Don’t be put off by not having enough space in your vegetable garden this year; there are plenty of ways to grow cucumbers, even with the most limited space.
Cucumbers, a member of the cucurbit family, are notorious for invading precious garden space.
With the proper training and structure, you can limit the area they take and creatively utilize their climbing ability in a number of ways.
The first time I planted cucumbers in the garden, I let them run all over the paths, and they took up so much space. I also lost a lot of cucumbers to insects and diseases as they were lying on the ground.
In this article, we will look into how to grow cucumbers vertically, save space in your garden and ensure that you are getting the best crop from your cucumber vines.
Choosing The Best Location
Before diving into how to train the cucumber plants, we need to consider the plants’ future and ensure they will have their light requirements met.
When choosing where to plant your cucumber seedlings, it’s best to choose a sunny location with the slightest wind.
Installing a vertical structure with strong winds will be challenging; as the cucumber vine grows, it can become top-heavy.
The best location should contain loose, deep, well-draining soil for the roots to establish a sound system.
When choosing the right location, it is essential to keep in mind the direction of the sun. As these grow vertically, you want to avoid blocking the sunlight on other plants in your garden.
So, make sure you are not planting it in front of other plants that need direct sunlight.
Sowing The Seeds
Cucumber seeds can be sown directly in the ground but are best started in small pots. You can do this by reusing egg cartons or a seedling tray.
To sow cucumber seeds, you will need:
- Potting soil
- Garden gloves
- Egg carton, seed tray, or small pots
- Cucumber seeds
- Watering can
Begin by slipping on your garden gloves and filling the chosen container with premium potting soil. After you have filled each container with soil, use the watering can to wet the soil.
Once the soil is wet, take your cucumber seeds and put one seed in each individual section.
Cucumber seeds are large enough, so they are best to be grown individually. Don’t worry if you accidentally slip two seeds in one pot, as you can plant them separately later.
After you have placed the cucumber seeds in the sections, lightly cover them with soil and water them.
The seeds will germinate after seven days in a warm area.
After your cucumber seeds have germinated and the second set of leaves have grown, it is time to transplant them into your chosen area.
When planting the cucumber seedlings, ensure the cold temperature has passed, and the soil is warm.
Structures For Vertical Cucumber Growing
Now we will look at the different structures you can install for your cucumbers to climb.
This is great if you already have a pergola installed in your garden as the original structure will provide a space-saving solution for vertical growing.
Pergolas are often installed as features or to provide shade from the sun. When covered in a climbing plant, it can take away the manufactured look of the construction and transform it into a natural canopy.
To grow your cucumbers on a pergola, plant each seedling into a large pot or the ground next to each pillar. You can plant a seedling on either side of the post to ensure you have good coverage.
Cucumbers are very fast-growing and will produce a lot of foliage, so there is no need to overplant each section.
Trellises come in various shapes and designs, giving you a chance to be creative with what to use as a trellis and how the final look will benefit your garden.
You can even create your trellis from reused materials to save some money.
In my garden this year, I used an old laundry drying rack made of metal wire and cut the sections to support my cucumbers.
It made it so easy when harvesting the cucumbers because they were kept off the ground, and I could easily spot them when they were ready.
Remember when installing your trellis that once the cucumber vine has grown, it is going to be heavily covered and block light, so it’s best not to install it where you need light to pass through.
Trellises are great if you have an area in your garden that you want to cover up, a wall with a worn render, or an area where you want to create privacy.
With patience, your cucumbers can function not only to provide you with vegetables but also as a solution to other problems in your garden.
Using the vertical structures already in your garden, you can become creative with how you cover them. Garden fences come in a range of materials and you can grow cucumbers against them all.
Wire chain link fences are great, as they already have the sections in place to train your cucumbers against. The only downfall is that you may have cucumbers growing on your neighbor’s side as well as yours!
If your garden fence is made of sturdy solid material, you can start by purchasing some nylon trellis netting from your hardware store. Ensure the net has significant gaps for the leaves and vegetables.
Once you have your netting, fix it to the fence in the most suitable area and plant your cucumbers on the ground at the bottom.
In time you will watch your garden fence become a wall covered in cucumbers and cute dainty yellow flowers!
Arches are a great addition to the garden as they create curiosity leading you down a garden path. You may already have a garden arch or want to make an entry point to a specific area in the garden.
As with the pergola, when planting cucumbers to cover a garden arch, they will cover the manufactured material leaving it looking like a structure formed by nature!
When covering a garden arch with cucumber vines, firstly decide the position of the arch, then plant cucumbers in pots at the arch’s base or in the ground beside the posts.
As your cucumbers cover, the arch’s gravity will pull the vegetables down, so they are hanging through the walkway.
