How to hand-pollinate cucumbers

This year I decided to put on my green thumb. We live in a small apartment with a balcony, so I purchased several planters and got to work. There are now four cucumber plants growing in one planter not nearly big enough to hold them. I added a trellis, and the vines are growing on it every which way. By now I’m sure you can tell that I really don’t know what I’m doing.

About three weeks ago, I noticed what looked like tiny little cucumbers growing on my plants. But they were shriveled up and clearly dying. I finally started researching cucumber plants online and realized that cucumbers have to be pollinated in order to fruit. In a perfect gardening world, little bees would land on my cucumber plants. They’d visit the male flowers and get pollen stuck to their little bee legs. Then they’d fly to the female flowers and in the process, leave the male pollen there. Only, it wasn’t happening. Well, one bee made it up to my balcony. Because I had one large, juicy, delicious, lone cucumber growing. Just one. The solution? Hand-pollination.

Hand pollinating your cucumber plants is pretty simple. The female flowers are all by themselves and are growing at the tip of a mini cucumber. The male flowers hang out in clusters. Take a Q-tip (or a paintbrush) and brush it inside a male flower. The pollen will stick right to the Q-tip, and the tip should be yellow. Then place it gently inside the female flower and brush the inside. That’s it!

Some photos of the process:

 photo C83B9656-D930-47E6-8C8B-7040672B044F-3781-000002637CA31E6C_zpsc1575bf2.jpg
Too late- the female flower is dying and so is the pre-cucumber. It wasn’t pollinated in time.
 photo D3AABCEC-2238-4878-9B0A-A86636F69C64-3781-00000262C8AD7DAA_zps9b565e3e.jpg
Male flowers cluster together
 photo 6F4F7C87-7F52-4725-A17C-DD941AC30C94-3891-0000026CCC41CCDE_zps3089fcb0.jpg
Beautiful, brand-new female flower and pre-cucumber
 photo C779EDE1-C8E5-402C-9AA0-807522AF802A-3891-0000026CD2C047D6_zps1bb9d67c.jpg
Using a Q-tip to collect pollen from a male flower
 photo C7779CE4-655C-4E83-9B96-E69F48FA5820-3891-0000026CE045879F_zpsc17c57aa.jpg
Transferring pollen to a female flower
 photo 1DD28F07-C3AC-4871-94E3-EF737CAAF243-3781-00000263E97B80E4_zps0ea90e7d.jpg
If you’re successful, a few days after hand pollinating, the female flower will die, but the pre-cucumber will continue to grow.
 What gardening projects have you undertaken this year? Successes? Challenges?

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  1. Great and interesting information! Thank you! Not that I am growing cucumbers or any vegetables right now (although I would love to do that), but planting always fascinates me. I have indoors succulent plants and I enjoy taking care of them and seeing them grow!

  2. What a unique way to deal with the pollination issue for cucumbers! Maybe I will have to give this a try – last time I tried to do cucumbers, they failed miserably! 🙂

  3. What an interesting idea and I love the great way you photoed the process. Btw thanks for the pointer about the succulents for the balcony, that’s one thing I want to do as well starting this year.

  4. Who needs bees when you can do this manually yourself?! 🙂 Love this and it’s inspiring me to grow my own cucumbers too. My dad loves eating them in everything.

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