The Q&A Archives: Pale Cucumber Leaves

Question: I have 2 Burpee Bush Champion cuke plants growing in a large plastic flowerpot (48" tall, 36" diameter). The pot was new at planting time - nothing else grown in it in prior years. The planting medium is half garden soil and half soilless mix. Before the last 8" of soil went in the pot, I added a 1" layer of compost. The plants have been fed every 2 weeks with liquid fish emulsion fertilizer. The pot is in full sun with plenty of air circulation, and is watered deeply when the soil seems dry 3" down.

The plants have produced a few cucumbers, and have lots of flowers, but the leaves all seem paler in color then they were two weeks ago. Although a few leaves seemed to show signs of powdery mildew, this condition appears to have passed. Could the yellowing be due to the fish fertilizer? The stated analysis is 5-1-1. I'm a bit low on compost. Would Miracle-Gro be a better choice at this stage?

Finally, The vines have reached the ground (48" from the pot's edge). I know they're bush cukes, but they still seem to be heading to another neighborhood! Is this normal for this variety?

Answer: Container grown veggies are notoriously heavy feeders. It is possible that the plants are suffering from a fertility or nutrient deficiency -- I don't believe the fish fertilizer in and of itself would cause yellowing. You might try a top dressing of compost along with using a water soluble fertilizer which contains "minors" in addition to the basic N-P-K. You might also look for a more balanced formula such as 10-10-10 and be sure to apply it according to the label instructions for "active growth". Finally, you might also try increasing the water somewhat now that the plants are so much larger. You need to keep the plants in vigorous growth to keep them producing.

The yellowing might also be a disease or insect problem in its early stages, so look very carefully at the undersides of the leaves and along the stems for signs of anything unusual.

With regard to the size, these plants are about a third the normal size but I am surprised they are vining so dramatically. I suppose it is always possible the tags got switched (if you purchased the plants).

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