Cucumbers are an excellent warm season crop that is showing up in gardens and at farmers’ markets now. Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus), part of the Cucurbitaceae family that includes melons and squashes, are a refreshing vegetable to grow in the summer as they contain over 95% water. They originate from Asia, likely from India, and they have been cultivated for over 3,000 years. In fact, the legend of King Gilgamesh references the tasty vegetable around 2500 BC in the Middle East! Cucumbers eventually made their way into gardens in Europe and were referred to as “cowcumbers” by English writers. They also spread to Africa and the Americas over several centuries and are now grown in tropical and temperate climates alike.
Cucumbers come in all shapes and sizes. They are typically categorized in two ways: “pickling” cucumbers, which are small, have thin skins and are made into pickles by brining with salt, and “slicing” cucumbers, which are longer, have thicker skins, and are great for slicing and eating fresh. Slicing varieties to grow in Texas include Poinsett, Straight Eight, and Market More. Popular Texas pickling varieties are Carolina, Fancypak, and National Pickling.
In Central Texas, cucumbers are planted two weeks after the last frost of the New Year, from March to April, or August through early November well before the first frost of winter. Cucumbers prefer full sun in larger garden areas or contained with cages or trellises, as their vines tend to creep several feet and take over garden spaces.
If you planted cucumbers this summer, here are some tips on how to take care of the plants to ensure a healthy crop.