The Q&A Archives: Container gardening

Question: I am trying my hand at container gardening this year for the first time and I have planted squash and cucumbers which are growing well and covered with blossoms but they bloom and drop off leaving a bare stem or the stem wilts. What am I doing wrong? It looks like I should get a nice crop but nothing is developing.

Answer: I don't think you are doing anything wrong. Lack of early fruit set on cucumbers is most likely due to lack of male or female blooms or lack of pollinator insect activity. I suspect you are seeing male blooms and the female blooms have yet to appear. Often when cucumbers begin to bloom, it produces only male blossoms. There may be 3 to 4 male blossoms opening for several days to a week before the first female blossoms open. If you have both male and female blooms, the problem may be lack of pollination. Check to see if bees, the top pollinators, are out there working the blooms. If not, you can take over the task by transferring pollen from the male blossoms (attached to the vine by a thin stalk) to the female blossoms (they have a miniature squash behind the bloom) with a Q-tip or an artist's paintbrush. This must be done daily for best results. Be extra careful about insecticide use around your plants. Insecticides can kill bees when used on blooming plants. If you kill the bees, you get their job!

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