Why Are My Cucumber Seedlings Wilting?

Feeling like a bad plant parent? Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure we can still save your wilting cucumber seedlings. Or at the very least you can learn from your previous mistakes and prevent this from ever happening again. 

Why Are My Cucumber Seedlings Wilting

Growing cucumbers at home is one of my most favorite projects to take on during the summer. This refreshing plant can really complete your summer garden. Plus, they are just simple to grow and easy to care for. 

Even beginners can take on this project. Just plant them in a moist fertile soil where it can receive enough warmth and full sunlight and you’re good to go! 

And with consistent watering and warmth, most varieties will grow successfully without a hitch. If you want more reasons to grow this plant, you should know that they’re also fast-growing and are abundant in crop-yield. 

Well, you probably know most of these—after all, if you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve already started growing your own cucumbers at home and now you’re facing a problem and are asking yourself this: 

Why are my cucumber seedlings wilting?

Your plants are in their early stage of growth so of course, I understand if you’re panicking just a tad bit. 

I’ve been there before and I’m willing to share with you some tips and tricks on detecting and treating some of the nasty cucumber problems you might encounter along the way. 

What are you waiting for? Let’s start saving your wilting cucumber seedlings!

Cucumber Growing Problems: Wilting Seedlings

Cucumber Growing Problems
  1. Nighttime Temperatures Are Too Cold

    What to look out for:

    Stunted growth of seedlings; seedling leaves beginning to curl; and seedling leaves starting to dry up. 

    What to do:

    Your cucumber seedlings are not growing in their ideal temperature. The cold temperatures at night are simply too much for your young cucumber plants—it’s ‘burning’ the leaves of your cucumber seedlings. 

    During germination, observe that you keep your soil temperature between 75 and 85 Fahrenheit. If it drops down below 68 degrees Fahrenheit, the plant will germinate very slowly. And if it reaches below 50 F, it will not even germinate at all. 

    To protect your cucumber seedlings at night if it gets too cold, you can try building a mini-greenhouse to warm your young plants. You can do this by placing a plastic tunnel over your garden bed.

    You can also get creative and use a half-cut gallon plastic jug or PVC to cover over each seedling. 

  2. The Soil Is Too Wet 

    What to look out for:

    Soggy soil and cucumber seedlings dying within a week of planting. 

    What to do:

    Immediately stop watering the seedlings. Make sure that you let the soil nearly dry near the surface before watering again. If there’s a persistent rain on your area, you can protect the young cucumber plants by placing a plastic tunnel over them. 

    To prevent soggy soil there are two main things you should remember; (1) The soil must be well-prepared before planting and if you’re using a container, there should be enough drainage holes in them;

    (2) Consistent even watering is key. That’s the main plant care required for this crop. When seedlings begin to emerge, water frequently. Your cucumbers need at least one inch of water per week. Only increase the amount when temperatures reach sky-high. 
  3. Too Much Nitrogen in The Soil

    What to look out for:

    Burnt plant roots and cucumber seedlings dying within a week of planting. 

    What to do:

    The soil you’re using has too much nitrogen. I suggest you start over and prepare your soil properly this time. Too much nitrogen will just burn the plant roots causing your cucumber seedlings to wilt and eventually die. 

    To prevent this problem, refrain from giving your plants a heavy nitrogen fertilizer; it’s best to just incorporate an aged compost to the soil before planting. You can also opt to use commercial fertilizer. 

    I use this organic 5-10-10 fertilizer for all my cucumber plants and I’ve never had any problems with my young cucumber seedlings, so you might want to check that out. 

Cucumber Pests: Wilting Seedlings

Cucumber Pests
  1. Cucumber beetles

    What to look out for:

    Cucumber beetles are often brightly colored with either a green-yellow background with black spots or alternating black and yellow stripes on them. 

    For young plants, damage appears as stunted seedlings. For established plants, damage appears as damaged leaves, stems and/or petioles, and scars on fruits due to feeding damage. 

