The first question to ask is whether the cucumber is really drying up, or if something else is damaging the vines. Under drought conditions, cucumber leaves wilt long before they dry up. Other conditions that make the cucumber appear dried up include disease, insect infestation or even herbicide injury. Look for additional symptoms to help you diagnose the problem.
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Cucumbers are thirsty plants that need at least 1 inch of water a week during the growing season. During hot, dry weather, cucumbers may need even more water. For best results, use soaker hoses or drip irrigation that delivers water right to the plant with less evaporation. Water early in the morning so the water absorbs into the soil. Mulch cucumbers with untreated grass clippings to reduce water evaporation and keep the soil warm, but not hot. If the cucumber leaves are yellowing, you may be giving the plants too much water, or perhaps not enough nitrogen.
How often cucumbers need water depends in part on the soil type. Heavy clay soils retain water and nutrients well, while sandy soils leach water quickly. If your soil is sandy, water more frequently and mulch the soil. Before planting another crop, amend the soil with at least 2 inches of compost or rotted manure. Raised beds also require more frequent watering, especially during hot, windy weather.
Squash vine borers drill into cucumber vines near the base of the plant. As they tunnel along the vine, the plants can no longer take up water and nutrients and eventually wilt and die. What looks like drought conditions may actually be the work of insect pests. Examine the vines for small holes with sawdustlike excrement at the base of the holes. These insects can be successfully controlled early in the season through pesticide sprays, but once the plant begins to wilt, it most likely will die.
Cucumbers play host to many diseases that can cause them to appear dried out. Verticillium wilt, powdery mildew and anthracnose all cause wilting and dried or blotchy leaves. These diseases are more easily prevented than cured. Pull up diseased plants and discard them. Rotate crops so cucumbers don't grow in the same place twice. Plant cucumbers so air circulates freely between the plants and keep the leaves dry through drip irrigation. Avoid working in a wet garden because wet leaves spread disease. Control cucumber beetles by handpicking them or spraying them with a pesticide because these beetles may spread diseases, such as bacterial wilt. Herbicide injury occurs when herbicides from a contaminated sprayer or drift from other plants come in contact with cucumbers. Herbicide damage causes rolled, dried leaves. Water the plant regularly if you suspect herbicide damage. The cucumbers will likely recover within a few weeks, although the fruit may be deformed.
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