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Why Do Cucumbers Curl On The Vine – 6 Causes

Growing vegetables can be such a thrill, and it’s so exciting to see those yummy vegetables begin to grow! It’s all so fun until- things start to look a little strange. Often pests and other disease will take hold of some of your vegetables, but other times you may notice weird deformities and odd growing patterns happening on things like your cucumbers. Vine curling is another odd phenomenon.

Cucumbers curl on the vine when they are poorly pollinated and also when there is not enough spacing. Certain weather conditions can cause these deformities, and most are preventable.

In today’s article, we will dive in deeper and look at all the reasons why cucumbers curl on the vine and how we can prevent it or stop it all together! 

Top 6 Reasons Why Cucumbers Curl On the Vine

There are six top reasons why cucumbers curl on the vine. As I mentioned before, weather conditions and pests have a role in the growth, but let’s look at all the answers.

Poorly Pollinated

  • Cucumbers produce fruit by being pollinated. A female plant needs a male to start flowering. Pollination happens by being spread around by birds, bees, other insects, and wind. If you don’t have good pollinators in your area, perhaps this is the reason for your curled cucumbers. 
  • You can pollinate your cucumbers by hand by taking a q-tip to a male flower, rubbing it around, and then on a female flower.

Weather Conditions

  • Tying into the pollination part of all of this, the weather has to be just right for the pollination to work. It should be a warm temperature and dry outside. If the weather fluctuates or stays consistently rainy, then the pollination won’t take off correctly. 

Poor Watering Schedule

  • Cucumbers need a lot of water. They thrive off having at least 1 inch per week, and if it’s hot and dry outside, at least 2 inches. If they don’t have enough water, this can cause them to mature early, looking undeveloped, curled, and taste quite bitter. 

Space

  • Cucumbers, like squash and zucchinis, stretch out a lot! They love their space, and if there is anything in their way, it causes them to seize up. Thus you end up with curled fruit.

Poor Nutrition 

  • Cucumber plants, like most vegetables, require a healthy fertilizer and feeding sessions throughout their lifetimes. Cucumbers are like fertilizer with less nitrogen and more phosphorus and potassium (fast fact: this is why cucumbers don’t grow well with tomatoes, which need lots of nitrogen!) If the plant doesn’t have the nutrients it needs to grow, it won’t be able to produce nice healthy looking cucumbers. 

Pests

  • Insects can be a big problem for cucumbers. They will suck away the good stuff from the cucumber and leave it looking deformed and curled. Bugs like aphids, cucumber beetles, whiteflies, and leafhoppers are just some bugs that will quickly attack your cucumbers. 

How Do I Stop My Cucumbers From Curling On the Vine?

Looking to avoid all this cucumber curling nonsense? Looking at all the reasons why it happens first, let’s consider what it takes to surpass those difficulties. 

Pollination

  • Having garden flowers and herbs encourages bees and birds into your garden, which will ultimately help the pollination of your cucumbers. Otherwise, you can always try hand pollination if you think you need to.

Weather

  • We obviously can’t control the weather, so always look at the weather to know when it is a good time to plant outside in your area! Plant when it is the hottest out and hand pollinate if you live somewhere with mild summers. 

Watering

  • It is always a good idea to water every day, especially if it is very hot and dry outside. As I mentioned, cucumbers need at least 1-2 inches of water per week! So having a solid watering schedule is critical. 

Space

  • Because cucumbers like to stretch out, it’s always a better idea to plant cucumbers someplace where they can be only. For instance, if you have raised beds, plant cucumbers in half of the bed or even just cucumbers in one bed. If you are planting directly into the ground in a plot, they do best when they have their row. Make sure nothing gets in their way.

Nutrition

  • Before you even plant your cucumbers, put down proper fertilizer. Afterward, it’s always good to feed your cucumbers potassium and/or phosphorous now and then to ensure they are getting what they need. 

Pests

  • Pests are almost inevitable in a cucumber garden. Using natural pest repellents such as Neem oil is a great way to combat the issue. Diatomaceous Earth is another great all-natural substance that you can put around your garden to ward off things like beetles and ants. 

How To Pollinate Cucumbers

A good way to know if poor pollination was at play in your deformed cucumber issue is to check off all the other leading causes. If the weather was right, there were no nasty insects, you’ve watered correctly, given them ample space, and had proper fertilizer, then it was probably poor pollination. Unfortunately, you can’t go back and re-pollinate your plants after they started growing fruit, so for the net round, here is what you can do to ensure your cucumbers get pollinated correctly. 

Plant flowers

  • Birds and bees are attracted to lots of colorful flowers. Planting them in or around your garden will attract helpful pollinators. Plant flowers like bee balm, coneflower, poppies, sunflowers, and calendula. You can also plant herbs such as sage, thyme, lavender, chives, and rosemary to attract bees. 

Hand pollinate

  • To hand pollinate, you will have to combine the male pollen with the female plants. Male flowers will grow in bunches and be much shorter than females. Female flowers will one only flower per stalk. You will have to wait until the flowers look fully developed. Next, take a q-tip and rub it around the male flower. Transfer the q-tip to the female flower and rub that around. Repetition is essential in this process. So make sure you hand pollinate for a few days if you want the best results. 

Can I Eat Curled Cucumbers?

Curled cucumbers are generally fine to eat. Here are some things to keep in mind. 

If poor watering has been the issue, they may not taste so good. Less water will leave your cucumbers tasting a little bitter, and they might have thicker skin than what you were expecting. The same goes for if they had poor fertilization. 

Another thing to think of is if there was bug damage causing the curled cucumbers, inspect the cucumber before eating it. You wouldn’t want to eat any nasty critters! 

If you think the weather, space, or bad pollination was the cause for your curled tomatoes, they are fine to eat and will probably taste just fine. 

What Other Vegetables Curl On the Vine?

Cucumbers are part of the Cucurbitaceae family or the gourd family. Most of the other vegetables in this family may also face a curling issue while growing. 

  • Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Gourds

These are all vegetables that you will find to curl sometimes. All for the same reasons that cucumber would as well. 

Final Thoughts

Although a curled cucumber can look strange and maybe not what you were expecting, it doesn’t always mean it’s a bad thing, and it’s still edible! As long as you have the right weather and space, plenty of birds and bees to pollinate, water properly, and keep the pests down to a minimum, hopefully, your cucumbers won’t curl.