Tuesday, September 09, 2008


two cukes sliced cukes
I have been picking two types of cucumbers this year. A few beautiful long cukes and a lot of small round and very seedy cukes. I'm trying to figure out which variety they are, so I don't grow the round ones again. My cucumber vines have all grown together and I'm not sure which is what.

This year I planted:
Cucumber, Rocky (1 6-pack, planted April 21)
Cucumber, Striped Armenian (1 6-pack, planted April 21)
Cucumber, Sumter Pickling (1 6-pack, planted May 3)
Cucumber, Straight Eight (1 6-pack, planted May 10)

I can't figure out which of these varieties would produce fat round fruit. Maybe a package had the wrong seed?

I think its more likely that the ugly cukes are Sumters and/or Straight Eights that are misshaped because of poor soil conditions. I had run out of prepared garden space when planting the cukes, so I quickly dug a new bed and planted them without any soil additions. The soil pH was 5.5 and the phosphorus and nitrogen levels were very low. I remembered this after a few weeks, and fertilized and limed then. Probably too little, too late.

Note added: It looks like the problem is AGAIN the lack of honeybees! see comments...

Here's a website that posts the latest news on honeybee decline around the world (HoneyBeeQuiet.com).

bees (Hymenoptera)


Anonymous said...

Whatever their proper ID, they look delicious!

jimmycrackedcorn said...

I grew many cucumbers identical to your round one there. I only planted the straight 8 this year. They grew alongside the fill sized ones on the same vines, so I assumed it was a partial pollination. I was reading somewhere that there are actually 3 parts of the flower that need to get pollinated to grow nice straight cucumbers. If just 1 or 2 parts get pollen, you get things like this.

kathy said...

Oh my. How interesting! Its because of the honeybee problem again!

As usual, I had to look up all sort of things:

I found that Straight Eight cucumbers are monoecious. (Some cukes are parthenocarpic and develop fruit without fertilization, e.g. Rocky, which I also grew this year, is a gynoecious and parthenocarpic.) (Monoecious: having separate male and female reproductive flowers on the same plant.)

Also, I see that cucumbers are classified as a simple fruit that develops from a single ovary. But all of the seeds need a pollen grain for proper fruit development.

A very nice article is here, from the Beekeeper's Handbook. "It takes several trips by many bees, for example, to adequately pollinate one apple or one cucumber, because there are many seeds in each fruit and each one needs a pollen grain. For cucumbers this is essential, since the female blossom lasts only ONE DAY. Pollen must be moved from the male flower to the female flower before it closes up for the night..... To get a cucumber fruit, honey bees must visit the staminate and pistillate flowers often to make sure all the seeds set. Since the staminate flower only lasts a few hours, the pistillate flower must have over 20 visits before a perfect cucumber is formed.... For the most part, honey bees are the best pollinators."

Anonymous said...

hi, i love your blog

anyway, im just starting a vegetable garden. What vegetables would you reccomend?

I have some experience with growing plants, but not a vegetable garden.

kathy said...

Well, it depends on where you're located and when you planting.

I think beans and lettuce are great vegetables for a first garden. Lettuce is nice because it sprouts and grows so quickly, as long as the weather is not too hot. Same with beans, except they need nice warm weather.

My favorite lettuce varieties are Prizehead and Black seeded simpson. My favorite green beans are Provider and Maxibel.

If you're in a northern climate and are starting up next spring, (or Australia now) you could plant some peas (try Sugar Sprint Snap pea, if you like snap peas) in April. They're always fun.

And then, the main reason for growing a vegetable garden for most people is for tomatoes. You should try a few tomatoes plants too. My favorites are Big Girl (or New Girl) and Brandywine.

Have fun!

jimmycrackedcorn said...

Good research on the pollination! I stand better informed now. The bees are VERY important. I've been teaching my boys this all summer long.

Anonymous said...

That is interesting about the ways bees pollinate. I had one cucumber plant, and after losing many baby fruits, I attempted to pollinate them myself. My problem was my plant only had female flowers. I had to use the pollen from my squash, and pollinated the cukes that way. It certainly worked, but I did get some very funny looking cukes!!

Anonymous said...

I had no luck with cukes this year -- I harvested 1 cuke early in the season, and then had several round ones like those pictured. What is strange is that the cukes are near the squash, which had loads of bees pollinating, and near several kinds of flowers also covered with bees. I didn't think to see if the cukes had bees as I usually notice the bees as I pick. Hmmm.

How do you prepare your beds for cukes? Do you have any tips? I've never had great success with them.
Ali in Maine

kathy said...

My cukes were near my squash too. And I got way too many squash this year.

I had a nice big squash bed that always had lots of male and female flowers open. I think a reason for my poor cuke pollination may have been because I had very few plants they weren't very healthy. The bees can't pollinate if there's only one flower open at a time.

Cucumbers and squash like a nice rich soil. I like to grow a winter cover crop and then in the spring I cover this with and inch or two of compost and then turn it all under. I also add lime and fertilizer based on a soil test result. Cukes like a pH of 6-6.5. The past few years, I have done this and used a mulch of salt marsh hay and my cukes have done great.

This year I did nothing for the cuke bed... No wonder they didn't grow well. I prepared the squash bed as above this year (but no winter cover crop or mulch) and it did great.