Growing Cucumbers Vertically: A New Way to Grow Produce
You can grow cucumbers vertically in a couple of ways. A tomato cage is ideal if you're just growing one or two cucumber plants. If you're planting several cucumber varieties, an A-frame trellis can help you maximize space and get the most from your plants.
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Why You Should Grow Cucumbers Vertically
While there's something romantic about letting your cucumber plants sprawl all over your garden, there's something practical about training them to grow vertically.
Cucumbers are natural climbers. They have little tendrils that can easily grip a variety of structures. They want to grow vertically, which is one reason it's worth it to give them a sturdy structure to climb one.
Growing Cucumbers Vertically is Space Saving
The main reason why many gardeners decide to grow cucumbers vertically is that doing so saves space in the garden. Left to sprawl along the ground, the average cucumber is going to need somewhere between 12 and 20 square feet of space, according to the Urban Organic Gardener.
Meanwhile, plants that are trained to grow up a trellis or other vertical support take up less than a foot of space on the ground. Instead, they reach up to the sky, making use of previously unused space.
The North Country Farmer planted eight cucumbers in an 4-foot-by-8-foot raised bed, using a 4-foot-tall trellis. The cucumbers needed just 7 inches of space in the bed, leaving plenty of room from for a variety of other plants.
Growing Cucumbers Vertically Protects Them From Disease
A number of diseases and problems can plague cucumber plants. You can protect your plants from disease in a few ways. One option is to grow disease-resistant varieties.
Another option is to protect your plants in the garden by growing them vertically. Cucumbers that are allowed to spread and sprawl on the ground are more susceptible to damage from bugs and from over-exposure to water.
For example, powdery mildew is a fungal infection that can develop when cucumbers are close together and when conditions are moist or humid. Raising the plants off of the ground increases air flow around them and reduces moisture. The fungus no longer has an ideal living environment and is less likely to harm your cucumbers.
Lifting your cucumber plants off of the ground can also help protect them from slugs. Like fungus, slugs like moist areas and will happily eat cucumber leaves, stems and fruits.
Along with growing the plants up a trellis, you can protect them from slugs by trapping the pests with boards or blocking them with a row of pennies. According to the University of Minnesota, copper is an effective barrier against slugs.
Growing Cucumbers Vertically Increases and Improves Your Yields
Training your cucumber plants to grow up a trellis or vertical structure can mean that you get more fruit from each plant. For one thing, growing vertically improves the living conditions of your plants, so they are more likely to flower and fruit.
For another, it's easier to find cucumbers growing on your plants when those plants are growing vertically. When you let the plant run wild all over the ground, cucumbers can hide among the leaves and you might not see them.
Picking the fruits regularly encourages the plants to make more fruits, increasing overall yield. If you have a few fruits hidden somewhere among the plant's leaves and stems, you not only miss out on those cucumbers. You're also likely not to get as many cukes from one plan as you otherwise would.
Often, the fruit produced by trellised cucumber plants is superior than the fruit produced by free growing plants. It's straighter, since it's growing up and down. It's less likely to be yellow or discolored on one side, since it's not resting on the ground. It's also cleaner, since it's not sitting on a pile of dirt.
How to Grow Cucumbers Vertically
You have a few options when it comes to training your cucumbers to grow vertically. Some people prefer to use wire cages while others make tent-shaped trellises to support their plants.
This video from the Rustic Garden shows a few different vertical growing systems in action, including a trellis, tomato cages and even an apple tree. Let's take a closer look at a couple of support options.
If you have a fair amount of room in your garden, training your cucumber plants to grow on an A-frame or tent-shaped trellis can be ideal. The shape of the trellis means you can grow a row of cucumbers on either side.
One way to make the trellis is to use five 6-foot tall bamboo stakes. Tie two stakes together at the top, then push their ends into the ground, about 6 inches apart. Repeat with two more stakes, pushing them into the ground a few feet away from the first pair.
Place the last stake horizontally over the two pairs of stakes, to make a tent frame. Tie several lengths of nylon string to the horizontal stake, then secure the other ends to the ground.
An even easier way to make an A-frame trellis is to use cattle panel. Bonnie Plants has a step-by-step guide to making your own.
Wire Tomato Cages
A wire tomato cage can also be a good support system for a vertically growing cucumber. Since the cages can be flimsy, it's best to use one cage per plant.
Tomato cages are also ideal if you're growing a cucumber plant in a pot. The cage helps keep the plant from overgrowing the boundaries of the container.
This video from eHow Garden shows how to position the tomato cage in a container to get the most support from it. Although the host, Angela Price, doesn't use a cucumber plant in the video, it's easy to adapt her method for cucumbers.
The sky's the limit when it comes to growing your cucumber vertically. Even if you don't have a lot of space on the ground, you can still enjoy a good harvest when you train your plants to grow on trellis.