Help! What's going on here?

btbarbara(7b/8a)July 26, 2011

I've been thrilled with my cucumbers (picklebush and burpless hybrid) and they've been fruiting like crazy. All of a sudden, the last couple of days, the leaves have been turning yellow and the vines getting all mushy. Most of the cukes I've gotten the last couple of days have been horribly deformed too. I've tried leaving the ugly cukes but they don't do anything. I've tried snipping off the yellow leaves and I've tried leaving them alone (they go completely brown and fall off). Any ideas?

background: 3 picklebush and 2 burpless in an 18-gal tub with MG potting mix and Black Kow. North-central GA where it's hot and humid all the time. In the beginning I was spraying with MG every 5-7 days but when my pumpkins got burned and everyone here told me I was over-fertilizing, I cut back to every 2 weeks or so and I'm careful to avoid spraying the plants directly and "rinse" a bit after. There are a TON of bugs on these. Some I've been able to identify (ants, aphids, "soldier" bugs, ladybugs), some I haven't.

This is how the leaves sometimes look late in the afternoon when it's approaching 100 and I haven't watered enough but they're not dry now. It rained for a while last night and was cool and overcast this morning. Still, I thought maybe they were thirsty so I watered some about lunchtime but after 2 hours they haven't perked up yet. As of yesterday, they were firmly attached to the wire teepee and reaching up over the top. Today, they've drooped to the point that they've pulled away from it altogether.

Closer look at the yellowing leaves at the bottom. I know I need to move the container and cut the grass but the same thing is happening all the way up the plant and in another pot that's sitting on short grass so I don't *think* that's got anything to do with it.

My cantaloupe is a few feet away...same setup...18-gal tub with MG potting mix and Black Kow. This plant just set about 9 fruits in the last few days so it can't be doing too bad but all of a sudden, it's turning yellow too. The vines going to the yellow leaves are completely squishy and limp. There are some new leaves coming in near the "crown" or whatever you call where the plant comes out of the ground and they look good...for now.

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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Don't know what your problem is. But, I had similar problems with my tomatoes this year, and cucumbers in past years, as a result of bugs suddenly becoming a major problem. I was stunned at how quickly and thoroughly aphids could devastate a plant. I have seen a similar reaction to cucumber and squash bugs. The darn things spread disease as well as eating the plants. You may need to kill them to have a chance of solving the problems. Neem oil, spinosad and insecticidal soap (Safer is one brand) are fairly safe choices.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 6:03PM
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Thanks...I was reading last night about sap-sucking bugs leading to deformed fruits and some disease they spread that can KO a whole plant in 24-48 hours. I had posted pics a couple of weeks ago of something on the leaves and the consensus was aphids. I had taken to spraying a jet of water on the undersides of the leaves to knock the aphids off and then ladybugs showed up and I thought we were golden. Funny thing is, there are two different types of cukes in that bucket. The aphids seem to prefer the picklebush leaves for some reason, but it's one of the burpless that just pooped out all of a sudden.

The above pics were taken about noon today and this is the same plant at 8pm. Sorry for the crappy phone pic, I had just gotten home and was thoroughly shocked and wanted to get the pic before it got dark.

I had my hands full with the kids tonight but I'll remove that vine first thing in the morning and see how the rest look. If it's a disease, will it spread through the roots of the other plants sharing that pot? I'm so clueless! I've noticed that on the cantaloupe, the worst of it seems to be confined to a couple of vines...they're just kind of tangled up. I wonder if I should snip off those vines so the plant doesn't waste energy trying to "heal" them and maybe give the rest a fighting chance. Just don't want to make matters worse by injuring it.

Since this is pretty much exactly what happened to my pumpkins a few weeks ago, I'm wondering now if the fertilizer really was the problem. The pumpkin leaves did look more burned than these but they went from gorgeous to dead in one day. Come to think of it, I just posted the other day about how well the cantaloupes were doing and I shared my first watermelon and a batch of peppers with family this weekend. EVERY.SINGLE.TIME I brag about how well my unconventional garden is doing, Mother Nature knocks me down a notch or two. One of these days I'll learn to keep it to myself and gloat when the season is OVER. :)

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 10:47PM
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this is my 3 cents.
verticilium wilt, but my first choice is fursarium wilt. and if it is verticilium wilt when you cut the vine off and there is a brown color in the vine. then it is verticilium.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 9:50AM
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I am so sorry to see this happen to you. It can be devastating after all the work you put into it and looking forward to the bounty. I hope you figure this out.

I have seen green horned caterpillars do this damage and underground bugs eat the roots! I hope the rest of your plants are exempt from this sort of problem.

Good luck


    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 10:51AM
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Thanks everybody. I got out there this morning and removed the dead cucumber vine and went ahead and snipped the worst of the leaves and smaller vines so that hopefully the plant can put its energy into growing some healthy foliage. I guess we'll see. I did notice that where I had originally tied this vine to the wire teepee, it had gotten very woody and swollen around the tie. I did it loosely at the time, but apparently not loosely enough since the vine has just about tripled in diameter. So maybe that was choking it and the fact that it was already stressed made it an easier target for whatever. We'll see. Clearing out the dead and yucky leaves did open things up a lot more and the bees went nuts. Worst case maybe I'll get an explosion of cukes before the rest croak!

