Every year I plant cucumbers. I plant cucumbers because I want to eat cucumbers. In case you haven’t noticed, cucumbers are damn expensive in the store. Unfortunately, despite the fact that I really, really want to grow and eventually eat cucumbers, I have a problem. Cucumber plants hate me.
And not in a nice way either. They can’t just drop over dead like normal plants do. No, they have to torture me by looking healthy, producing two nice fruit and then slowly dieing, resisting every effort I make to save them. I think they do it out of spite. I mean that is a dedicated hate right there, when you are wiling to sacrifice your life for the sake of torturing someone.
But, putting my ego-centric paranoia aside, it seems that the rest of the gardening establishment feels that my cucumbers may in fact be suffering from cucumber wilt.
Cucumber wilt is characterized by the fact that the leaves on a cucumber plant start to yellow and turn crisp around the edges. Then, very suddenly, the leaves simply seem to collapse or wilt. Breaking the stem of the plant will cause a gooey, slime to ooze from the stem. This slime is what kills the plant because it blocks the water from getting through the plants vascular system.
Cucumber wilt is a bacterial disease that is caused by the Erwinia tracheiphila bacteria. Most of the time, this evil bacteria is spread from plant to plant by diabolical cucumber beetles, either the striped cucumber beetle or the spotted cucumber beetle. (They are the height of cucumber beetle fashion.)
Most of the time, if your cucumber plants are affected by wilt, it will be the striped cucumber beetle that you blame (just in case you were looking for who to make the voodoo doll of). The striped cucumber beetle feeds and breeds exclusively on plant in the cucumber family and actually prefers to do so on wilt infected plants.
So in fact it isn’t the cucumber plants that hate me, it is the striped cucumber beetles that do. They lay in wait till they see me pluck my first few cucumbers and then they attack. *grrr* Damn beetles.
Worse yet there is no good way to control them. It is pesticide or row covers. That’s your only choices. Row covers are more work than I have time for and pesticide… Well, despite the fact that I have threatened to use Sevin on my veggies for several years now, I have yet to resort to it. But there is always next year.
The only other suggestion I found that may be helpful to buy varieties that are wilt resistant. Of course this comes from horticultural departments at universities and when I went to find the names of some wilt resistant varieties, I discovered that there is currently only one, a pickling variety, on the market. Thanks guys, that was helpful (not).
The other bit of bad news is that, like tomato wilts, cucumber wilt stays in the soil. So it appears I have yet another bed to solarize and I will move the cucumbers to another bed in the garden next year.
I swear, the scientist who can come up with a soil antibiotic that would effectively and quickly kill all varieties of bacterial wilt will be a hero and ungodly rich. I know I would be willing to spend a small fortune in order to be able to grow and eat a bushel basket of cucumbers.