Do you grow cucumbers on a trellis or let them sprawl on the ground?
Even if you have lots of room in your garden and are not trying to “Square Foot Garden,” there are a number of reasons to grow cucumbers up instead of out:
- The plants are easier to water at the main stem, which keeps the plant leaves drier (this is recommended to help keep fungal diseases at bay).
- The fruit is easier to harvest. They are hanging nearer to eye level and are easier to spot, plus the prickly stems and leaves are neatly confined so the risk of getting all scratched up is minimized (this is the biggest benefit in my book!).
- The fruit is cleaner when it doesn’t touch the dirt.
- The fruit is a uniform color (no light spots where they rested on the ground).
- The fruit is straighter, with less misshapen ones.
All this is in addition to the smaller footprint needed to grow a large number of cucumbers.
Are you convinced? There are just a few things you’ll need to do differently to grow cucumbers up instead of out.
1. First you’ll need a trellis of some sort. I’ve found that an A-Frame trellis made out of 1″ x 2″ boards (like the one pictured above that Brian made for me this year- it folds down for easy storage!) or bamboo poles work the best. They can be grown up a single trellis, but it will need to be secured more than normal to be ready for the full-sized plants loaded with fruit.
2. Second, you’ll need to train the plants up the string (or fencing, or whatever you use) during the growing season. This is not difficult- it takes about five minutes as you’re working or harvesting in the garden. Just wind the plants around the string one or two times and they will take it from there.
Oh, and don’t you love the watch? It’s my super stylish dollar-store watch that helps keep me on task in the garden. I’m known for losing track of time. I’ll go out to do a few things for an hour at 11:00 am and before I know it, it’s 2:00 pm, and I’m thinking: “No wonder my stomach was growling…”
Which, come to think of it, is much better than Brian coming out to ask me, “Didn’t you have a dentist appointment?” Ugh. Definitely. Need. The. Watch.
3. These two things (trellis and training) are really the only things you have to do, but I think using a soaker hose is a really smart idea. It waters right where you need it, doesn’t get lots of water on the plants, and waters deeply. I turn this hose on for about 2-1/2 hours once a week (every 5 days if it’s really hot) and my plants are growing great guns.
These baby cucumbers were growing on the plants in the top photo about two weeks ago. This is a variety bred to produce fruit even when it’s cool (Agnes Cucumber), so they were pumping out the fruit before the regular pickling cukes had even bloomed. I pick these tiny for cornichon pickles, but they are also good as a small regular dill pickle.
The very first pickles will be on the bottom (like the picture above shows), and thus a bit dirty, but once the plants grow up the trellis, the fruit will be able to be picked like this:
Just reach in a pluck a uniform, fully colored cucumber like I did today!
And as they grow taller (this is two weeks later than the picture at the beginning of the post) you might not even have to stoop to pick the fruit!
Can you tell I really like growing cucumbers this way?
Do you grow cukes on a trellis? Why or why not?
This is linked to Outdoor Wednesday.