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Gardening Q&A

Cucumber maintenance and ridding of poison ivy

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Guadalupe County Master Gardeners is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or

August 1, 2015 | 2,176 views | Post a comment

Why are my container-grown cucumbers short and teardrop shaped, and why are the lower leaves turning yellow, then brown, and then dying off?

The teardrop shaped cucumbers result from poor pollination. The flower is partially pollinated, but not completely. The result is a normal stem, but a tapered point at the blossom end. No matter what, some fruit will not fully develop, but having a lot of not-fully-developed cucumbers is problematic.

Cucumbers and all the squash family of cucurbits rely on insect pollination. If you have sprayed for insects in your garden you may be inadvertently discouraging bees and other pollinators. Try to encourage bees with other plants that they like. Rosemary blooms throughout the winter in the south and encourages bees. Other plants that bees like can be found with an Internet search.

Another example of poor pollination occurs when corn is not planted in multiple rows. Corn is pollinated when the wind blows the pollen from one plant to the next, and poor pollination results in corncobs with missing kernels.

The lower leaves on your cucumber plants may be dying off due to spider mites. Spider mites require harsh chemicals to control. A friendlier method is to use a blast of water under the leaves, but moisture contributes to powdery mildew. In my garden, I grow the cucumber vines quickly in the spring to outrace the warm weather, which promotes these problems. I find it nearly impossible to keep cucumbers growing past the third week in June. Last year, I had a heavy investigation of aphids -- also heat-loving critters.

(Guadalupe County Master Gardeners would like to thank our friend, Lee Franzel, of Comal County for responding to the above inquiry.)

Can you tell me the name of the weed growing in the shady areas of my yard and competing with my grass? It has very small yellow flowers and small rough leaves.

I expect that you are talking about horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis). Actually, horseherb is my new friend. It grows well in the shade, better than my St. Augustine. It requires very little water. It tolerates a moderate amount of foot traffic. It grows well in sand, loam, clay, or caliche. It is evergreen in the southern part of the state. In the colder parts of the state, it will go dormant in the winter and come back with warmer weather. It can grow to about 8 to 10 inches in height and does not mind if you mow it to a height of 2 to 4 inches.

I say we remove horseherb from the “lawn weed” category and call it an “easy-care, shade tolerant ground cover” for central Texas.

How do I get rid of the poison ivy growing in my trees?

If you are as allergic to the stuff as I am, you ought to find someone else to do the job. If not, I still recommend a long sleeve shirt, long pants, gloves, and skin protection such as Ivy Block.

Then...cut the vines six inches above the soil and spray them with glyphosate. Glyphosate will kill most anything you spray it on, so be selective. It should not harm the tree, but to be sure, you can wrap the trunk with aluminum foil. If you would rather not use glyphosate, you can use 20% vinegar combined with orange oil and dish soap. Additionally, there are several vine killers on the market, including one that contains triclopyr, a selective herbicide.

The vines will likely re-sprout several times. Keep spraying. Spot treat any new sprouts surrounding the vines. When they re-sprout, spray again. Doug Welsh, in his Texas Garden Almanac, suggests that you might find anger management classes to be useful during this repetitive process.

Without question, you should carefully read the instructions and warnings regarding glyphosate, and any other herbicide, before use.

Penny Wallace is a Texas Master Gardener with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. If you have a question to be answered, call the Master Gardeners at 830-379-1972 or leave a message to be answered. The website is The Master Gardener research library is open Mondays from 8:30 to noon, at 210 East Live Oak Street in Seguin.
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