that the heat of summer, in central Texas, is brutal on most fruiting plants. When the temperatures reach the 100s during the day and above 80 at night, the plants stop setting fruits.
To get the most out of the season, Texas gardeners grow cucumbers in two intervals. The first one starts in Spring, around April, for the early summer harvest. Then the second planting happens in July for a fall harvest. Make sure to provide some shade and plenty of water during the second planting.
Do we grow cucumbers in pots, raised beds, or in the ground?
Cucumbers are equally easy to grow in pots, raised beds, or directly in the ground. Whichever method of gardening you go with, there should not be any major problems.
However, pot gardening is a bit challenging in hot regions. Pot gardening requires frequent as they do dry out quickly during the hot summer days.
Another problem with pot gardening is the lack of nutrients. As the plant grows, it depletes the potting soil from the existing nutrients. So, a consistent application of fertilizer is important to keep the plant going.
Raised beds and ground planting are less demanding and quite forgiving. The plant has the freedom to send its roots deeper into the ground, looking for water as well as nutrients.
Do I start cucumber seeds or direct sow?
The common practice is to direct sow the seeds in the soil. In Central Texas springtime is the best time to plant cucumbers, summer is too hot for planting. The bad news is that spring is very short, which makes starting the seeds indoors convenient to get a decent harvest before summer settles in.
Start seeds two weeks before the last frost day. Cucumber seed germinates quickly, four to five days if first of packing. They may take longer if they are older.
How to start cucmber seeds?
- The right container: Cucumbers do not appreciate too much handling. Disturbing the roots may stress the plant at transplanting time. It is best to avoid using the seed starting cells, instead use 2-inch size containers.
- Good seed starting soil: Proper soil is important to ensure seed germination. It has to be airy and well-draining while retaining enough moisture for the seed to sprout. Use special seed starting mix or make your own. Click Here to visit my other post on how to make your seed starting mix.
- Light: Every seed needs light to germinate. The perfect light is sunlight, use a greenhouse or a windowsill with good exposure. If not, use an imitation light source like daylight fluorescent shop light. There are lights designed specifically for seed starting if you choose to invest in one.
- The right depth: Plant the seed at the right depth. The rule of thumb is to plant it twice its size deeper.
- Water: The seed needs to absorb water to germinate. However, give it just the right amount, no less no more. Soil should always be moist and not wet.
- Keep the seedlings healthy: Once the first true leaves appear, begin a regular fertilization regimen with low concentration. Water regularly without drowning the baby plants.
If you wish to know more about seed starting basics, click here.
What type of soil to grow cucumbers?
Cucumbers require fertile and well-draining soil. Amend heavy soil with compost to lighten it up. Leaf mold/ compost is a good amendment too.
How much sunlight do cucumbers need to grow?
Like many flowering plants, cucumbers need at least seven hours of direct sunlight to produce. However, in Texas, the sun is a bit too harsh, so afternoon shade is welcome.
How to water cucumber plants?
Water regularly your cucumber plants, don’t allow them to stay dry for too long. That might stress them out and hinder their growth as well as production.
Do a soil test by inserting your finger an inch deep in the soil. If it comes out dry, it is time to water. If not, no watering is needed. With practice, you will eventually know how long it takes for your soil to dry out.
A good watering practice is to water the soil and not the foliage. Water droplets remaining on the leaves act as magnifiers under the sun, causing them to burn. And that brings up the best time to water, which is later in the evening. If you have an automated watering system, it is best to set it up for nighttime. This will prevent water loss due to evaporation.
How Do I space cucumber plants?
Cucumbers are vining plants, so they don’t need a lot of ground space as far as planting goes. But, consider giving them support to prevent them from sprawling everywhere.
Plant cucumbers one foot apart if you have very limited space. If you have plenty, it is best to space them 18″ to two feet apart to reduce the spread of any disease or pest as the vines entangle.
Do cucumber plants need a trellis?
As mentioned above, cucumbers have a vine-like growth habit. If there is nothing to climb on, they crawl on the ground and hang onto anything.
There are many trellising ideas out there. My favorite trellis is a D-I-Y project using PVC pipes, PVC couplers, R-bars, and bamboo sticks. This trellis works well in small gardens with limited space.
The trellis is 6 feet high and 4 feet wide. At first, I used jute twine to make the netting, but then it didn’t hold well against the summer heat and the weight of the fruits.
