Cucumbers are creeping vines that can cover most areas of the ground. Vertical gardening can provide a lot of benefits for any vining plant. But will cucumbers grow vertically? Will they climb a trellis? Let’s see.
Cucumbers are known to climb trellises and other support structures. Training cucumbers to grow vertically can be a great way to save space in the garden and promote healthier plants. Ensure to provide a sturdy trellis and tie the vines as they grow to prevent them from breaking under the weight of the fruit.
Growing cucumbers on a trellis is interesting. If you are up for growing trellis cucumbers, follow this article until the end to learn how to grow them in trellis and care for them.
Understanding the natural growth habits of cucumber plants
Cucumbers are creeping vine plants belonging to the family of Cucurbitae, producing cylindrical or spherical fruits used for cooking.
Since cucumbers are creeping vine plants, they love to crawl.
If given enough space in the ground, the cucumbers will grow constantly and cover the whole garden.
There are two main types of cucumbers: Vine varieties and Bush varieties.
The Vine cucumbers are the default varieties.
They can take up a lot of space in your garden if allowed to crawl and sprawl over the ground.
The cucumbers come out small, but once they start growing, they can grow quite tall and will need support in the future.
If you support these vines with a trellis or cage, they will grow over the trellis and stop covering the ground.
The vines can grow around 6 to 7 feet.
Some vine varieties are Diva cucumbers (5 to 6 feet tall), Mexican Sour Gherkin (3 to 4 feet tall), and Baby cucumbers (6 feet and 6 inches tall).
The Bush cucumbers also have a crawling growth habit. But they take up less space than the vine varieties.
Bush cucumbers take up only a few square feet per plant in the ground and are a good choice for pots.
The maximum pot size for these varieties would be 2-foot by 2-foot containers.
Two common bush varieties are Pick-a-bushel Hybrid (10 to 12 inches tall) and Saladmore Bush Hybrid (8 to 10 inches tall).
Benefits of using a trellis for growing the cucumber plants – Pros of trellis
There are multiple benefits of growing cucumber plants in a trellis.
Here is some excellent usefulness that comes along while growing cucumbers in the trellis:
With a trellis, you get more space.
Letting the cucumbers sprawl in the ground can take up a lot of space.
As a result, you cannot grow other crops side by side.
But growing them vertically gives you more space to grow other plants, like short crops and flowering plants, by the side.
Easy to care
When you grow cucumbers in a trellis, caring becomes easy.
With vertical growth, the cucumbers can grow toward the sunlight.
Since cucumber plants are sun-loving, they will enjoy the sun and produce cucumbers in plenty.
You do not have to worry about stepping on and damaging them while watering or fertilizing.
When grown on the grounds, there are higher chances of infestations.
When the soil is highly damp, many pests can wander around the plants, for example, aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, caterpillars, etc.
If infested, the bugs can spread all over the plant quickly, suck the plant saps, and damage them over time.
But when grown in the trellis vertically, the pests find it hard to reach the plants and feed on them. As a result, your plant stays safe.
When grown in the ground, cucumbers can suffer from many soil-borne diseases when the soil can splash over the leaves.
But the cucumbers are off the ground in a trellis and grow towards the sky.
So, it minimizes the chances of soil splashing and soil-borne diseases.
Problems related to weed growth, ground-dwelling pests and diseases, and soil-borne diseases turn non-existent.
Better air circulation
When the cucumbers grow in the ground along with other plants, there arrives a shortage of air circulation.
Lack of adequate airflow can increase the humidity and the chances of diseases, especially when the leaves are splashed with water.
Growing the plants vertically in a trellis will allow the plant to receive adequate airflow, let the leaves dry, reduce the humidity, and keep diseases at bay.
Easy to harvest
You need to bow down and hunt for them for harvesting when grown in the ground.
In a trellis, you do not have to bend down, mess up with the soil and dirt, or receive dirty cucumbers.
Since they will grow upwards, away from the soil, you can easily spot them. Also, you do not have to deal with soil or dirty cucumbers.
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Gravity can encourage the cucumbers to grow straight and beautiful.
The vertically grown cucumbers look fresh, healthy, full of life, and straight due to gravity.
There are rarely any damages or yellow spots in the vertically grown fruits, which seldom occur in the ground fruits for staying long on the ground.
Types of trellis and structure suitable for the cucumber plants
There are several types of trellis available for cucumber plants.
But before you choose an ideal one for your plant, you must keep a few things in mind:
- The cucumbers, especially the vine variety, can develop a lot of vines and start crawling wherever they get space. Ensure the trellis height is enough for the vines to grow without obstacles.
- The structure must be strong enough to hold the plant and the cucumbers. The vines are lightweight but not mature fruits.
