Horticulture Magazine

How To Grow Trellis Cucumber Plants

cucumbers growing vertically on netting

Cucumber Overview

Official Plant NameCucumis sativus
Common Name(s)Cucumber
Plant TypeFruit
Native AreaCultivated – origins in India
Hardiness RatingH1C
ToxicityEdible
FoliageVining
FlowersYellow flowers from which fruit form
When To SowMarch, April, May, June
Harvesting MonthsJuly, August, September, October
Sunlight

Preferred
Full Sun

Exposure
Sheltered

Size

Height
Pinch out tips when desired height achieved

Spread
Varies by variety

Bloom Time
Summer

Soil

Preferred
Most fertile soils

Moisture
Moist but well drained

pH
Any

Unless you’re a cat, you’ve probably got a fairly neutral opinion of cucumbers.

The ones you buy at a grocery store are long and green, have a gentle flavour that adds a delicate je ne sais quoi to salads, sandwiches, and various other dishes. Grow your own, though, and you’ll find them a lot more flavourful. You’ll also notice the skin grows much bumpier, bringing an interesting texture and earthiness to your plate.

cat staring at a cucumber on a white fluffy rug
Cats are inexplicably scared of cucumbers. Humans, less so.

In this article we’re going to introduce vining cucumbers, one of the two types of cucumber plant you can grow. We’ll also introduce trellises, and teach you how to build one for your vining cucumber to wind itself up and around. After reading you’ll have the information you need to get a bountiful cucumber harvest going.

What is a cucumber trellis?

Quite simply, a cucumber trellis is a trellis built specifically for cucumbers to grow on. While many vegetables can be grown on trellises, a cucumber trellis is designed to be the dimensions most conducive to a healthy harvest of Cucumis sativus.

yellow flowers and green fruits of cucumber plant growing against a metal green trellis
Look at them grow!

By providing a structure for a vining cucumber plant to grow upon, a trellis encourages healthy and numerous growth. While a vining cucumber will grow on the ground, many gardeners are surprised by just how much growing they’ll do. You’ll quite quickly be overrun with two metres or more of energetic vines, and they’ll have no qualms interfering with other plants.

A trellis is a great way to direct this growth upward rather than outward, giving your cucumbers the opportunity to thrive without disrupting their neighbours.

Why grow them?

As with most fruits and veggies, the main reason to grow them is because they’re delicious! Home-grown produce always manages to be that little bit more flavourful than their supermarket brethren. Perhaps it’s the organic growing methods, perhaps it’s just the psychological result of picking them with your own hands, but whatever it is, we’re confident these cucumbers will be noticeably better than anything store bought.

What’s more, you can give excess cucumbers to your friends and family. Now, we appreciate this may be an unusual thing to do in normal circumstances, but if you explain first that they’re home-grown, it’ll look a lot less odd.

Even better, why not pickle a few cucumbers and give gifts of homemade pickles next Christmas?

homemade pickles in a jar with a red lid
Homemade pickles. Is there anything more Pinterest?

How to grow trellis cucumbers

With trellis cucumbers you have two jobs: Preparing your trellis, and planting out your cucumbers.

We’ll start with the trellis –

How to build a trellis for Cucumis sativus

When building your own trellis, you’ve got a lot of options. You can go for a simple metal mesh lashed to wooden or bamboo support canes, for instance. This is cheap, quick, and easy: All you need to do is plant the two supports, lean the mesh against them, and bind the two together with twine, wire, cable ties, or similar.

If you’re feeling a little bit more DIY, you can build a wooden frame and run lengths of string between hooks on the upper and lower beams for the cucumbers to grow on. This method doesn’t need much more than some wood, a saw, a few nails, and a hammer. All you’ll be doing is cutting the wood to size, arranging it in a square shape, nailing it together, and erecting it. You can either use multiple frames to support each other, or leave the side pieces of wood longer than the others and bury the additional length below the ground for support.

