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COL Cucumbers, as cool as they are, are still susceptible to many diseases.

If your cucumbers are wilting and dying, it's likely they have bacterial wilt. It can also occur in muskmelons, squash, watermelon, pumpkins and gourds.

The first symptoms are discoloration called bronzing (yellowish to olive brown) and limp leaves. Eventually the entire vine will waste away. The only solution to this disease is to destroy the plant.

The University of Minnesota offers this method to diagnose bacterial wilt: Cut the troubled stem or squeeze the cut ends lightly. Place the two cut ends together, and then slowly pull them apart. If a string of sticky ooze develops between the two cut ends, it is almost certainly bacterial wilt.

Bacterial wilt is spread by two insects -- the striped cucumber beetle and the spotted cucumber beetle spread bacterial wilt. To control this next year, use resistant varieties to lessen the severity of beetles wanting to feed on your plants. Some resistant types are County Fair 83, Marketmore 70, Gemini F1, Sweet Slice Victory.

Insecticide application is not recommended because you'd have to spray continuously to even control them, and this can also kill insects you need for pollination.

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One thing you can do is to cover the row with plastic, spun polyester or mesh netting covers, which protects them until they flower. Once the flowers appear, then remove the covers so other insects can access for pollination.

Anthracnose is another cucumber disease. Its symptoms are small, yellow water-soaked spots. These areas then enlarge, turn brown and shatter. Some infected fruit has sunken black circular spots. To prevent this disease, plant on well-drained soil and rotate your crops.

Powdery Mildew is another disease many plants including cucumber get. This is easy to spot -- look for white growth on the upper leaf surface that turns brown. Fungicide works best for this, but remember to apply again in 10 days.

Mosaic Virus is a common cucumber disease. If a seedling becomes infected, it turns yellow and dies. Older plants get distorted leaves that curl downward. Check for white blotches mixed with dark green spots. This virus lives in the roots of these plants over the winter. To control this disease you need to keep the area well weeded.

Tips for healthy cucumbers:

* Weed well to keep the air moving.

* Mulch to prevent rain splashing against leaves.

* Rotate crops every year.

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* Plow deeply or burn any debris after harvest.

* Growing cucumbers along a fence or panel makes them much easier to pick, and they seem to be more resistant to diseases.

* Check your garden daily for new pests. Use insecticides carefully and according to the directions. Make sure you have the correct diagnosis before you treat. I recommend consulting a dependable book or website such as www.extension.umn.edu, or search the Yard and Garden Line.

Keep those questions and comments coming. Christine Schlueter, 19276 Walden Ave., Hutchinson, MN 55350 or e-mail rcschluete@yahoo.com

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