Many gardeners grow their vining plants and let them trail across the ground, just because it’s habit and they’ve always done it like that. People are discovering though that there are many benefits to growing garden plants such as cucumbers, squash, and watermelons vertically instead. Not only do your plants take up a smaller footprint, but they are less susceptible to disease and fungal growth because of the extra airflow, and fruits are cleaner, more uniform in shape, and are easier to harvest.
These 6 fantastic tips will help get you started growing your cucumber plants vertically on trellises!
1. Cucumber variety
Cucumber plants come in two different varieties: a bush plant, and a vining plant. In order for your plant to grow up and over a trellis you need to choose a variety that grows vines and will attach itself to the structure. One other nice benefit, per Bonnie Plants, is vining cucumbers have higher yields than the bush varieties.
2. Trellis design
One of the first things to consider for your trellis is the actual shape or design you’d like it to have. When choosing a design keep in mind the space limitations you’re working with, the aesthetic you’d like to maintain in the garden, and what functions are important. In small spaces, you could use a simple vertical wall trellis but cucumbers will be harder to find and harvest. If space allows an arch or A-frame may be a better option to make harvesting easier. Get Busy Gardening has great instructions detailing how to build your own cucumber arch trellis.
3. Trellis strength
Take into consideration the materials your trellis is or will be, built from. To keep it from buckling or even possible breaking under the weight of fully formed cucumbers you need a trellis capable of withstanding the weight. Something made with a solid wood frame, or use metal cattle fencing or PVC pipe if you are constructing it yourself.
4. Trellis height
If you are building an A-frame or arched trellis — or even purchasing one — keep in mind how high the final trellis will be. You don’t want it to be so short you have to stoop down to harvest mature cucumbers, nor do you want it so tall you need to get out a step ladder to reach the fruit!
One benefit to vertical gardening is you can plant cucumber plants a little closer together than the recommended spacing if you are using a trellis. The Modern Steader helps explain the importance of plant spacing when designing your garden layout. Because trellised plants aren’t competing as hard for resources such as light and surface area of the ground to spread their vines they can be put a little closer than normal, but remember they will still be competing for nutrients and water within the soil. You can even put plants on both sides of the trellis!
6. Train vines
After plants start growing, they may need a little help to train them to grow up the trellis. When the vines get to be long enough you can begin wrapping them gently around the trellis supports. If necessary gently tie the vines to the trellis or use plastic garden clips to prevent damaging the plant stems or restricting growth.