Why do I get so excited about a cucumber trellis, of all things? Every summer, I look forward to making my cucumber salad recipe. Really, it’s the perfect summer salad made with cool, refreshing summer veggies. And it’s even better when the ingredients come from my own vegetable garden.
Sponsored by Lehman’s
Two of these ingredients — cucumbers and summer squash — I can grow on my newest A-Frame Garden Trellis that I got from Lehman’s. They’re one of my sponsors, and you should definitely check out their great selection of gardening tools!
I like to grow my crook-neck squash, zucchini, and yellow summer squash along with my cucumbers on a sturdy frame trellis. It makes the whole gardening process a lot simpler. For another key ingredient, tomatoes, you can use tomato cages to provide structure in a limited space for your backyard kitchen garden.
The a-frame ladder design is just one trellis idea. I love the convenience and durability of a ready-made trellis, but if you have the time, there are also tons of DIY cucumber trellis ideas.
DIY Cucumber Trellises
Possible trellis styles include arches, lattice, and even a teepee trellis. There are many simple DIY structures you can make. An old step ladder works in a pinch! You can even make a PVC cucumber trellis.
For DIY projects, you can use a variety of materials:
- scrap wood
- pallets or pallet wood
- wooden poles
- hardware fencing / panels from fences
- bamboo canes /bamboo poles
- chicken wire
- PVC pipes
There’s no shortage of advantages to growing plants on a trellis:
- Your garden setup will take up less space and get you higher yields. Planting vertically takes up less space, and considering the fact that you can plant them closer together than when planting them the traditional way, you get much more yield.
- Watering is easier and healthier for plants on a trellis. You can water only the main stem, which leaves the leaves dry, thereby minimizing fungal diseases.
- The fruit grows uniformly. Since the fruit or vegetable isn’t sitting on the ground, there are no white spots on the underside of the cucumber and the fruit grows straight.
- It’s easier to see and pick the fruit. Every year that I grow cucumbers and squash on the ground, I will leave so many that I don’t see. Then they get too big and bitter to eat. I guess that’s more food for the chickens. Still, I’d rather have the option to eat them myself!
- The fruit is cleaner. Keeping the fruit off the ground also has the advantage of cleanliness. Namely, there’s less dirt and grime to clean off the fruit after you harvest it from your cucumber trellises.
- Keep the pests and bugs at bay. You don’t need to go overboard on the pesticides if you have your plants on a trellis. The plants will be harder for those pesky bugs to reach.
In the rest of this post, I’m going to focus specifically on cucumber trellises.
Keys to Good Cucumber Production
Cucumber vines are not the best for transplanting because they do not like their roots disturbed. I’ve done it in the past, and while it has worked, usually only half of the transplants make it.
Cucumbers are super finicky about temperature. The soil can never be under 60 degrees. Make sure you wait to plant until 2 weeks after the last frost.
Steady Water Source
Before I plant seeds, I like to make sure the soil is moist, but not drenched. Cucumbers like steady moisture – frequent but shallow watering. A soaker hose is great for this kind of watering. I water about every four days and use heavy mulch because the Alabama heat is so intense in the summer.
Be Sure to Use Rich Soil
Soil is always key. Make sure the soil you use for cucumbers is rich. Fertilize as your crop begins yielding.
Not Using a Trellis? Careful about Spacing
If you aren’t using a trellis, you’ll want to plant your seeds 18 to 36 inches apart. If you are using a trellis, plant them 12 inches apart. Push 2 or 3 seeds about an inch into the soil and in a few days, you will begin to see seedlings.
Train the Plants up the Cucumber Trellis
When you are watering or harvesting in the garden, wind the cucumber tendrils around the wire one or two times. The plant will then take over.
Don’t plant Bush Varieties (Bush Champion, anything with “Bush” in the name) on the trellis. They are best used in 5 gallon pots or straight in the ground.
Harvesting the Cucumbers
- Keep an eye on the cucumbers. Just like kids, they get big fast! When they reach about 6 to 8 inches, they are ready. If you harvest them any larger than that, the seeds will be much more developed and the fruit will not be as tasty.
- Don’t let the fruit ripen on the vine. This will shut down production from the cucumber plant. The more you pick, the more they grow.
- 30 days or so before the first frost, pick the flowers off the plant. This will encourage the other fruit to mature so that you can get as much fruit as possible before the frost kills the plant.
A few great varieties that I keep coming back to are ‘Sweet Success’ and ‘Tasty Green.’ These varieties have yielded great results for me.
Once I’ve harvested my plants, it’s time to get on that cucumber salad! There’s no time to waste, as I’ve been thinking about it all through the cold months. You can find that recipe in my Tracking the Outdoors In cookbook (page 69). Get yourself a copy because there are tons of great gardening tips and recipes in there!