Cucumber plants are ideal for growing vertically and take up less space when grown this way. Find out more about which vertical supports or cucumber trellises are best and when to use them.
Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) are popular plants for growing at home. They can either be grown along the ground or vertically up a support such as a cucumber trellis. Read on to discover what options there are for supporting vertically grown cucumbers as well as how to make your own.
Do cucumbers need a trellis?
Not all cucumbers need a trellis or support as it depends on the cucumber variety as well as the location and space available. Some outdoor varieties are ideal for growing directly in the ground and love to sprawl all over the soil. However, most indoor cucumbers, especially those bred for greenhouse or polytunnel cultivation, are best grown vertically and require supports.
Growing cucumbers vertically has several advantages: it saves space, reduces the prevalence of disease and makes cultivating cucumbers much easier. Growing cucumbers vertically, lifts their fruits up off the ground, reducing the likelihood of any soil-borne contamination. Additionally, it increases air circulation around the plants, reducing the risk of fungal diseases. Vertically grown cucumbers are also easier to care for as it can be simpler to prune and fertilise them.
What kind of cucumber trellis is best?
Cucumber plant supports are available in various options, from prefabricated metal supports to readymade trellises and even just string. There is an option for every budget and location.
String cucumber supports
String or garden twine supports are most often used undercover as they can easily be tied to the roof of a structure, but they can also be used for container growing and tied to a gutter or balcony roof.
To install a twine support for cucumbers, attach a long string to a point high above the plant and gently tie it around the base of the cucumber stem when planting. As the cucumber plant grows, gently wind the stem around the string every few days to train it upwards. Tie the stem to the string at regular intervals using a small piece of additional twine. This is especially important when growing cucumbers in exposed conditions as the plant can be surprisingly heavy when it is heavily laden with fruits.
Pole cucumber supports
Simple stakes or poles can also be used to support vertically grown cucumbers. Whether wooden, bamboo, metal, plastic or even coppiced hazel rods, all can be used. Just ensure that they are tall enough for the plant’s eventual growth and strong enough to support a hopefully heavy cropping cucumber plant.
To support cucumber plants with poles: insert the stake or pole deeply into the ground or pot at the time of planting to avoid damaging any roots later on. Having securely inserted the support at least 30 to 50 cm deep into the ground, tie stem loosely to stake at regular intervals to keep it growing vertically. For tying in, use garden twine or clips that can be used for many seasons to come.
Trellis cucumber supports
A cucumber frame or trellis can be used practically everywhere, whether indoors or outdoors, and for cucumbers grown in containers or directly in the soil.
The cucumber’s stems can simply be woven into the trellis, which is a lattice made of string, metal, nylon, bamboo or wood, eliminating the need to tie them in throughout the season. However, the trellis must be sturdy and securely inserted into the ground or attached to a wall or fence to remain upright in windy conditions.
Whether made from a biodegradable string that can be composted or treated wood that can last many seasons, there are many trellis options to choose from.
Tower or obelisk cucumber supports
Metal or wooden obelisks or towers designed for climbing ornamental plants can also work well for supporting cucumbers. As large structures, they can be tricky to store for the rest of the year. However, they tend to be sturdy, well made and designed to last many seasons and thus reduce waste over time. As with the cucumber trellis, the stems can be woven into the frame reducing the need to tie them in.
DIY cucumber trellis
Making a DIY cucumber trellis or tower is certainly doable. While it requires some materials and time, it can be more cost effective than buying something readymade.
A cucumber trellis can be made from wooden slats or battens. Cut the wooden slats to the desired length. Lay three or more long slats vertically, then screw shorter slats horizontally to them roughly every 30 cm to make a lattice. A more basic trellis can be made from twine and sturdy hazel poles: simply take three or more hazel poles and string twine between them every 30 cm to form a lattice. However, make sure the proposed structure is strong enough to withstand some wind when laden with fruit. Also, decide whether it should be free-standing or attached to a wall or fence. If treated, the wood may last several years before needing to be replaced, but string lattices will need to be replaced after each season.
Cucumber towers or obelisks can also be made at home, although they may take more time and skill. Use four long wooden posts of the same length and attach together at the top. Attach battens horizontally with nails or screws every 30 cm to provide structural and lateral support. With a wide base, obelisks can be self-supporting and provide excellent support for cucumbers to grow up and around.
Tip: To prevent wooden structures and trellises from rotting, regularly treat the wood using oil or paint, which should hopefully help them last for many years.
Cucumbers can produce harvestable fruits in as little as 50 to 70 days after planting; to make sure you are ready for your bumper crop, read our article on how to harvest and store cucumbers here.