1. Q. I have planted squash and cucumbers in my garden. Do I need to worry about cross-pollination and resulting off-type fruits?

A. Planting cucumbers along with squash in your garden will not result in off-flavor fruit. Odd-tasting fruit from vine crops is not the result of crossing between plants such as cucumbers, cantaloupes and squash. These crops will not normally cross. If they did, the results of this cross would not show up until the seeds from this year's fruit were planted in next year's garden.

2. Q. What causes my cucumbers to often be misshapen and gourdy-looking?

A. Probably poor pollination. Improper pollination caused by lack of insects or pollen killed by hot temperatures can cause misshapen fruit. Moisture stress during development can also misshape fruit. Pollination did occur or the fruit would not be present.

3. Q. Why do my cucumbers bloom without setting fruit?

A. This is a pollination problem. Cucumbers have male and female blooms and for proper fruit set, the pollen must be transferred from the male to the female blooms. This is usually done by pollinating insects, primarily honeybees. If pollen transfer does not take place, fruit will not set.

4. Q. How do you tell the difference between the male and female cucumber bloom?

A. Female blooms have small immature cucumbers located directly behind the petals. Male blooms do not have immature fruit.

5. Q. What causes my cucumbers to become bitter tasting?

A. Any stress on a cucumber plant such as high temperatures, low moisture, low fertility or foliage disease can contribute bitterness. Bitterness is usually associated with fruit harvested late in the season from unhealthy, poor-yielding plants. Once a plant produces bitter fruit, remove it from the garden because all subsequent fruit will be affected in a similar manner.

6. Q. How can you tell the difference between a slicing cucumber and a pickling cucumber?

A. Slicing cucumbers are dark green and are from 6-8 inches in length. Pickling cucumbers are lighter and are short and blocky. If you intend to put up pickles, then grow pickling types. Pickling cucumbers were developed to go through the brining process and will generally produce a higher quality product. If you intend to use cucumbers mainly in salads then rely on slicing types.

7. Q. Are "burpless" cucumbers really burpless?

A. Yes, at least to some people. Some people have gastric problems which prevent them from enjoying fresh cucumbers. The burpless types are milder.

8. Q. Is a gherkin simply a small pickling cucumber?

A. No. Gherkins, also called West Indian or Burr cucumbers produce small, exceptionally spiny fruit used exclusively for pickles. The culture of gherkins is similar to common pickling cucumbers except the plants are smaller and require less space.

9. Q. The leaves of my cucumbers develop yellow spots on the upper side and a downy growth underneath.

A. This is downy mildew, an airborne fungus. It is controlled by using resistant varieties and applying foliage fungicide. The material chlorothalonil has controlled it successfully. Downy mildew is apt to be a problem during the cool, rainy days of spring and early fall.

10. Q. The foliage of my cucumbers is developing brown spots which drop out leaving a tattered effect.

A. This is anthracnose or Alternaria leaf spot. These diseases develop around the crown of the plant and can be controlled with chlorothalonil sprays. Repeated applications will be required at 10 to 14 days.

11. Q. The underside of my cucumber has a spot on it.

A. This is belly rot, caused by the soilborne fungus Rhizoctonia. It can be controlled by caging the cucumber or mulching so the fruit does not contact the soil. Belly rot can also be reduced by growing cucumbers on well drained soil and not applying large amounts of water during the harvest period. Chemical control has not proven satisfactory for the control of this problem.

12. Q. The stems of my cucumber plants are splitting near the crown and a brown ooze forms around these cracks. Soon after that the plants wilt and die.

A. This is gummy stem blight and is controlled by spraying the crown with benomyl at seedling emergence and again at runner formation.

13. Q. The roots of my cucumber plants are covered by large swellings or galls.

A. These are root knot nematodes. Root knot is a species of nematode which causes galls or swellings on plant roots. It restricts the uptake of nutrients from the root system to the foliage, resulting in a yellow and stunted plant. Root knot lives in the soil and can survive on a number of weed and vegetable crops. It is best controlled by planting a solid stand (close enough for root systems to overlap) of marigolds three months before the first killing frost of fall and/or planting cereal rye (Elbon) for a winter cover crop. Cereal rye should be shred and tilled into the soil 30 days before planting a spring crop.

14. Q. After a recent rain, the fruit on my cucumber plants became covered with a white, cottony growth.

A. This is Pythium, a soilborne disease. It is encouraged by heavy rains. There is no chemical control for this. Plant cucumbers in a well-drained area. Using cages or a trellis will also prevent this.

14. Q: Two months ago, I planted some pickling cucumbers. After a few heavy rains and careful watering, the plants took off like crazy. Then about 10 days ago, the plants started to droop, as if they were not getting enough water. I checked the soil, and it still appeared moist. Within days after that, the plants appeared almost completely lifeless. The leaves are curled up and drooping, characterized by an overall yellow tinge. The vines themselves seem strong and healthy.

A: It sounds like squash vine borers have hit your plants. They are hard to kill bugs which can take your plants overnight. This insect attacks all cucurbits the same way. A good way to prevent this damage is dust the main stalk of the plant with Sevin dust.

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