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Vegetable Garden

Linda Asked

Two questions. My cucumbers are blooming, starting small growth cucumbers and turning yellow and dying instead of growing to full fruit. Why?

Also, I have several tomato plants that have grown (plant wise) really well. They are tall and leafy with blossoms but no tomatoes yet. I planted them in late May.

I have a couple of tomato plants that have yellowing leaves at the base of the plant. Is that anything to worry about?

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The Gardener’s Answer

Hi, Linda: Cucumbers and tomatoes are such a treat to have in the garden. Neither of them come without potential issues. Ideal growing conditions for both are found in full sun and nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. Slowly draining soils are not for tomatoes or cucumbers. This makes them much more vulnerable to rot and fungal problems. The pH should range between 6.2-6.8. If Mother Nature does not provide enough moisture and hand watering is needed, it is best to water in the morning and avoid the foliage. If you have not had your soil tested, this can be done at the Casey County Cooperative Extension Service. I spoke with them earlier and they are still offering this service but to call Reese Baxter at 270-300-2351 for details. It is always good to know if your soil is in need of improvement. Nutrient imbalances can prevent optimal fruit production.

Small cucumbers that turn yellow and drop before maturing sounds like a lack of pollination. Cucumbers and other cucurbits like squash and melon have both male and female flowers on the same plant. The male flowers form first and the female flowers form shortly after. The female flowers can be identified by the immature fruit under the bloom. The pollen from the male flower needs to be transferred to the female flower in order to form fruit. If this does not happen the immature fruit will rot and drop. Cucumbers primarily depend on bees for pollination. Poor pollination is common during rainy and colder weather when the bees are not active. If bees are not present you can try hand pollinating by taking pollen from a male flower and brushing it on the female flower. You can also use a paintbrush to transfer the pollen.

The tomato plants in the picture that you sent look healthy. Go ahead and remove the yellow foliage at the base of the plant but this not a big deal. It is likely a result of inconsistent moisture. Hopefully by now the plants have more flowers and are starting to produce fruit. I have heard your same story from many gardeners this year. Tomatoes will not flower when temperatures are too hot. When daytime temperatures reach 90 degrees F or above and nighttime temperatures don’t fall below 75 degrees F the plants will stop flowering. Too much nitrogen in the soil will promote leafy growth instead of flowers.

For more detailed information on growing vegetables in Kentucky visit:

http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf

Angie Oakley

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