- The trellis should be able to provide enough airflow to the plants and enough space to reach them. Otherwise, it may build powdery mildew, and you won’t be able to reach the fruits for harvesting, especially when they are cramped.
Below are some of my preferable options:
These trellises are pretty and are suitable for cucumbers.
They are simple and can be made out of several materials for different prices and aesthetics, for example:
- Iron trellis from gardening stores
- Wooden lattice
- Wooden or steel frame for netting or string
- Wire cattle panels help with T-posts.
The grid in netting trellises should be wide enough to pass hands through the netting. It will help in the easy harvest.
You can make a good trellis if you have long, straight sticks.
I have done this method multiple times for my cucumber plants.
Take 3 to 4 sticks at the top, spread out the bottom, and place them in the ground like a triangular or rectangular shape.
Attach the sticks with screws to give them the shape.
Plant 1-2 plants at the base of the stick and let them climb up.
This trellis is set at a 45-degree angle with some supports to hold it up.
They can take up more space than the other types, but they are great for the windier garden.
You can reduce the angle to keep the trellis close to the ground.
The A-frame trellis comes with a ladder-shape with an A-shape.
You can use a ladder as a trellis or make one with wood or metal.
You can use building materials, netting, cattle panels, and string for extra support.
Read on to know how I have made an A-frame for my cucumbers.
The archway trellis can be short or long based on your cucumber growth.
As the name suggests, it will arch from one garden bed to another.
The easiest way to use this trellis is to buy a readymade one or make one using strong metal fencing, like the hardware and livestock panels.
Many arches are round, but you can also get squares made of wood.
You have one in the pathway in your garden, or you can line up with other trellises and make an excellent place to walk around during the hot climates.
A proper chain-link fence trellis can provide enough support to the cucumbers and give your garden a simple yet elegant look.
The fences are strong, which is advantageous for the heavy cucumber fruits.
You can also use metal fencing or cattle panel scraps between T-posts or wooden posts to make a fence-like trellis.
While making this trellis, ensure you can reach the cucumbers and the vines do not enter the neighbor’s house.
Cage or obelisk trellis
These trellises are ideal for bush cucumbers.
These varieties grow compact and grow fewer vines than the vine variety.
Use a small tomato cage or a garden obelisk and train the cucumbers.
Since they won’t reach very high, these trellises would be great for them.
Advantages of vertical gardening and space-saving with trellis
There are numerous benefits of vertical gardening.
That is why most gardeners prefer vertical gardening over ground gardening.
Vertical gardening provides the same advantages as those mentioned in the BENEFITS OF TRELLIS point.
Besides those points, below are some significant advantages that I have received from vertical gardening:
Grow in non-traditional space
With vertical gardening, you can grow cucumbers at places where you never expected to get used for any purpose.
For example, walls and fences are areas where you would never expect to grow anything unless you opt for vertical gardening.
You can grow cucumbers in small spaces that receive enough sunlight.
Growing cucumbers vertically is unique because we are always used to seeing plants grow in pots or on the ground.
Vertical gardening adds extra beauty and makes your garden or indoors eye-catching.
Additionally, you can hide some unsightly areas with vertical gardening or add garden space or secret rooms.
Enough airflow and less competition
While staying in the ground, the plants stay close to each other, which prevents adequate airflow, increases humidity, and causes powdery mildew.
But with vertical gardening, your plants will receive enough airflow and keep these problems at bay.
Also, vertical gardening has less competition for nutrients and moisture than those growing in the ground.
Vertical gardening can lead to more harvest.
The plants stay healthy; maintenance is easy, they receive enough sunlight, water, and fertilizers, and they rarely suffer from pests and diseases.
So, the quantity of fruits in healthy plants is much higher than those in the ground that suffer several problems.
Tips for installing and maintaining the cucumber trellis
Tips for installing a trellis depend on what type and shape of trellis you own.
For example, if you want an A-frame trellis, collect the materials like wood or metals, give it an A-shape or triangular shape, and join the ends.
You can use the same materials to make a chain-link fence.
If you want to avoid making a trellis, buy a trellis, for instance, an arch trellis, and start cucumbers on it.
This section will share how I have easily made an A-frame trellis for my garden’s cucumber plants.
A-frame trellis is easy to make and is a famous type among others.
If you want to make a trellis, try the following steps:
- Three 4-inch x 4-inch posts, 8 feet long
- Fence staples 1 box
- One box of 4-inch screws
- Sheet plywood measuring 4 feet x 2 feet for the triangular support
- One 2-inch x 1-inch or 2-inch x 4-inch board for diagonal brace
- Compound miter saw
The number of materials you will need will be based on the height of the framed trellis and the width between the garden beds.
