Male vs. Female Blossoms
The first secret to boosting your cuke crop through flower power is to recognize the male and female blossoms.
- Start blooming between one and two weeks before the females.
- Outnumber the females by a 10:1 or 20:1 ratio.
- Open in clusters of three to five short flowers.
- Have tubular, pollen-covered stamen at their centers
- Begin to shrivel and die before the first females open.
- Have longer stems than males.
- Open as single flowers or in pairs.
- Have swollen areas resembling miniature cucumbers at the bases of their petals.
- Have central stigmas where pollen from the males fertilizes the developing cukes.
How to Get More Female Blossoms
The easiest way to get more female blossoms is to plant gynecious cucumbers bred to produce them. To ensure pollination, gynecious seeds come packaged with a few seeds of a standard cuke variety. Popular gynecious cultivars include disease-resistant ‘Passandra’ and ‘Raider,’ with heavy crops of sweet, deep-green slicing cukes starting at around 52 days.
Giving Your Cukes a Hand
Don’t depend on Mother Nature for pollination. Even if your vines are swarming with butterflies and bees, backstopping them with hand pollination can transform a harvest from bust to bumper. All you need is patience and a soft-bristled artist’s brush:
- Check the female blossoms at night and tag the ones that are ready to open.
- Hit the cuke patch early in the next morning to start pollinating; the blossoms will close again by early afternoon.
- Find a male blossom with a stamen that sheds pollen on to your finger.
- Remove that blossom’s petals so the stamen is completely exposed.
- Touch the brush lightly to the stamen and lift off as much pollen as possible.
- Dust the pollen-loaded brush over a female blossom’s entire stigma.
- Continue until you’ve pollinated all the open female blossoms. Collect pollen from the male ones as needed.
Mission accomplished! In a few days, the successfully pollinated female blossoms will shrivel and expose your growing cukes.