For many years I grew a sizable cucumber patch. We love to eat fresh cukes and also make lots and lots of pickles. I always planted them in hills and allowed them to grow and spread over the patch. We would harvest lots cucumbers but they were difficult to pick, we often battled disease, and it took up a tremendous amount of garden space. One day I thought, “Why not try growing them on a trellis?”. I had read of people doing it so I drove some T-posts and strung up some woven wire fence. I planted my cucumbers on both sides of the fence and trained them to it when they strayed. The results were awesome and I’ve been planting them vertically ever since. Here are reasons why I love growing cucumbers on a trellis…
Saves Space and Produces Higher Yields Per Square Foot
My favorite reason for growing vertical cucumbers is the space saving aspect. Anytime you can reduce the space needed to grow a crop, it opens up the opportunity to grow other things without expanding your garden space. Cucumbers, being a vining plant, are notorious for using lots of garden space. When cucumbers are grown vertically they take up a relatively small footprint while producing the same yields as when they used up half your garden space. The yields per square foot in a vertical system far out perform conventional planting systems. Last year, we began moving into a raised bed system here in an effort to get around fighting the wet clay soils we have. As an experiment, I put up a 4ft high section of woven wire trellis along the edge of an 8ft long raised bed. I planted 8 cucumber plants right next to the wire. The rest of the bed was planted to other crops. In our short season, I was able to harvest 78 cucumbers from that bed. It took up a width of about 7 inches. This allowed me to use 99% of the 8ft X 4ft bed to grow other things. The cucumbers are just an added bonus! Now, whenever I build a raised bed, I add a wire trellis to the edge for planting cucumbers, peas, pole beans, and other climbing plants.
Picking cucumbers from a trellis is so much easier than picking from the sprawling patch. Searching under leaves, bent over, picking cucumbers off the ground is hard work. You also end up missing some, no matter how many times you comb the patch. Cucumbers hanging from a fence are a pleasure to pick and easy to spot. They also tend to grow straighter, and are cleaner (because they don’t lay on the ground). Vertical cucumbers make picking a pleasure!
Because vertically grown cucumbers are suspended and are provided with ample air flow, they are much less apt to develop the disease powdery mildew. Powdery mildew was a common occurrence in the hot and humid summers when I grew large sprawling patches of cucumbers. Since I began growing them on a trellis, I have not had a single outbreak of this, or any other disease, in my cucumbers. Vertically grown cucumbers tend to be healthy and trouble free.
Growing cucumbers vertically is a great way to increase yields, save space, make picking easier, and have healthier plants. I would never go back to raising them in a patch. I absolutely love growing them on a trellis! Cucumbers aren’t the only thing you can grow vertically. If you are interested in learning more about what crops you can grow and how to do it, I highly recommend Derek Fell’s book Vertical Gardening