The compound miter saw helps in making the angle cuts.
The steps and materials shared are based on how I have made an A-frame trellis.
I have used 8-foot posts for cucumber-raised beds that are 6.5 inches apart.
- First, measure how much space you want to give your cucumbers, then start making the trellis.
- With an online construction calculator, determine the end cut angles depending on the adjoining beds’ distance and height of the A-frame trellis.
- With the help of another individual, attach the 4×4-inch posts in the raised beds with three 4-inch screws.
- Secure the top of the posts with two 4-inch screws and repeat it for the other side.
- Attach the lateral braces using a 4x-4 inch post and strengthen the support of the A-frame.
- Add a diagonal brace to prevent the trellis from swaying.
- Once you have attached the frames to the beds, apply some cement mesh panels or hog panels with the fence staples.
- Brace the frames with plywood and gusset them together, i.e., the triangle pieces. It will give extra support to the trellis.
Once your cucumber plants start growing the vines and get a touch of the trellis, they will slowly grow upwards.
You need to slightly train the cucumber to grow upwards with the trellis’s help.
Wind the plant around the trellis with a string softly 1-2 times, and they will take it from there.
Maintaining the cucumber trellis
To maintain the cucumber on the trellis, water and fertilize the plant from the bottom close to the plant base.
A soaker hose is the best option for watering the trellis cucumbers.
It can water right where the plant needs moisture without getting over the leaves.
Turn on the hose for 2.5 hours once a week or every 5 days when the weather is hot.
If you are from a hotter climate, add mulch around the plant base to retain the moisture.
Fertilize the plant weekly with liquid fertilizer or monthly with time release. Or, add up some organic manure while mulching.
While installing the trellis, ensure it is of the ideal height and can provide enough support to the cucumbers.
Train your cucumbers slightly to encourage them to grow over the trellis.
To maintain the trellis properly:
- Regularly check the plant growth and the condition of the trellis.
- Check for any decay or rust in the wooden or metal trellises.
- If your trellis is made of wooden, stick, or bamboo, you can paint your trellis first. It will protect the wood from the outdoor elements and add colors to your garden.
- Use acrylic paint or stain for better results, as they are weather-resistant and long-lasting.
- If there has been any damage, repair it immediately. Since the cucumbers are heavy, not repairing the trellis weakens and knocks them off over time.
- Prune the leaves regularly to stop them from overwhelming the trellis and damaging them.
- For metal trellises, use anti-rust products to reduce or fix rusting.
Importance of support and pruning for healthy cucumber growth on a trellis
The cucumbers can grow without any support.
But have you ever wondered why support is necessary for cucumbers with a trellis or some structure?
If you are reading this point, you must have read about the benefits of vertical gardening and using a trellis for cucumbers.
I have mentioned multiple times that the cucumbers are creeping vines.
If they get space, they will crawl, and controlling their growth will be difficult.
Giving them the support of the trellis allows them to grow upwards around the trellis instead of crawling over the ground.
It saves the plants from problems like dirt, diseases, and physical damage.
Since the plant develops many leaves, pruning can benefit the plant in many ways:
- Numerous leaves compete for nutrients and moisture. The plant also uses its energy for healthy leaves and stops focusing on making food. Pruning some leaves will divert the plant’s focus and encourage it to concentrate on making fruits.
- When you prune the leaves, aim for the lower leaves. Let the top leaves stay unless there are numerous. Pruning the top leaves means exposing the fruits to direct sunlight. It can harm the fruits.
- Pruning can improve air circulation and allow the plant to breathe. It will further reduce the risk of several diseases, primarily powdery mildew resulting from dampness, high humidity, and low airflow.
Only prune a few leaves. Excessive pruning can stress the plant too much. Remove some side leaves at the plant base, allowing 1-2 main stems to grow upwards.
Also, remove the damaged, discolored, and dead leaves and flowers.
Comparing the yield and quality of cucumber growth on trellis vs. ground
Looking at the benefits a trellis provides, one can easily claim that the yield and quality of the cucumber on a trellis will be higher than on the ground.
According to research from 1965-67, the cucumbers were grown in trellises and ground with the same care guide.
The cultivars common to both methods were Ashley and Fletcher in 1965-66 and Ashley and High Mark II in 1967.
The yield of the fruits from the ground was slightly higher each year for the first 2-4 weeks of harvest.
But slowly, the rate of production increased in the trellis growth.
The yield in the trellises plots changed from 56% in 1965 to 138% in 1966. The total yields over the 3 years increased by 100%.
The fruit quality is the primary basis.
The percentage of good-quality fruits was 71% and 72% in 1965 and 1967, respectively.
