National Pickling Cucumbers throw the ‘Nubs’

“We have been very happy with most of the vegetables we grew this year, but have had problems with our cucumber crop, though.  We got National Pickling Cucumber andthe yield is fair, but the strange thing is that we have TWO different types of cukes growing, one of which is oddly shaped and very seedy.  The “bad” ones have a yellow thick skin, they are bulbous with a pointy tip on their ends.  We have planted cukes in past years and never had problems.  Do you think we had a package with mixed seeds?  The cucumber plants are in our garden in one row; corn is in the row next to these.  Honestly, I am not sure if both types of veggies grow on the same plants.  We also have cucumber plants growing beneath the corn; just about every cuke I’ve picked from under there is oddly shaped and colored.  I have used some Miracle Grow plant food on the plants once a week.  We started these plants from seed directly in the garden, not in pots.


100_0720100_0722Thank you,



Hi Keith,

Thank you for the photos.  First off, good news: all of your cucumber plants are National Pickling Cucumbers.

The rounded fruits that you have been harvesting are due to a stress response in the plants to temperature.  It is related in part to poor pollination.

If your weather has been unseasonably cool and wet (highs in the 60s or lower): your bees have not been as active and therefore haven’t been doing too good of a job at visiting each flower. Cool temperatures make bees more sluggish and wet conditions (either from overnight precipitation or heavy dew) make wet foliage and flowers more difficult to navigate when you are a winged insect packing pollen.

If your weather has been unseasonably warm (morning temperatures in the upper 80s plus or overnight temperatures 78 or above): pollen if viable for only a short amount of time and is temperature dependent.  The higher the temperature is overnight or during the morning hours, the short the viability of the pollen.  Even though the bees might be going crazy in your garden, they are there for the nectar inside the flowers (which is temperature dependent also, but does not start to deteriorate until temperatures reach about 110 or above).  For the bee, picking up pollen is just an added bonus for the gardener.

For both conditions: A female flower needs to have as many grains of pollen  to end up on the stigma as there are ovules (future seeds) in the small cucumber that is waiting to grow at the base of the flower.  With the way cucumbers work, the first pollen grains go to the ovules that are nearest the stem and things work their way towards the blossom end.  If there is not enough pollen on the day that the flower is open (from lack of bee activity or lost viability due to cooked pollen), then the ovules that did not become fertilized will not grow.  The lack of growth causes the tissues around it to not form and you receive fruits that are ‘nubbed’.  As a gardener, you leave that fruit on longer because you are waiting for it to grow to a normal size (or in my case, do not notice it until it is a fat yellow ball that is easy to notice). What actually has happened is that it becomes overgrown and turns yellow.  If you cut open yours, you would see the the
upper part of the cucumber is fully developed like normal and the seeds are very mature, but the lower portion will not look much different than if you
sliced open the cucumber that is set below a female flower that hasn’t opened yet.

The plants that are producing the fruits will revert back to their normal selves once the stressful temperature conditions go way.  You want to make sure that you pick off any you see as soon as you notice them, as allowing them to grow to being yellow will falsely induce the plants to assume that they have produced seed (their goal in life) and can now die.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

One thought on “National Pickling Cucumbers throw the ‘Nubs’

  1. Pingback: Spooky Action Ranch Report | Week Twenty-eight 2015 | Spooky Action Ranch

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