Why Are my Cucumbers Turning Yellow? | Garden Troubleshooting

Yellow Cucumbers in a bowl

Cucumbers are one of the most commonly grown crops in home gardens. They are relatively easy to grow and are not too picky when it comes to what kind of soil they grow in. However, every now and then, a cucumber or two will lack the lush, dark green color they typically have and will instead feature shade of bight, yellow skin.

Yellow Cucumbers in a bowl

Not only is this a bit of an eyesore to see in the garden, but these yellow cucumbers are also pretty bitter in taste thus rendering them undesirable. So you’re probably wondering: “Why are my cucumbers turning yellow?” Yellow cucumbers can be the result of a few different factors.

Over-Ripening

The most common reason for a yellow cucumber to appear in the garden is simply that it has “worn out its welcome”. In other words, it has been left on the vine for too long and should be picked. Cucumbers grow relatively fast. In fact, they can be ready in as little as 50 days after planting. Therefore, it’s important that you check your garden regularly for fresh cucumbers.

It may be fun so see just how large your cucumbers can grow; and here at David’s Giant Vegetables, we encourage growing your veggies to their fullest potential size however, cucumbers are a crop known for their quantity and not so much their size. Because of this, it’s usually better to harvest cucumbers prematurely rather than harvesting them when they begin to turn yellow.

Yellow Cucumber Varieties

Perhaps you are doing nothing wrong in regards to taking care of your cucumbers but they are all turning yellow. If this is the case, you may have simply planted a variety of cucumber that naturally turns yellow as it matures. Such varieties include dosakai cucumbers, lemon cucumbers and Chinese yellow cucumbers.

Yellow Cucumber Varieties

Dosakai and Lemon cucumbers are typically spherical in shape, while Chinese yellow cucumbers are elongated in shape like regular cucumbers. Nevertheless, these varieties are all edible and still good for consumption.

Nutrient Deficiencies

soil in hand

Now we are getting into the more complex reasons as to why your cucumbers may be turning yellow. As stated before, cucumbers are pretty tolerant of the soil they grow in, but growing cucumbers in the your garden year after year can leave your soil barren and lacking the necessary nutrients cucumber plants need to produce healthy, green cucumbers.

Crop rotation is an essential step in preventing your cucumbers from turning yellow. Growing cucumbers in the same area year after year will result in the soil being depleted of all the nutrients necessary to grow healthy cucumbers. In fact, this is true for all plants you grow in your garden.

So if you have been growing cucumbers in the same area for a few years in a row or more, it may be time to switch it up this season; or at least change the area in which you grow your cucumbers.

fertilizer in someone's hand

Another way you can ensure your cucumbers are getting the necessary nutrients they need to add in soil amenities. 10-10-10 fertilizer is a great soil amenity that you can add to your soil prior to planting your cucumbers. This fertilizer will provide a mix of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to your soil and in turn, help your cucumbers grow big and green.

Inconsistent Watering

The root system of cucumber plants is relatively shallow. Therefore, as the water seeps down into the soil of your garden, the cucumber roots only absorb a small portion of that water as much of it runs down into the soil and out of reach from the roots. Because of this, many gardeners may not be giving their cucumbers enough water and as a result, some cucumbers may turn yellow.

Ideally, you want to keep the soil moist at all times. If it is dry to the touch, give your cucumbers a watering. However, if the soil is wet, and there are some small puddles in your garden, you should hold off on the watering. Too much water can leave your cucumbers plants susceptible to powdery mildew, root rot and other bacterial diseases. Ideally, it is best to water your cucumbers a couple times a week.

Plant Diseases

Another culprit for cucumbers turning yellow is plant disease. Cucumbers are susceptible to a variety of plant diseases that can turn your cucumbers yellow and even devastate entire cucumber crops. Unfortunately, there is no cure for many of these diseases. But, knowing the symptoms of these diseases can help you identify them and therefore remove the infected plants before they spread to other cucumber vines throughout your garden.

Cucumber Mosaic Virus

Cucumber plant with cucumber mosaic virus

Cucumber mosaic virus is typically spread via insects such as aphids and cucumber beetles. This virus is notorious for causing cucumbers to develop improperly, leaving them to mature into short, stubby fruits with yellow or white mottling. These cucumbers are inadequate for consumption and should be discarded. Another common symptom of cucumber mosaic virus is small yellow mottles that appear on the leaves of the cucumber plant.

Unfortunately, there is not cure for this virus however; there are ways of minimizing the potential risk of your cucumber plants being infected. Floating row covers can be placed over top of your cucumber plants in order to shield them from the unwanted bugs and viruses. The only problem with using these is that they will have to be removed once flowers begin to bloom in order for them to be pollinated.

Cucumber Beetle Trap

Other prevention methods include cucumber beetle traps. These are traps feature a small bag of “lure” which contains chemicals the cucumber beetles are attracted to. Alongside the lure, there is also a sheet of sticky paper that the beetles get stuck on therefore trapping them. 

You simply hang the lure and sticky sheet somewhere near your cucumber plant it does all the work of trapping the insects. Beetles will then be drawn to the lure and away from your cucumbers. These traps remain highly effective for up to four weeks.

Click here to get a Cucumber Beetle Trap: Cucumber Beetle Traps

What to do with Yellow Cucumbers?

Odds are if you are reading this article, you already have some yellow cucumbers in your garden. Therefore the prevention methods discussed earlier may be too late to enforce. You may get more yellow cucumbers but, fear not, there are still some uses for them.

Composting

Organic Composting

While many choose to throw out the imperfect vegetables from their garden, I like to recycle them. As long as they are not diseased, yellow cucumbers work great for composting. They are an excellent source of nitrogen which is always a great element to have in your garden soil. For more on composting, check out my last blog post which covers everything you need to know regarding how to start composting:

Seed Saving

cucumber seeds

As stated earlier, cucumbers turn yellow when they become overripe. We actually harvest them prematurely when they are still green. At this stage, they are considered horticulturally mature. Attempting to harvest the seeds and replant them at this stage will not work as they have not fully developed.

Yellow Cucumbers on the other hand, are considered botanically mature. Although the cucumber is overripe, the seeds are fully developed and will germinate if planted. So if you have any overripe cucumbers in your garden, feel free to save the seeds for next year’s growing season.

Pickles and Relish

Just because your cucumbers are yellow and bitter doesn’t mean they won’t be great as pickles or relish. With some seasonings and some vinegar, you can turn your bitter-tasting cucumbers into some zesty pickles or even a jar of sweet relish. To find a more in-depth article and recipe on homemade pickles, check out my blog post: From the Garden to the Jar –How to Make Homemade Pickles

Conclusion

Although cucumbers are easy to grow, a yellow cucumber or two can and will appear in your garden from time to time. That’s why it’s important to check up on your plants consistently. Not only should you keep an eye out for the yellow cucumbers, but also the plant as well. The health of the vine is directly correlated with the quality of the cucumber it produces.

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