On the contrary, the ground plots were 57% and 69% in the two years.
As you can see, the yield and quality of the trellised cucumbers are much higher than the ground cucumbers.
Common issues and challenges with growing cucumbers on a trellis and how to overcome them – Cons of trellis
Though trellis can be beneficial in multiple ways, they have some drawbacks.
However, their advantages outweigh the demerits. So, with a few troubleshooting tips, you can overcome them.
Below are some common issues that I have faced with trellis, and I will share some tips to overcome them:
Heat or freezing
This problem is common with metal trellises. Metal can quickly heat up and cool down.
When the metal trellises become too hot during the summer, the plants can suffer from the heat, resulting in burns.
To overcome this problem, provide shade to the cucumber plants during the hottest part of the day.
When the weather is cold, the plants over the metal trellis can damage, especially during temperatures below 50°F.
Excessive freezing can also damage the trellis and might require repair. To fix this, bring the trellis inside.
Corrosion and decay
Metal trellises are prone to corrosion.
So, regular watering can corrode the metal and damage them.
You can prevent corrosion by cleaning the metal regularly and spraying it with rust-protectant products.
As for the decay, use a wood that resists rot or rots slowly, for instance, redwood, cypress, and pressure-treated lumber after Jan 2004.
Cucumber plants and their vines are light, but the fruits are heavy.
So if the trellis is weak, it can knock down. It mainly happens in areas prone to coastal storms and bad weather conditions.
To overcome this problem, make sure you are using a strong and sturdy trellis. Those made of thick sticks, rebar metal, and bamboo are better than other materials.
Problem in watering
Watering is easier when cucumbers grow in the ground than in the trellis.
Since they are above the ground, it becomes difficult to understand whether the upper parts receive enough moisture.
To overcome this problem, use a drip irrigation system or soaker hose to water the plants enough at the base.
Check the soil moisture and ensure that they are correctly moist.
Tips for selecting the best cucumber varieties for trellis gardening
Once you have built up a trellis, it is time to select the suitable cucumber variety for the trellis.
You can grow both the slicing and pickling varieties.
The pickling varieties are small in size and compact. But the slicing varieties can reach a length of 8 to 12 inches.
Based on the strength of your trellis, you can choose anyone of your choice.
Depending on the growth habit, I prefer the vine over the bush.
Both the vining and bush varieties have vines, but the former will grow more vines than the latter.
If your trellis is smaller in height or length, grow the bush variety. Their maximum size is 2 feet.
Here are some of my preferred cucumber varieties for trellis:
- Lemon cucumbers can add uniqueness to your garden because of their lemon size cucumbers. I had fun growing them and love how they look among the other cucumber varieties. The vines can grow long, around 7 feet, and are perfect for trellising.
- Suyo Long is an Asian type of heirloom variety. The skinny, ribber cucumbers are long and deep green and grow about one foot tall.
- Marketmore 76 is one of my favorites as they can produce plenty of fruits. Their long vines will excellently grow on the trellis.
- Diva cucumbers are a popular vining variety that grows the best with trellis. They produce early and are resistant to diseases. The fruits can grow about 6 to 8 inches long.
- The Armenian varieties are from the musk melon family. Your garden will look captivating when its vines grow along the trellis with other varieties.
Cucumbers are creeping vines with a crawling growth habit, and they will cover up the whole garden if they receive enough space. Using a trellis can save you a lot of hassle, heartbreaks, and disappointment. With a trellis, you have enough space to grow other plants; they will receive enough sunlight and produce beautiful straight fruits.
Cucumbers rarely suffer from diseases and pests with a trellis because they are above the ground. Additionally, the plants receive enough airflow. Due to these reasons, the yield and quality of the trellised cucumbers are much greater than the ground ones. There are several types of trellises available. Choose the one that would be suitable for your cucumber variety.
You can make a trellis or buy a readymade one from the garden. Despite many benefits, growing the plants on a trellis will have some drawbacks. The benefits they provide surpass these drawbacks. So, overcoming these issues and preferring the trellis is worth it.
Can I use chicken wire for a trellis?
You can use them but must watch them because they have small holes. The baby cucumbers might easily get poked through the holes in the fencing. It can further wedge them in it when they get larger.
What happens if the cucumbers do not grow up the vines despite the training?
Sometimes, it can happen because they are not always great climbers. In that case, keep an eye on the plant and train the unruly vines when they become rogue.
What should be the ideal height of a trellis?
It must be tall and wide enough to allow the vines to get enough space for spreading. But generally, I recommend 4 to 6 inches tall for the bush variety and 5-8 feet tall for the vine variety. Maintain 4 inches of distance between the plants in a trellis.