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Years ago when I first planted cucumbers, I let the vines sprawl all around my garden. Boy, did they ever take up a lot of space! I was new to vegetable gardening and didn’t realize how big the plants would grow. Now I use a cucumber trellis to support my plants. Not only does this help contain their rampant growth, but getting the plants off the ground can also increase production, reduce insect and disease issues, and make it easier to harvest the fruits.
Types of cucumber plants
Before I delve in the many types of cucumber trellises you can use to support your plants, it’s important to understand that there are two types of cucumber plants: bush and vining.
- Bush cucumber varieties have compact growth, only growing two to three feet in length, and don’t require a trellis. I plant them at the edges of my raised beds so they trail over the sides – more food, less space!
- Vining cucumber plants grow four to six feet in length, sometimes longer, and produce a generous harvest of fruits. These can be grown on the ground or up trellises or structures.
Benefits of using a cucumber trellis
So why bother going to the trouble of erecting a trellis for your cucumber plants? Here are five reasons to grow cucumbers vertically:
- When grown up cucumber leaves have better access to sunlight and that can boost fruit production.
- It’s easier to avoid wetting the foliage when cucumber plants are on a trellis. This is important because splashing water can spread disease. And while the leaves will still get wet when it rains, they’ll dry quicker if grown up a trellis and are not overcrowded on the ground.
- You’re saving space by not growing space-hogging cucumber plants on the ground.
- It’s easier to keep an eye out for pests and diseases on trellised cucumbers.
- Vertically grown plants produce fewer misshapen fruits. Plus, they’ll be easier to spot and harvest (no bending or stooping).
The best spot for a cucumber trellis
Healthy cucumber plants yield the largest crop of fruits so look for a site that provides ideal growing conditions. Cucumbers are a heat-loving vegetable and need at least six to eight hours of sun each day. They also appreciate rich soil and I amend my beds with several inches of compost or well-rotted manure before I plant. To further encourage healthy growth, I also apply a slow-release organic vegetable fertilizer.
Types of cucumber trellises:
You can DIY a cucumber trellis or you can buy them online and in garden centres. They can be simple and made with materials like string or chicken wire or sturdy structures made from wood or metal.
DIY cucumber trellis ideas:
Metal mesh trellises and tunnels
I have been using four by eight sheets of metal mesh for over a decade to create simple DIY trellises for my cucumber plants. I ziptie them to one by three by six foot pieces of untreated lumber attached to the back of my raised beds. Voila, a super quick and easy trellis for vining veggies! You can also buy cattle panels which measure four by sixteen feet. These can be supported in the same way, upright on wooden stakes, or they can be bent into a U-shape to make a cucumber tunnel. Be sure to add wood or metal stakes at the corners of your tunnel or secure it to the sides of a raised bed.
Two pieces of metal mesh can also be joined together to create a DIY A-frame trellis like the one in the photo below. Secure the top with zipties or metal ties to make sure it stays together as the cucumber plants climb up.
The string trellis in the photo below is just a wooden frame built on top of a raised bed. It has lengths of string that run through eye hooks to support the vigorous vines of cucumber plants. I suggest buying a good quality string or jute twine. I’ve used dollar store twine for trellising tomatoes and when the plants grew heavy with fruit, the twine snapped and my plants ended up damaged on the ground.
Instead of using strings, you could use plastic or nylon netting. It can be hung between wooden or metal supports, or secured to fences, the side of a shed or house, or another structure. Only use netting, chicken wire, or other mesh materials with holes large enough to reach your hand through. Otherwise the fruits may get stuck in the openings as they grow.
Up-cycled cucumber trellis ideas:
There are so many items and materials that can be turned into an effective cucumber trellis. Take the closet organizer in the photo below. This was an old closet organizer Savvy Gardening’s Jessica had in her closet. She painted it bold purple, added some strings to make it easier for the cucumber plants to climb, and installed it in her vegetable garden.
Another excellent example of upcycling is the below umbrella trellis made from the wooden supports of a broken patio umbrella.
Purchased cucumber trellises:
There are a lot of different types and styles of cucumber trellises and cages available online and at garden centres. Most of these are made from metal wire or mesh.
Wire cucumber cages
I found the bright red cucumber cages in the photo below at a local hardware store last spring and thought it would be fun to see how my vining cucumber plants grew on them. I planted two cucumbers on each cage (and a fast-growing lettuce in the middle). The cages proved to be strong enough to hold two large cucumber vines and the fruits dangled down the inside and outside of the cage for easy picking. Plus, I loved the pop of color they added to my raised beds. Cucumber cages are available online and in stores.