I did the same with the cantaloupe...tried to prune the yucky stuff but make sure to leave enough leaves for the plant to get what it needs from photosynthesis. I noticed a lot of stink bugs or soldier bugs or something on the cantaloupe this morning which I haven't seen there before (they've been on the cukes, but not the cantaloupe). They're kind of flat with pentagon-shaped backs. I did a little reading but I'm having a hard time figuring out whether they're good or bad. They seem to be listed as pests but then it looks like they feed on all the other pests so I'm not really sure. Is there anything that will REPEL the bugs or continuously kill them? I don't want to mess with the good ones like bees but this plant has almost a dozen fruit right now so I don't think pollination is going to be a big concern for the rest of the season. All the soap spray stuff I've seen it seems like you have to spray it directly on the bug which doesn't seem very efficient. For every one you see, there are 10 more that you don't so killing one on contact doesn't seem like it would make any difference at all.

Also, I'm thoroughly confused about fertilization now. I know container plants need more feeding that plants in the ground and since I have to water (at least) once a day in this heat, I would imagine the soil is stripped pretty fast.

Here's a pic of the cantaloupe from a few weeks ago when I was spraying with MG frequently. Someone in the garden center at one of the big box stores (I know, I know, hardly "expert" advice) told me that she loves the MG sprayer and it's the best way to feed the plants because they can soak the nutrients in through the leaves and everything. So while I did generally focus on the soil in the bucket, I would also spray some over the whole plant. Dumb newbie. But look how great it looked:

In this next pic, I had just moved the plant and one of the vines was kind of twisted was not yellowing at all then.

Then my pumpkins up and croaked and everyone here said I was over-fertilizing and burned them so I started being really careful. I've cut back to only using the MG every couple of weeks and trying to make sure it doesn't touch anything (no easy task) and look at the difference:

The concept of fertilizer burn makes sense to me and I have noticed that there's one particular watermelon leaf that has spots of "burn" on it. I noticed the other day that where I stand when I'm watering those, the blue stuff will drip from the sprayer and land on that leaf. The burn is clearly in the shape of the droplets so I believe you about that. I'm just really confused about why what I was doing in the beginning worked great and then suddenly starting burning. The only thing I can think of is that when you buy the sprayer, I think it's about half to 3/4 full with the crystals and the water dillutes that. When you use the refill bag, it completely fills the reservoir. I think when all this went down with the pumpkins was right around the time I refilled the sprayer. So should I be only putting half a bag of the crystals in there at a time so it's more dilluted? I'll double check the instructions but I was almost certain it said to use the whole bag. Is there a better/easier/safer way to fertilize besides using the sprayer?

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 1:21PM
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Since I snipped off everything that didn't look healthy, the cukes seem to be doing a bit better. At least the plants do. I haven't been getting as many ripe cukes (1-2/day compared to the 10/day I had been getting for a while) and some of them still look weird but hopefully with some TLC, they'll spring back.

The cantaloupe doesn't look any worse which I guess is a good thing but it doesn't really look any better either. The leaves out toward the ends of the vines are nice and thick but closer in, it's pretty bare. There are some new leaves sprouting but very slowly...nothing like it was a couple of weeks ago. The fruits are still growing like mad so I guess that's more important than the leaves at this point. Just watching and hoping...

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 9:03PM
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btbarbara, you mentioned that the vines had outgrown the ties. If the wilting occured above the constriction then that may have been the cause.
Good advice I got; learn as much as you can from plants or parts you are going to discard. In this case, cut the stems in a long slanting fashion and watch for the color of sap. I recall that black sap indicates a bacterial wilt which is not worth the remedy. Splitting the stem longitudinally through the growing point can reveal the presence of insects and disease mainly through boring and tunneling in the former and abnormal color and texture in the latter. Sniff to determine the odor of rot. Use separate tools for post mortems or sterilize tools after.
I believe that some of your plants suffered from being too tightly bound and that the remaining material will grow in.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2011 at 5:53AM
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Thanks for the tip! I wish I had paid a little more attention to the dead vine but I didn't even know what to look for at the time. Live and learn. The cukes are doing better. Lots of the "fruit" (is the edible part of a veggie "fruit"?) are still looking funky...they're short, very pointy on the blossom end and curved (the picklebush). The burpless are still long and straight but they're not really filling out the way they were and they have a lot more bad spots (bugs sucking on them?) but it is what it is. I'm kind of irritated that I haven't had time to do any pickles for the last week...I keep sticking them in the fridge and saying I'll do them tomorrow. I realized today that I've got about 40 cukes in there and some of them are pretty mushy so I'll probably wind up tossing them. :( Got to get on the ball and get some done today. The cantaloupe's hanging in there but just doesn't look happy at all. I'm scared to fertilize and scared to leave it alone. I wonder if the roots on it are outgrowing the container. It's in an 18-gal tub but you can see roots right in the top layer of soil. I think if I do melons next year, I'll try to do them in the ground somehow. I've proven to myself and the naysayers that they can be done in containers but I think they'll be much easier in the ground.

On a happier note, I picked another 20 lb watermelon this morning. I'm going to cut it just before time for the kids to get home from school. The tendril closest to the melon turned completely brown and it sounds hollow and feels heavy and the color is kind of fading and the belly is yellow so hopefully this one is really ripe. I'm going to cut it right before the kids get home from school so if it's good, it will be a nice treat and if not, I'll have time to hide it before they get home and get mad at me again! :)

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 10:28AM
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As for your fertilizer questions, you could always get one of those one-time, cheap fertilizer testers to get an idea of how fertile the soil is in the pots. Heck, since you're relatively new to gardening (you say), then buy several tests and keep testing over the season to see how the soil reacts to your actions.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 1:49AM
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