There are many other options, depending on how creative you’re feeling and which materials you’ve got to hand. You could lean two pieces of mesh against each other to create an A frame and remove the need for support poles, for instance. Or you could even repurpose and old washing airer, drying rack, or similar piece of furniture to create a fabulous upcycled trellis.

If you’re cultivating a rustic garden vibe, this last option definitely wins top marks.

Where to grow your plant

Once you’ve built a trellis, you need to find the right spot for it. Cucumbers love the sun, so try to find a sheltered spot that catches the full heat and light of the sunshine.

Fertilising

For the healthiest growth, work a couple of buckets of compost (or equivalent organic matter) through the soil. Your cucumbers will appreciate this nutrient boost, and should grow all the more enthusiastically for it.

Sowing your cucumber seeds

While you can grow cucumbers indoors, this isn’t really compatible with trellis growing, so we’ve omitted that from this guide.

When growing cucumbers outdoors, you’ll want to plant them directly into the ground in May or June. Each seed should be sown to a depth of about 2cm.

You can also start them off indoors and move outside after the last frost, which gives you the option of planting out established seedlings rather than new seeds. If you decide to do this, harden your baby cucumbers off for a few days before planting out properly, as they may struggle to survive against the elements otherwise.

It’s really important that you set up your trellises before planting out your cucumbers, as your prone to squash the seeds and any fledgling sprouts if you do it the other way round.

Encouraging your cucumbers to take hold

While vining cucumbers grow very enthusiastically, they may need some assistance in attaching themselves to the trellises in the early stages. You can give them a hand by getting any stray vines and winding them gently around the trellis, which will hopefully encourage them to take hold. Check back often on any vines that are struggling to attach, keep giving them a hand, and eventually they’ll bind themselves tightly around the support.

Try to avoid bending the vines, where possible. Just aim to guide them gently.

Watering

Cucumbers are thirsty specimens, as you may have guessed by their high internal water levels! Water a couple of times a week in dry conditions, and keep a careful eye on soil moisture levels if it has been raining. You want to make sure that your cucumbers don’t go too long without a drink, as this can impact the taste of the final product.

Harvesting

This is what it’s all about. When your cucumbers look healthy and are between 14 and 20cm long, you can cut them away from the vine with scissors, secateurs, or a knife. Try to use a sharp blade where possible rather than picking with your hands, as this will do less damage to the vines.

man harvesting a cucumber using scissors to cut it from the plant
This looks a good size to be harvested

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Cucumbers are prone to certain pests, unfortunately. On the upside, however, is that you can more easily see and identify these pests when they’re that much higher above ground level.

Keep a careful eye on your cucumber plants, and if you see any of the following issues, take action immediately –

Cucumber mosaic virus

This vicious virus gives your cucumber leaves a mottled appearance and, more concerningly, impacts (or even removes) their ability to put forth flowers or fruit. If you notice this, immediately destroy any infected plants to prevent the spread. Wash your hands thoroughly before handling any other plants in your garden, cucumber or otherwise.

Whitefly

These sap-sucking little flies like to feast on the tasty sap in your cucumber’s leaves, and then leave their excrement in exchange. The excrement damages your plant and creates conditions that invite mildew, raising the likelihood of further damage. What a nightmare!

If you see small, white flies or larvae on your leaves, brush them off at first. If they return, buy a biological control product to remove them more permanently.

Mildew

If you find white blemishes on your cucumbers, it’s likely you’ve got mildew. This powder is a sign of an infection that damages the plant and harms further growth. To avoid, try to ensure your cucumber plants are always well-watered.

Cool as a cucumber

Aside from a few potential pests, trellis cucumbers are great fun to grow. From building the trellis, to coaxing the vines to take hold, to watching as your suspended vines burst into bloom, this plant is a real treat to behold.

With the information in this guide, you should now have everything you need to build a trellis, get it erected, plant out your cucumbers, and nurture them to maturity. All that’s left now is to keep a watchful eye on them as they grow, harvest them when they’re ready, and enjoy their dainty deliciousness.

Enjoy!

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