Should I be pinching the early flower buds on my parthenocarpic gherkins?

Q:

My parthenocarpic gherkins are now producing lots of buds and flowers, both in the greenhouse and outside. A friend recommended that I pinch back the buds and flowers to stimulate cucumber development. I’m pinching a lot of flowers! Do I pinch back the buds and flowers and, if so, for how long? Is there anything else I should do to produce maximum yields?

A:

Pinching or cutting off early flower buds promotes vigorous root and vegetative growth. Removing the early flowers will redirect the plant’s energy to focus on shoot and leaf development and the establishment of a strong root system, instead of flower and fruit production.

In nature, the goal for flowering plants is to flower and produce seeds as quickly as possible. By allowing a plant to grow bigger and develop an extensive root system before it flowers, the plant will be able to develop larger, more uniform fruit. A bigger, mature plant and root system will be able to take in larger amounts of water and elemental nutrients, leading to bigger, better yields.

However, removing the early flower buds does not necessarily lead to an overall increase in flower formation. The number of flowers that form in a cluster on crops like tomatoes, peppers and your parthenocarpic gherkins is ultimately determined by the genetics of the variety. But removing early flowers is a viable way to encourage your plants to produce larger, better cucumbers.

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Written by Kyle Ladenburger
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Kyle L. Ladenburger is a freelance garden writer who has worked in the gardening/hydroponics industry for over a decade. As an avid indoor and outdoor gardener, he is well-versed in nearly all types of growing methods with an overall focus on sustainability and maintaining healthy soils. He holds a strong conviction that growing one’s own food is a powerful way to change lives and the world for the better.  Full Bio