It is best to plant a small variety of cucumbers; that way, you still give yourself enough height in the walkway without being hit on the head by a cucumber!
The A-frame vertical growing method is fantastic if you grow cucumbers in vegetable patches.
They provide a sturdy shield from the wind to other vegetables in the patch if they are positioned in the right place and will give you more space to harvest from.
Unlike the trellis, they provide two sides to harvest from, so you can let the vine run more without monitoring the direction too much.
I used this method at the back of my raised garden beds this year, and it provided me with the extra space needed for other crops within the beds.
The only minor difficulty I had with growing on an A-frame was harvesting the cucumbers inside the frame.
They were a little challenging to get to, but if you check the vines often, you can pull the vegetables to the outside of the frame where you can see them.
Growing cucumbers in containers is a fantastic way to save space; you are not only saving space in the ground but also having the flexibility to move them around as you need.
When opting for the correct container for your cucumbers, it is best to choose one that is deep and strong. Since you will likely fit a structure into the pot, the overall weight will become very heavy.
Aim for a container holding at least 5 gallons of soil per plant.
When choosing a suitable cucumber variety for container growing, try selecting hybrid, picklebush, or salad. These varieties will still require staking but have a more vigorous plant that grows well in a container.
In addition to saving space in the garden container, growing offers complete control over one plant at a time- something you don’t get with a mixed vegetable patch.
As mentioned, I planted cucumbers in my vegetable patch last year, and ı planted them next to my eggplants which are heavy feeders.
When feeding the eggplants, the cucumbers took the organic fertilizer and stressed the plants.
Growing in containers limits the risk of spreading disease and competing against other plants for nutrients.
This is one of my favorite garden structures, they are so easy and practical to build, and you can make them from any poles, stakes, or long sticks you can find.
Once your plant has covered the teepee, you can’t see what it is made of, so it serves a purpose.
The teepee can be installed anywhere the plant is happy, and you build the teepee after planting, too, so there is no need to rush around filling your garden with them until your cucumbers are ready to climb.
When you install a teepee for cucumbers, you should insert at least two of the stakes into the soil next to the cucumber seedling. Approximately 3 inches away from the stem is an ideal distance.
After you have put two stakes into the ground next to the seedling, it’s time to put the third one in. Choose the mid-way between the two stakes and outset it to form a triangle.
Once the three stakes are in the ground, bring the top of all the stakes together and tie them with garden twine, string, or anything that will secure them together tightly.
Now your teepee is in place, your cucumbers will be happy to have the support to keep the vegetables off the ground.
Now that we have looked at the various structures you can use in your garden, we will go into more detail about how to train and prune the vertically-growing cucumber plants.
Training Cucumber Vines To Grow Vertically
Whether you grow your cucumbers up an existing fence or in a container, the method to train your plant is the same. Training will keep the vine under control, ensuring that it doesn’t wander off around your garden.
As your cucumber plant begins to grow and the curly tendrils start to appear this is a sign that your cucumber plant is looking for support to attach to.
At this stage, you may not be able to use the young tendrils the plant has sent out, but you can take the top stem of the vine and gently tie it to your chosen structure.
As the vine continues to grow, remember to keep attaching it to the support you have provided, you can decide what direction you would like it to continue growing at this point.
Training plants take some time, and because cucumbers are so fast at growing, they will require some monitoring, but it is fun to see them cover a space you have chosen.
To tie them to the structure, you can use yarn or garden twine to secure them. Ensure you are connecting them gently to prevent damage to the vine.
You can also tie the vines with training clips from many gardening stores.
Pruning Cucumber Vines To Grow Vertically
Deciding whether to prune cucumbers is often questioned even by some of the most experienced gardeners. As cucumbers grow, they need a balance between leaf growth and reproductive growth.
Not only does pruning help keep your cucumber plants healthy but also to be kept under control simultaneously.
To begin, use a clean, sharp pair of secateurs or scissors and remove all the shoots that grow off the main stem. Try to cut as close to the main stem as possible.
Side shoots, fruit, and flowers that grow on the initial five leaf nodes should be removed. This is essential as the vine can only support one vegetable per leaf node.
In some cases, more than one vegetable will grow on one leaf or node and should be removed. Removing the first four or five runners that come off the main stem will help to produce higher yields.
As the cucumber vine continues to grow, ensure you are keeping it free from damaged and aged leaves. This will help the plant transfer energy to new growth and enable better access to sunlight.
To Sum Up
Cucumbers are a fantastic vertical cover crop; by observing and controlling the vines, you can create a living wall that will give you excellent vegetables.
When deciding on the best structure for your cucumbers, consider where they will grow and visualize the final look you desire.
One key factor to consider is the light that the cucumbers could block when they have covered the structure; other than that, growing cucumbers vertically is an enjoyable and creative method.