Q: I plant pickling cucumbers each year but lots of them are short and dumpy and curling up on the end. What causes this?
A: Easy – the pickles didn’t get pollinated. On this year’s vines, notice that there are two kinds of flowers. Some flowers have a straight green stem underneath that connects to the main vine. Other flowers have a small cucumber beneath. The former are male flowers; the ones showing a tiny cucumber are female flowers. The goal is to get an insect to carry pollen from the male flower to its female counterpart. You can increase the chances for full pollination by planting flowers among your vines. I recommend Mexican heather, zinnia, salvia, and verbena. You’ll enjoy the flowers’ color in your garden and pollinators will be drawn to their nectar. I have details on cucumber, squash and melon pollination, plus a longer list of pollinator plants at http://www.walterreeves.com/food-gardening/squash-pollination/