Are you an overzealous garden planner? Maybe ALL of the things you wanted to plant in your garden this spring ending up being a little too much for your kitchen garden? This is something I certainly struggle with. My eyes are bigger than my garden space. But there is a way to create extra space in the garden, so that those seven varieties of peppers or herbs will all fit.
Vertical gardening comes up whenever I talk about gardening in small spaces, but it’s very practical for all gardens, no matter the space. Learning to grow cucumbers vertically is an easy way to try out vertical gardening for yourself. Some other easy vegetables to grow up are pole beans (see my bean teepees), peas, and tomatoes (indeterminate types). I’ve even see other gardeners succeed with watermelons, cantaloupe, and even zucchini.
Keeping these vegetables off of the ground obviously saves space, but it can also keep the vegetables safe from rotting on damp ground. Not to mention that not having to bend over is something I absolutely love! I can pick beans and cucumbers standing up, and that’s a win for vertical gardening in my book. And all of these vertical vegetables can also be grown in containers.
Grow Cucumbers Vertically
So if you’re new to vertical gardening, or just have just never tried to grow cucumbers vertically, I have you covered. Non-bush type cucumbers are made to grab with the tiny tendrils they send out. It really is quite miraculous to watch a plant grab and slowly pull itself toward the closest stationary object.
To grow cucumbers vertically, you’ll need one or two cucumber plants (non-bush variety) or seeds. Cucumbers grow easily when directly sowed outside. Just a tip, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange has an amazing variety of cucumber seeds. And you’ll also need some type of structure for the cucumbers to attach to. I typically use an metal trellis that we’ve had for ages, but a fence, tomato cage, or teepee will also work.
Place your support system in the ground first, if need be. (If you’re using a fence or a trellis that is already firmly planted then clearly skip this step.) Be sure a taller trellis has plenty of support. We rest our metal trellis against our house on the west facing side. This gives the trellis support, and it is a wall with plenty of sun for the cucumbers. Plant cucumbers at the base of your support structure. This could be plants or seeds, and let them grow for several weeks. Usually, even store-bought plants won’t be tall enough to immediately reach a trellis or support. Once they start sending out tendrils, you’ll begin helping the cucumbers grow vertically.
Training cucumbers to grow vertically is so much easier than any other training you’ll ever do, especially potty training. Enough said. Cucumbers, and other vining plants, will naturally reach out and attach to whatever is closest. This could also include the plant next door, so be on the look out. Once my plants are tall enough, I gently begin placing them on the trellis. This may mean manually wrapping a tendril or propping the plant with a leaf tucked behind the trellis so it will stay and begin to climb up naturally.
Slowly, the cucumber will begin the climb. And once the fruit begins to set, the cucumbers will hang down. This makes them incredibly easy to see and to pick. I simply look behind my trellis and the cucumbers are patiently waiting. If you’re growing your cucumbers on a fence or something lower, then be sure to help the plants to grow along the structure.
I have grown cucumbers vertically for the past five years, and I won’t go back to letting them grow on the ground. The kids love that they can see them against the side of the house, and picking is fun for everyone! I’d love to know if you’ve tried vertical gardening before and what you’ve had success with. My vertical watermelon experiment of 2016 didn’t end well, but the cucumbers are always successful! Happy gardening!