The Q&A Archives: Problems With Cucumbers

Question: Hi, I planted cucumbers and they were doing fine then all of a sudden the stems became almost transparent and the plants died. The best way for me to describe the stem is that they look like something sucked the juice out of the stem and they collapsed. The thing is I don't see any bugs or fungus and not all the plants were affected. We have had about 7 days of rainy, cloudy humid weather and very little sun, could this have anything to do with it? I'm at my wits end. Thanks Dorothy

Answer: I'm sorry to hear about your poor cucumbers! Though it's almost impossible to diagnose a plant problem without seeing the symptoms, I can give you some ideas of what the problem might be given the circumstances. It could well be bacterial wilt. The bacterium is transferred among plants by cucumber beetles, and it is worst in humid, cool weather. The bacteria multiply within the plant tissues, causing them to wilt and collapse. If the conditions are right, the disease can kill plants within a few days. Once infected, it's best to just pull up the plants and start over again. Cover the vines with fabric row covers to protect them from cucumber beetles. When they blossom, uncover them to allow bees in to pollinate the flowers. Keep them covered as long as possible. The plants will be stronger and better able to resist infection. If you have high populations of beetles, it's best to use a repellent spray, such as Surround at Home (available from Gardens Alive). It's a fully organic product that has had good success in reducing damage by cucumber beetles when used as directed. Also, keep your plants as healthy as possible by making sure they get consistent moisture. If the soil is heavy or poorly drained, build raised beds and incorporate compost into the soil before planting. Mulch will help keep the soil evenly moist. Fertilizer judiciously -- plants that lack for nutrients, and those that are over fertilized are more attractive to pests. To read more about caring for cucumbers, read the Vine Crop Care article at

Also, if you planted young seedlings into the garden without letting them become gradually acclimated to the sun and wind, they may have suffered sunburn/windburn and dried up. But if you planted seeds right in the garden, this wouldn't be a problem, and the bacterial wilt is the more likely culprit. Best of luck to you!

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