    What to do: 

    If positive and cucumber beetles are found, applying kaolin clay can be effective to manage a small beetle population invading your cucumbers. If a larger population is found, apply appropriate insecticides properly. 

    To prevent, I suggest consistently monitoring your new plants for signs of this pest. You can protect your cucumber plants by placing a floating row cover over them. But make sure you remove them once they start to bloom. 

    The bees need to pollinate them. 

  2. Aphids

    What to look out for:

    Aphids are soft-bodied insects that often appear in clumps. They can come in black, brown, red or green colors. 

    Damage appears as mottled and distorted leaves or curled leaves that eventually become deformed and yellowish. 

    It is also possible that some aphids may leave behind honeydew on the leaves. This honeydew is sticky excrement produced by aphids that then turns into a black sooty mold. 

    What to do:

    To control, you can use registered chemicals(insecticidal soap) in proper amounts as instructed. But I prefer the more organic approach. I find that using natural repellent mixes like garlic or onion extracts works for my cucumber plants. 

    To prevent, always keep your garden clean. Monitor your plants, always be on the lookout for these critters. They will suck your plant’s juices and can transmit viral diseases. 

    You can also try companion planting. It’s an effective method for natural pest controls and bees love them! More bees, greater pollination, and healthier garden! Try growing Nasturtium or Marigold near your cucumbers. 

    Nasturtium, especially, acts as a good trap for these pests because they grow close to the ground. 

  3. Cutworms

    What to look out for:

    Cutworms can be found under the soil, often curled and feeding off stems, roots, and leaves. They are gray in color and are about ½- to ¾-inch long. 

    Damage appears as seedlings that are severed or cut off at the soil level.

    What to do:

    To control, immediately hand-pick the larvae if found. Best to do this after dark. If the plant is not growing organically, the application of appropriate insecticides to the infected areas of your garden may be needed. 

    To prevent, keep your garden free of weeds and plant debris. Placing a 3-inch paper collar around the stem of the plant will create a barrier preventing the cutworms from crawling over it and severing your plant. 

Cucumber Diseases: Wilting Seedlings

Cucumber Diseases
  1. Downy mildew

    What to look out for:

    You can spot this disease when you observe yellow or white spots on leaf surfaces and patches of mold on the underside. Often, stalks will wilt, bend and eventually die. 

    What to do:

    This is a fungus that favors cool wet humid conditions. Avoid Downy mildew by planting resistant cultivars. Make sure you keep the soil well-drained and remember to allow the ground to dry between waterings.

    Always keep your garden clean. Remove plant debris and take note that your plants are receiving enough air circulation. 

    If infected, prevent spreading by removing the affected leaves and stems.

  2. Belly rot

    What to look out for:

    Cucumber seedlings collapsing.  

    What to do:

    This disease is also known as Fruit rot or Damping-off. It favors warm humid conditions so your cucumbers are prone to this.

    For younger cucumber plants, the collapse of seedlings should also be expected. 

    For mature cucumber plants, it appears as a yellow or brown discoloration on the fruit. A brown mold growing on the fruit’s rotting areas can also be observed as well as water-soaked spots that will appear on the side of the fruit touching the soil. 

    In order to avoid this problem, be sure to dig your soil deeply during the soil preparation stage. You can also use plastic mulch to create a barrier between the fruit and the soil. Planting in sites with good drainage is also a good idea.

    When your plants begin to vine, make sure you apply the appropriate amount of protective fungicides. 
  3. Cucumber wilt Fusarium wilt (Foot-rot)

    What to look out for:

    Cucumber seedling stems beginning to rot at the soil line, brown lesions appearing on one side of cucumber stem, and the distinct discoloration of the tissue inside the vine.

    What to do:

    Also known as Fusarium wilt or Foot-rot, you can easily prevent this problem by only planting quality seeds. And this also goes to every plant you plan on growing, planting quality seeds will prevent most of the problems in the future. 

    Make sure that the cucumber seeds you use are fungicide treated. Alternatively, you can also opt to rotate crops on 4-year rotation.

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