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Burpless Cucumbers Dying -- HELP!

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Burpless Cucumbers Dying -- HELP!

Post  ISheen19 on 5/11/2013, 2:20 am

This is my first year gardening ever, and so far I am loving the SFG method. It's so rewarding seeing things grow and using it to provide natural, healthy food for my family! Everything has been growing so well (tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, strawberries, etc.), but I'm starting to get a little discouraged by my cucumbers.

I planted 2 cucumber plants from seed and so far they have been doing great--very healthy green, growing up the trellis, I water it frequently, which is needed especially in our hot desert climate. About a month ago I got really excited because I started seeing flowers with baby cucumbers... but then they started taking a really long time to get anywhere. So it crossed my mind that it might have to do with pollination. Looked it up on here and on google and read about the female/male flowers. Then I discovered that apparently the burpless/seedless varieties (which is what I have - Asian burpless) only produce female flowers and therefore, self-pollinate...? Okay, so that put my fears to rest and I decided to just wait and see if that was true.

Lo and behold, a few days later one of the first flowers grew into a nice, long beautiful cuke. I just harvested it a few days ago. Then a week ago I discovered my first (and ONLY) male flower. But by the time I was able to get to it to try to hand-pollinate a female or two (the next day) the male flower was already shriveling up.

I don't understand what's going on... thinking I keep getting females but now they grow to about an inch or two before I notice they start to brown and eventually shrivel up. I've had only one male and about 2-3 dozen females on my two plants. (Which doesn't make sense because I thought burpless don't produce males, and if that's really the case, why are my females not self-pollinating?) I'm getting really discouraged because I feel like it's all lost. I go out every day to check on my garden, and search my cukes in hopes that there are either males or that at least SOME of the fruit is growing. Do I just need to keep waiting and seeing? Has anyone else had this problem? Any suggestions on what I need to do?
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Re: Burpless Cucumbers Dying -- HELP!

Post  Pollinator on 5/11/2013, 8:54 am

@ISheen19 wrote:About a month ago I got really excited because I started seeing flowers with baby cucumbers... but then they started taking a really long time to get anywhere. So it crossed my mind that it might have to do with pollination. Looked it up on here and on google and read about the female/male flowers. Then I discovered that apparently the burpless/seedless varieties (which is what I have - Asian burpless) only produce female flowers and therefore, self-pollinate...? Okay, so that put my fears to rest and I decided to just wait and see if that was true.

Lo and behold, a few days later one of the first flowers grew into a nice, long beautiful cuke. I just harvested it a few days ago. Then a week ago I discovered my first (and ONLY) male flower. But by the time I was able to get to it to try to hand-pollinate a female or two (the next day) the male flower was already shriveling up.

I don't understand what's going on... thinking I keep getting females but now they grow to about an inch or two before I notice they start to brown and eventually shrivel up. I've had only one male and about 2-3 dozen females on my two plants. (Which doesn't make sense because I thought burpless don't produce males, and if that's really the case, why are my females not self-pollinating?) I'm getting really discouraged because I feel like it's all lost. I go out every day to check on my garden, and search my cukes in hopes that there are either males or that at least SOME of the fruit is growing. Do I just need to keep waiting and seeing? Has anyone else had this problem? Any suggestions on what I need to do?

You are confusing burpless with gynoecious and seedless. There is no such thing as a "self pollinating" cucumber.

"Burpless" has nothing to do with pollination. It simply means that the plant has been bred to be low in the compound that gives the bitter taste. Burpless varieties can be seeded or not seeded.

Seedless cucumbers are "parthenocarpic" that is, that they can produce fruit without pollination. These are usually grown in greenhouses or under row covers, because, if pollinated, the quality of the fruit is degraded by coarse seeds. This is not "self pollination," however. It is "NO pollination," which is the preferred mode here.

Most cucumber varieties require pollination, and are self fertile, that is that the pollen from a male flower on a plant can be used on a female flower on the same plant. This is not self pollination, however, as it still requires bees (pollinators) to move the pollen.

Some hybrids have been developed (mostly for commercial use) to produce a lot more, in fact, almost all female flowers. These have special pollination needs, because you must have another variety, a "pollenizer" variety to provide male flowers with viable pollen.

I don't understand why seed compainies sell gynoecious hybrids to the public, because of their special pollination needs. This seems to be what you have. Not only do they need a separate pollenizer plant, but they need a very high level of bee population. In standard variety cucumber fields USDA recommends that one bee hive per acre be placed for pollination, but with gynoecious hybrids they recommend THREE hives per acre. Very few home gardens would naturally have this high a level of bee populations.

Your recourse is to find a neighbor or friend who has some standard variety cucumber and "borrow" a few male flowers for hand pollination. I don't know of any other way to save the day for this season. Most cucumber varieties produce male flowers in abundance, so they ought to be willing to share a few.

It doesn't matter which variety, since you are not trying to save seed (and you wouldn't have the technical wherewithal to raise seed for gynoecious hybrids, anyway); you are trying to get fruit. So any viable cucumber pollen is what is needed.

It's best to do hand pollination in the morning as soon as dew is dried.

Here's a good resource for more details on cucumber pollination:
http://gardensouth.org/2011/07/21/why-are-my-cucumber-falling-off-or-becoming-deformed/
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Re: Burpless Cucumbers Dying -- HELP!

Post  quiltbea on 5/11/2013, 10:59 am

Pollinator.....Thank you very much for a very informative description of cucumber life in the garden. It sure helps me understand better.
And the link attached was also very helpful. I think I need more bees in my garden, hence more flower pots to draw them close.
Thank you.
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Re: Burpless Cucumbers Dying -- HELP!

Post  camprn on 5/11/2013, 11:31 am

@quiltbea wrote:Pollinator.....Thank you very much for a very informative description of cucumber life in the garden. It sure helps me understand better.
And the link attached was also very helpful. I think I need more bees in my garden, hence more flower pots to draw them close.
Thank you.
+1 GO BEES! Wink

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Re: Burpless Cucumbers Dying -- HELP!

Post  ISheen19 on 5/12/2013, 5:22 pm

Pollinator, thanks for your very informative reply. My bad in thinking that burpless and seedless terminology were interchangeable.

Since I don't have readily available any neighbors that are gardening cucumbers, I think my plants are pretty much a lost cause. I just went out to my garden before reading your reply and had been thinking it might be time to pull them up. I have a very basic understanding of botany and even I can see these plants aren't going to bear any fruit.

Well, live and learn. I will definitely keep all this in mind next year when I try again! And be more aware of the seed varieties I purchase! I had been so excited about starting a garden, I didn't plan as well as I c/should have. Thanks again for your help. Smile
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Re: Burpless Cucumbers Dying -- HELP!

Post  Pollinator on 5/12/2013, 10:54 pm

So sorry! I was hoping you could find a way to get some pollen. Good luck next year.
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