More than five reasons why you should grow cucumbers on a trellis, no matter how big your garden is, for the best results. Follow this simple tutorial with three different trellis options to grow them vertically for your best crop yet!
Do you grow cucumbers on a trellis or let them sprawl on the ground?
I've always grown them on a trellis because I didn't want them taking up too much room, but over the years I've discovered that there are a lot of other benefits to growing cucumbers vertically even if you do have lots of room in your garden and are not trying to "Square Foot Garden" or save space.
I think you'll agree with me, so after I share why to grow cucumbers up instead of out, I'm also explaining exactly how to do it, since you'll need to do a few things differently.
It's worth learning a few new techniques - I promise.
Five Reasons to Grow Cucumbers on A Trellis
- 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? I thought so.
While cucumbers are easy to grow vertically, there are just three things you'll need to do differently to grow cucumbers up instead of out.
How to Grow Cucumbers Vertically
1. Prepare a Trellis and Plant
I've found that an A-Frame trellis made out of 1" x 2" boards (like the one pictured above that we made that folded down for easy storage) or bamboo poles work okay.
The A-frame shape is easy and inexpensive to make, and simple to install since it doesn't need any other stakes.
However, we found that the wood didn't last very long and have since tried other trellis methods that last.
How To Make A Simple Trellis for Cucumbers
Wood: The wood trellis pictured in this tutorial lasted about 3 seasons before the legs rotted out.
I don't have directions for making one, but here's a wood trellis DIY I found similar to ours, but using thicker wood so it may last longer than ours: A-Frame Trellis Tutorial.
Rebar: We found 10-ft U-shaped rebar that we fashioned an a-frame trellis from with twine to avoid rotted legs that occurred with the wood:
- Pros: Doesn't rot so lasts forever; tall; easy to set up (though I had to stand on a bucket to get the twine over the top, lol).
- Cons: Not easy to find this rebar shape (a neighbor gave it to us); bottom straight rebar simply tied on with twine, so rots eventually; large size not as adaptable to raised beds.
Fencing: The rebar trellis wasn't a good use of space in our smaller farmhouse raised bed garden, so I'm now growing them up a hog/cattle panel zip-tied to metal fence stakes (here's how I install and use these for growing tomatoes, and beans, too):
- Pros: Easy to find and inexpensive to buy panels and t-posts; no need to attach (and then remove) twine; fits in a lot of spaces.
- Con: The only con I've found so far is that it's not as easy to train the cukes up the wire panels as it is the twine. One reader told me it just didn't work, but I've not had any issues if I don't let them grow too much without training (I'm in the garden daily or every other day, so I just take a few minutes to train the stems up).
How close can I plant cucumbers on a trellis?
You will be able to space the cucumber seeds closer together because you are training the vines up.
Plant about 2 inches apart initially and then thin to 5-6 inches apart. Whenever I've tried to plant at the 5 inch mark, I don't have enough plants that germinate, so I always hedge my bets and seed extra.
If you start your cucumbers indoors or buy starts, you will want to plant them at the 5-6 inch spacing.
2. 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.
3. Water from the bottom.
While trellising and training are really the only things you have to do, I think using a soaker hose is a really smart idea (but I think that for a an entire easy care garden, too).
It waters right where you need it, doesn't get water on the leaves (wet leaves contribute to diseases like mildew), and waters deeply.
I turn the hose on for about 2-1/2 hours once a week (every 5 days if it's really hot) and the plants are growing great. If you live in a hotter climate, you can add some type of mulch to the soil to help keep the moisture in.
4. Easily harvest the fruit.
The very first cucumbers grown on a trellis will appear at the bottom (like the photo in #3 above), and may be a bit dirty, but once the plants have grown up the trellis a bit more, you will just be able pick just by reaching in, push the leaves aside and grab a perfect, mostly straight fully colored cucumber!
And as they grow taller (the photo above is two weeks later than the picture at the beginning of the post) you might not even have to stoop to pick the fruit!
Growing cucumbers like this and being able to plant seeds closer together means you will have a much larger harvest in a smaller space than letting them sprawl on the ground.
But that probably goes without saying, because that's why we like to grow vegetables vertically, as well as the plants taking up less space.
And even though it's not a part of the "official" 5 reasons to grow cucumbers on a trellis, it's a pretty good one still, right?
Can you tell I really like growing cucumbers this way?
Grow Cucumbers On A Trellis FAQs
Yes, cucumbers need to be grown in full sun, which is at least 6-8 hours of sun daily.
In addition to making cucumber plants easier to water and harvest, and producing fruit that is cleaner, uniform in color and straighter, growing cucumbers on a trellis also reduces fungal diseases like powdery mildew because of the improved airflow. (Bonus reason #6!)
I've made the case for growing up a trellis as better than the ground, and I'd also point out that cucumbers vines have tendrils that will help grab twine or fencing which illustrates that they are probably meant to grow up instead of just sprawl.
As mentioned, you will need to train your cucumber plants up by twining the vines through the string or fencing you're using, but their tendrils will also help by grabbing the support as they grow up.
A cucumber trellis should be about 5 feet tall and no more than 6 feet tall, as that will make it harder to harvest at the top. If the vines of the variety you planted grow taller, simply let them grow up and over the top and back down the side.
Do you grow cucumbers on a trellis? Why or why not?
This article has been updated - it was originally published in August of 2011.
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