Wire A-frame cucumber trellis
Metal A-frame trellises are popular supports for vining cucumbers. Most are about four to five feet tall, which is ideal for cucumber plants and are very easy to set up. While the plants are small, you can plant a fast-growing crop like leaf lettuce or arugula in the space under the trellis. Once the cucumbers have grown up enough to shade the greens, they’ll be finished anyway.
Wooden cucumber trellis
There are many sizes and styles of wooden trellises you can buy. Pyramidal or obelisk trellises are often made from wood and add beauty to a kitchen garden.
Many companies also offer decorative iron trellises for ornamental climbers like clematis and roses, but you can use them for cucumbers too! They look beautiful when placed in front of a shed or home and there are many styles and designs to choose from.
5 cucumbers to grow on a trellis:
Once you’re ready to plant cucumbers to grow up your trellis, remember to choose vining varieties. Here are a few of my favourite cucumbers to grow vertically:
- Lemon – Lemon was the first heirloom cucumber I ever grew and I was enchanted with its heavy yield of rounded, pale greenish-yellow fruits. The plants can grow quite long – seven feet or more – and are perfect for trellising. For the highest quality cucumbers, harvest when the fruits are light green to soft yellow in colour. If you wait until they turn bright yellow, they’ll be seedy.
- Suyo Long – This Asian type is also an heirloom variety and one that my family absolutely loves. The slender, ribbed fruits are deep green and grow about a foot long. The flavor is mild, almost sweet, and never bitter. If grown on the ground, the fruits curl into a ‘c’ shape, but when planted to climb a trellis, the long fruits grow straight.
- Marketmore 76 – Marketmore 76 is a standard cucumber in seed catalogs across North America, and for good reason! It’s very reliable and produces plenty of seven to eight inch long slicing cucumbers. Plus, the plants are resistant to diseases like scab and powdery mildew.
- Diva – An All-America Selections winner, Diva has been a popular vining variety for almost two decades. It’s very early to produce and the plants are disease resistant and vigorous. Expect a generous crop of non-bitter fruits that grow six to eight inches long.
- Armenian – Botanically Armenian cucumbers aren’t cucumbers, but instead members of the musk melon family. That said, any cucumber lover should be planting this vegetable. The light green, ribbed fruits grow twelve to eighteen inches long and – because they’re a melon – are never bitter. They have a mild, sweet, cucumber flavor and a very crunchy texture. Our favorite!
How to plant cucumbers to grow up a trellis
Cucumbers can be direct seeded in late spring, after the last frost has passed or they can be started indoors three to four weeks before the last frost date. When you’re ready to move them to the garden, you’ll need to take a few days to harden them off. I use this time to set up my trellises. A cucumber trellis should be installed before you plant seeds or seedlings. If you wait until the plants are growing, you’ll be working around a tangle of vines and you may damage the growing plants.
If direct seeding cucumbers, I also suggest installing the trellis before sowing. At the bottom of the trellis, sow the seeds six inches apart, eventually thinning to one foot apart. If transplanting seedlings, space them one foot apart.
Training trellised cucumbers
Cucumber vines produce long, slender tendrils that wrap around their supports as the plants grow. Sometimes, especially when they’re just starting to produce tendrils, it helps to position or weave the plant on or through the trellis. Be gentle and don’t try to bend or force the plant as you don’t want to damage the shoots. Once the vines are growing well, they’ll quickly latch onto the trellis with no more help from you.
Caring for cucumbers on a trellis
Cucumbers are considered an easy vegetable go grow. Give them rich soil, plenty of sunshine, and consistent moisture and you can expect high-performing plants. Here are three tasks you can do to help encourage healthy growth:
- Watering – Cucumbers need regular moisture. I water the plants deeply twice a week if we’ve had no rain. Drought stressed plants yield bitter fruits, so don’t neglect watering. To reduce the need to irrigate, I also mulch my plants with straw or shredded leaves. When I do water, I use a watering wand to direct water to the base of my plants, and avoid wetting the foliage.
- Fertilizing – I add a slow-release organic vegetable fertilizer to the soil when I first seed or transplant my cucumbers. I follow up with a dose of a liquid kelp when the plants are about a month old and once again when they begin to flower and fruit.
- Inspect – I love spending time in my vegetable garden and know that it’s important to pay attention to my plants. I want to know if there are cucumber beetles crawling up my vines or if powdery mildew has begun to stain the leaves. Take a close look at your plants – on top and under the foliage – every few days to make sure there aren’t any issues. Jessica’s excellent article on cucumber plant problems can help you figure out what’s affecting your plants and what to do.
For further reading, please check out these articles:
- How to grow cucumbers in containers
- Pollinating cucumbers, squash and pumpkins
- Unusual cucumbers to grow
- How to build a pallet cucumber trellis
Are you growing your plants on a cucumber trellis?