I then weaved bamboo poles in between into a grid and attached them to the PVC frame. I use the R-bar to anchor the whole frame into the ground.
For extra strength, I screw in two t-posts on each side of the trellis’ legs. This prevents it from falling or leaning over when strong spring winds blow.
Most vegetables and cucumbers are no different need their regular feeding. It doesn’t matter if you garden organically or conventionally, just follow the directions on the bottle.
For organic gardeners, you might use a dry slow-release fertilizer at planting time. This initial application gives a good boost for the plant to establish itself and take off. Along the growing season, apply a liquid feed every three weeks. Either drench the plant with it or foliar feed using a hand sprayer.
The plants need three main nutrients: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. Each nutrient has a specific role in the plant’s growth.
Nitrogen encourages green growth. Phosphorus promotes flowering and fruiting. Potassium has a major impact on the plant’s overall lively functions.
The numbers are always in the following order NPK. For healthy growth, choose a fertilizer with a higher first number. Then, to encourage fruiting, the middle number should be higher.
Depending on the variety, the cucumber is ready for harvest when it reaches the size it is expected to be. Check the seed packet or look up the variety you are growing to figure out what you should be looking for.
The following are the most common problems a home gardener would face while growing cucumbers.
There are a few annoying pests that attack the cucumber vine.
- Spider mites are tiny insects that live by sucking on the leaf sap. They spread fast if not kept them under control. Wash them off with a regular spray of seaweed solution. Apply every other day to disrupt their reproductive cycle.
- Stink bugs are armored-like insects at the adult stage, or red and spider-like at the juvenile stage. They suck the fruit juices leaving a scar on the skin. They also multiply quickly, look for them in the morning and catch them. Use a jar filled with soapy water and knock them into it. Avoid squishing them as they emit a stinky smell.
- Aphids are small green or black insects, mostly found on the new growth. Wash them off with a jet of water to dislodge them and disrupt their reproduction cycle.
Why my cucumber plant has no fruit?
If the cucumber plant looks good and healthy, but there are no fruits. The main reason t is lack of pollination. But there may be other reasons why that is happening.
- Not enough sunlight: all fruiting plants need no less than six hours of direct sunlight. Some shade doesn’t hurt in the afternoon but not too much.
- Stress: many factors can cause stress on the plant; root disturbance at planting time, irregular watering, or bad pest damage.
- Lack of pollination: If the plant has female flowers but they are not developing into fruits, that is due to lack of pollination. You may want to take over the job and hand pollinate. Try plant pollinator-attracting flower in the garden.
- High temperatures: Temperature has a great impact on fruit production. During the hot summer, most fruiting plants stop setting fruit. Be patient and look forward to Fall.
- Using the wrong fertilizer: make sure to use a fertilizer with a higher middle number, which is phosphorus. Otherwise, the plant will put on a lot of free growth but no flowers.
One Practice that I found very beneficial to encourage fruiting is to prune the vine. Look for the lateral growth and cut it off. This new growth will become another vine and suck all the energy from the main one. By stopping it, we are sending all the energy to the main vine, which will result in more production.
Pruning vines, also, helps with reducing disease spread and pest infestation.
Why my cucumbers taste bitter?
The bitterness of the cucumbers is due to stress or lack of water. The solution is to water regularly or plant a non-bitter cultivar.
Personally, I have been lucky with “Japanese” and “Tendergreen burpless” cucumber varieties. They tasted great even when forgotten on the vine and passed their prime time.
Why my cucumber plants are wilting?
If the plant is well-maintained and watered, this might be nothing to worry about. During the heat of the day, leaves droop as a sign of heat stress. This occurs when water evaporation, also known as transpiration, is faster than water absorption.
Healthy plants should recover at the end of the day. If the leaves do not perk up by morning, it is time to water thoroughly. If the wilting persists, that might be a sign that the plant is giving up and dying. The cause might be a lack of water, disease, or advanced bug damage.
Cucumbers in the kitchen
Cucumbers are refreshing summer vegetables. They are found in every cuisine around the world. Other than eating them raw or adding them to sandwiches, some of our favorite cucumber recipes are:
- Cucumber pickles
- Cucumber kimchi
- Asian cucumber salad
- Middle Eastern garden salad