By George Boyhan
University of Georgia
One exception would be sweet corn. With corn, we eat the fruit (the ear), but these are pollinated by the wind. That's why sweet corn should be planted in blocks of four to five rows so there's enough pollen for pollination. A single row of sweet corn will have very poor pollination.
Insects must visit most flowers several times for the fruit to develop properly. Watermelon and cucumber plants will often have bottlenecked fruit if pollination is incomplete.
Insects criticalFor proper pollination, insects are critical. In the past, we've relied on honeybees for pollination. But wild honeybees are hard to find these days because of mites that parasitize the colonies.
Beekeepers are able to treat the bees for these problems, but wild bee colonies die out during the winter because these parasites have weakened them.
Some cucumbers are truly seedless. These are usually grown in greenhouses and are often seen in supermarkets as long, slender cucumbers wrapped in plastic.
This type of cucumber can develop without pollination. But because it has a very tender skin, it's not grown outdoors. If it were grown near seeded cucumbers it would be pollinated and develop seed. In this case, that's not what you want to happen.
Two cukesTwo broad groups of cucumbers are grown in gardens. One is the slicing type, which is eaten fresh. They have a slightly thicker skin and should have a fresh, light taste.
Pickling cucumbers are generally more warty, with a thin skin that allows it to take in the brine and vinegar solutions used in pickling. These cukes are usually shorter than slicers and look stubby in some cases. Both types are available as seed and seedlings for your garden.
For these types of cucumbers and similar vegetables, there's not much you can do about the lack of honeybees in home gardens. You can, however, encourage other pollinating insects to visit your garden. Keep a ready supply of nectar-producing flowers and shrubs.
Don't use insecticides when these insects are present. Usually, most pollination occurs in the morning and during sunny days. If you're going to use them, follow label directions. And use them later in the day or on overcast days, when pollinating insects are less likely to be around.
(George Boyhan is a Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)
(George Boyhan is a Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences)