The Q&A Archives: Cucumbers curled and became bitter

Question: Last year my Sweet Success cucumbers grew very well, but many of the cucumbers were curled and tasted bitter. Every year I add lots of compost and water well. What am I doing wrong? Leland Copley Carson City, NV

Answer: The curling could be due to poor pollination or physical damage to the young cucumber, says Tim Hartz, vegetable specialist at University of California, Davis. Cucumber fruits are composed of three interior segments or locules. For the cucumber to grow straight, all the seeds in each locule need to be properly pollinated. If one of the locules doesn't develop normally because of improper pollination or physical damage to the fruit while it's still young and the other two continue growing, then the cucumber will be curled, Hartz explains. In your area, high winds contribute to this problem by limiting the activity of bees and 'sandblasting' the fruits and vines, he says. The best solution is to construct windbreaks around the cucumber plantsand plant flowers such as nasturtiums and snapdragons to attract bees. Growing cucumbers on the ground can also cause curling, says Hartz. Young cucumbers are growing so fast that if a stem or stick gets in the way, the fruit is forced to grow around it. Trellis your cucumber plants to avoid this problem, he suggests. Bitterness is related to water stress. Cucumbers grow quickly once pollinated. If there is any water stress during this period of rapid growth, they will tend to taste bitter, Hartz explains. To avoid stress, water the plants deeply once or twice a week, letting the water soak at least six inches deep into the soil, and mulch with hay or stray to conserve moisture, he recommends.

« Click to go to the homepage

» Ask a question of your own

Q&A Library Searching Tips

  • When singular and plural spellings differ, as in peony and peonies, try both.
  • Search terms are not case sensitive.

Today's site banner is by dirtdorphins and is called "sunset on summer"