Thursday, June 4, 2015

Journal June 4, 2015 - Greenhouse cucumbers

Recently someone posted a question regarding pollinating cucumbers in the greenhouse, so I thought I would do a short post on the subject.  Actually, I don't pollinate cucumber flowers at all, I grow varieties specially developed for greenhouse growing, known as parthenogenetic. 

That said, even parthenogenetic cucumbers produce both male and female flowers.  Typically, the male flowers appear first, in great abundance.   Later, and in far lesser numbers, the plant produces female flowers, which bear the fruit.

In my case, the male flowers are not needed, so I remove them as soon as the plant begins to produce them.  My thinking is that I want the plant to put its energy into growing and producing fruit, not flowers.

Over the years I have found that many gardeners do not know the difference between male and female cucumber flowers, so I will take a shot at explaining the difference.

Above is a photo of a male cucumber flower, at the very base of the flower there is a only a thin stem attaching the flower to the lateral branch. 

As you can see by the photo, the female flower is quite different, as it has a small fruit beneath the blossom before the stem attaching it to the base.  That is it, simple as can be.

If you are a die hard and want to grow regular cucumbers in a greenhouse, I can't imagine why, it is possible to hand pollinate cucumbers.  You could try using an artist brush and transfer pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers.  Another method is to hold the male flower at the base and remove the petals from the blossom.  Using the flower like you would an artist brush, you grasp the group of stamens and insert them into the female flower and brush them against the pistil.  

Difficult, but not impossible.

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