An article by Travis Key from Lazy Dog Farm
Cucumbers are ones of the easiest things to grow in your backyard garden, and it only takes a few plants to make loads of fruits for you and your family. With a few applications of AgroThrive Fruit & Flower Fertilizer, you’ll have cucumber plants with abundant flowers and abundant fruits.
Our last blog discussed the backyard garden crops that require insect pollination for production. These would include things like watermelon, squash, pumpkins, and of course — cucumbers! But as we’ll discuss below, there are some exceptions to the pollination requirement for cucumbers.
Cucumbers come in all shapes and sizes, and we’ll probably discuss the different shapes and flavors in one of our next blogs. But I wanted to use this blog to talk about three different categories of cucumbers based on flowering habit. This information is not commonly found on many online seed websites, but it is very useful information for backyard gardeners. And hopefully it will help you determine which types of cucumbers will perform best in your backyard garden.
Most cucumber varieties on the market will fall into this category. These are your basic, open-pollinated cucumber varieties that you’ll find at every seed retailer. Monoecious cucumber varieties produce both male and female flowers and have a traditional reproduction process.
The female flowers are easy to identify because they have a tiny cucumber right behind the flower. The male flowers are smaller than the female flowers and are significantly more numerous with monoecious varieties. The female flower must be pollinated for that tiny cucumber to turn into a larger one. This must be done by an insect — usually bees.
If pollination doesn’t occur, the female flower eventually will fall off the plant. If pollination occurs but not sufficiently, a misshapen cucumber will form. As a result, these varieties are completely reliant on bees for production. If you don’t have pollinators, you’re probably not going to get very many fruits from these varieties.
Gynoecious cucumbers require pollination just like monoecious cucumber varieties, but the male to female flower ratio is different with these varieties. Gynoecious cucumber varieties produce all female flowers, which makes them significantly more productive than monoecious varieties.
But if these varieties only produce female flowers, how do those flowers get pollinated if there are no male flowers present? Most seed retailers will include a “pollinator” variety in each packet of gynoecious cucumber seeds. These “pollinator” seeds are usually from a monoecious variety that produces male flowers.
The result is a row or bed of cucumbers with mostly female flowers and a few male flowers. The few male flowers have more than enough pollen for all the female flowers present. And because the female flower generates the fruit, you get many more cucumbers!
Now that we’ve established the fact that gynoecious cucumber varieties are more productive than monoecious varieties, let’s kick it up a notch! The most productive types of cucumbers are called parthenocarpic cucumbers. These don’t require pollination at all! The female flowers on these plants will produce fruit without pollination/fertilization. The fruits don’t have any seeds but are still delicious!
Parthenocarpic cucumbers were originally bred for large-scale greenhouse or indoor production where there are no pollinators present. However, these varieties can also be very useful in a backyard garden. If you live in an area where bees are sparse, this is the type of cucumber you need to be growing. If you have limited garden space but want to maximize the number of cucumbers you can harvest in that space, this is the type of cucumber for you!
How Do You Find These?
Whether you like pickling cucumbers or slicing cucumbers, you can find monoecious, gynoecious, and parthenocarpic versions of each. You probably won’t find the gynoecious or parthenocarpic types on a seed rack at your local big box store, but you can find them at many seed retailers online. Monoecious varieties are usually less expensive than the more productive types, but the extra production may be worth the extra seed cost. We have found it to be worth it year after year. With parthenocarpic cucumbers, we can grow significantly more cucumbers in a small space. Try them once and I think you’ll be impressed at just how productive they are!
Thousands of gardeners have been tuning in to The Lazy Dog Farm YouTube channel where Travis covers a variety topics ranging from how to successfully start seedlings to how to make a flavorful hotsauce that packs a punch. Accompanied by his wife Brooklyn and their two boys, the gardens on their 2 acre homestead in southwest Georgia are always filled with a wide variety of vegetables that are enjoyed fresh or preserved for later.