The Q&A Archives: Yellowing/wilting Leave On Bush-type Cucumbers

Question: I started Salad Bush cucumbers indoors in early April and transplanted to containers on my 11th floor terrace in mid-May. The first week outside, they plants looked fine - they had a few flowers when I put them out and have gotten more since. This past week, after a solid week of sunless, rainy days and cool, rainy nights (low 50's), my plants have developed yellow leaves on the bottom and the wilt seems to be moving up the plants. The containers are big enough, the soil is a good container mix, I mixed a 12-10-5 time release fertilizer into the soil and the plants have sufficient water. I read that cucumbers don't like weather below 50 degrees, so I watched them closely and even brought them inside one night when I thought the temps might go below 50. Help! Could it be the lack of sun and warmth? Am I doing something worng? Will they recover when the sun comes back?? Is there anything I can do in the meantime??

Answer: You've been so good to your cucumbers, I hope they have rebounded by now! The cold, damp weather certainly would slow their growth. It may also have encouraged the growth of fungal organisms, such as powdery mildew or pythium (which can cause root rot, wilt, and mold growth on leaves). Even if the containers they are in have good drainage, relentless rain can waterlog soil and stress the plant, at worst, leading to root rot. If this kind of weather develops again, see if you can shelter the pots from the rain. Otherwise, just make sure they get as much sun as possible.

If this batch of cukes succumbed, you still have time to grow more cukes from seed right on your patio. Also, if seedlings that bloom prematurely under stress, usually from being rootbound or from cycles of drying out between waterings. Cucumbers and the rest of the cuke family should be transplanted to containers or to the garden when they have one large, true leaf. Better yet, seed should be sown directly where you want the plants to grow. If they sit in seedling pots too long, they will set buds prematurely, and this is the first sign that the plant will have reduced performance. Best of luck to you!

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