Vegetable gardeners have been noticing the mysterious loss of flowers and immature fruits which have been shriveling and falling off of plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, beans, and squash.
Losing a few vegetable blossoms or young fruits isn’t uncommon, especially early in the summer and shouldn’t be a cause for alarm.
Vegetable Flowers Falling Off without Setting Fruit
Frank, who gardens in Cambria England, raised the following question: “Can you tell me the cause of my tomato flowers falling off before setting as fruit? The variety is Gardener’s Delight.”
It’s not unusual to lose flowers on vegetable plants before the fruits begin to form, particularly early in the season when temperatures are still on the cooler side, during periods of rainy weather, or when there are fewer numbers of beneficial insects present to help pollinate the flower blossoms.
Tomatoes are self pollinating for the most part, but weather conditions and uneven moisture to the plants could be the culprit causing the flowers to fall off before the fruits have a chance to set.
Tomato Blossom End Rot normally causes a bigger headache for tomato growers but I would recommend that you just be patient and hopefully the plants will stop shedding their flowers and begin developing tomato fruits.
If you find it difficult to stand by waiting for those blossoms to take fruit, Garden’s Alive markets a product called Tomato & Blossom Set Spray that can be applied to your tomato and other vegetable plants early in the season to encourage fruit set.
Cucumber Plants Failing to Produce or Develop Fruits
Joyce in Fredonia Kansas reported a similar issue in her vegetable garden: “I am having a problem with my cucumbers. I use a piece of cattle panel, arch it and planted cucumbers on one side and Morning Glory’s on the other.”
“They are growing good and setting on good, then they start drying up after they get about an inch long. They get plenty of water and Miracle Grow. Could it be not enough sun? I would hate to cut the Morning Glory’s down!”
Spare the Morning Glory’s, cucumbers are well known for the immature fruits drying, shriveling up, and falling off before they have a chance to start growing. I doubt that your problem has anything to do with a lack of sunlight reaching the vines. More likely the cucumber plants are not setting fruits because of poor pollination or there are just more flowers being produced than the vines can support.
Hand Pollinating Cucumber and Vegetable Plants
Again, I would be patient and not worry about it as the situation usually improves itself as the season progresses. Some gardeners attempt to improve fruit set on their cucumber plants by hand pollinating the individual flowers early in the growing season.
To hand pollinate cucumbers or other vegetables simply remove a male flower (the ones that are attached to a stem and don’t have a tiny fruit attached to the base), strip off the petals and rub the male flower’s pollen producing stamen against the stigma of the female flower (the ones connected to tiny immature fruits). For the best results hand pollinate during the morning hours using newly opened blossoms.
A less tedious solution to improve pollination and fruit set is to plant other pollen producing flowers and herbs throughout the garden to attract and welcome beneficial pollinating insects to your garden beds. You can even purchase insectary seed mixes containing plants known to attract all types of good bugs to the garden.
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