Why Are My Cucumbers Short And Stubby?

Sometimes, cucumbers don’t end up growing the way you expect them to.

There’s a number of reasons for it.

Heat, sunlight, lack of water, insufficient nutrition, problems with pollination, and disease, affect their growth.

And even when there aren’t any problems, different varieties grow in different sizes and shapes.

So in this article, we’ll take a look at the main things that make your cucumbers short and stubby.

And where possible, I’ll tell you what you can do to improve your results.

Why Are My Cucumbers Short And Stubby?

The Type Of Cucumber

short fat cucumbers

The type of cucumber plant you’re growing has a big effect on the size and shape of the fruit.

You see, different cucumber varieties have a different size and shape.

Slicers grow to about 8 inches in length with a 2-inch diameter. They’re the long and slender cucumbers that are popular in your local grocery store.

But other varieties grow to be short, stubby, and fat cucumbers. These are often used as pickling cucumbers and have a length of around 5-6 inches.

There are even varieties that produce round cucumbers.

Watering

Watering can prepared to water cucumber plants

Cucumber plants need a lot of water. And if they don’t get enough it can affect the size that the cucumbers grow to.

The most obvious symptom of a lack of water is the plant starting to wilt in the sunlight.

Aim to water your plants 1-2 times per week.

Check the top inch of soil with your finger. If it’s dry it’s time to water them again.

Cucumbers need around 1-2 inches of water per week.

Soak the area around the base of the plant, providing enough water to saturate the top 8 inches of soil where most of the roots are.

Nutrients

young cucumber shoots

Cucumber plants are heavy feeders as they grow. And a lack of essential nutrients can result in short and stubby cucumbers.

If you’re growing in rich soil then it might not need fertilizer at first. Adding compost and organic mulch to the soil a few weeks before planting can help to give it the nutrients it needs.

But if your plants aren’t growing properly, and are showing other nutrient-deficient signs such as yellowing leaves, then consider feeding them with a good fertilizer.

Cucumbers need more phosphorus and potassium than they do nitrogen. And too much nitrogen encourages the vines to grow at the expense of the cucumbers. So aim for a fertilizer with NPK values of something like 5-10-10, rather than 20-20-20.

Growing Environment

cucumbers growing in the sun

Where you grow cucumber plants is also important. Cucumber plants are best suited to growing in light, well-drained soil, with exposure to plenty of sunshine.

Lack of sunlight, and temperatures below 50°F, will affect their growth.

Keep in mind that temperatures over 95°F can also have a negative effect. With consistent high temperatures, fruit size, quality, and yield are affected due to poor pollination.

Pollination Problems

Cucumber flowers

Pollination problems are a major cause of poorly developed cucumbers.

If the female flower is inadequately pollinated the cucumber fruit often ends up stunted or lopsided in its growth.

Most varieties of cucumber plants are self-pollinating and grow male and female flowers on the same plant. But they do require pollinators to transfer the pollen.

So this problem is sometimes caused by a lack of pollinators in your garden, such as bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, and moths.

The things you do in your garden can increase or decrease their presence.

In particular, you should be careful about using pesticides around your cucumbers and other flowering plants. They often kill bees and other pollinating insects.

Instead, you can use more environmentally-friendly methods such as row covers, hand-picking, and trapping to remove pests.

To encourage pollinators into your garden, try planting pollen and nectar-rich plants. With a variety of plants and flowers that bloom throughout the cucumber growing season, you can help to attract pollinators at the right time.

Or you can pollinate your cucumber plants yourself by hand to make sure the job is done properly.

Diseases & Pests

Cucumber beetle

Plants suffering from disease will often produce stunted and deformed cucumbers.

Viruses that are well-known for having this effect include cucumber mosaic virus and aster yellows.

These are transmitted to your plants by insect pests such as cucumber beetles, leafhoppers, and aphids, while they feed on the leaves.

It’s difficult to cure the plants once these diseases take hold, so the best method to deal with it is prevention.

Hand-picking insects from the plants and hosing them from the vines can work as long as there’s not too many. To keep them away, try applying horticultural soap or neem oil.

Some diseases that affect cucumber plants are transmitted through water or the soil. So it’s a good idea to use a trellis or vertical support to keep the cukes off the ground as they grow.

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