August 21, 2017

Tripping Through the Sprawl? Try a Trellis for Those Cucumbers

Cucumbers on a trellis save space on the ground and make for easier harvesting.

Janine Pineo Photo | Cucumbers on a trellis save space on the ground and make for easier harvesting.

• By Janine Pineo •

I adore cucumbers.

I have always hated tripping over them.

Invariably, I would. Every year. It was a dreadful game of Twister each summer when the harvest was on. Occasionally fruit would be crushed or I would wrench an ankle.

Then I started seeing suggestions to trellis cucumbers, sometimes with elaborate structures that boggled my mind.

And it came to pass – either through sheer brilliance on my part or a suggestion from an equally brilliant gardener – that I purchased two 16-foot panels of steel fence. Specifically, I purchased sheep/goat fence from the local Tractor Supply because it had large enough openings (4 inch) to be able to pick the cucumbers easily while being spaced closely enough for the vines to be able to twine their way to the top of the 48-inch height.

Putting cucumbers on a trellis keeps the sprawl somewhat contained.

Janine Pineo Photo | Putting cucumbers on a trellis keeps the sprawl somewhat contained.

The first roadblock was getting 16-foot panels of steel fence to my house. After an arduous journey with a trailer that was not anywhere near 16 feet in length, the fencing was home.

Sadly, my first attempts at constructing an elaborate structure did not go well. Suffice it to say that the cucumber vines shunned the fence.

Something happened last year. I don’t know exactly what, but I had cucumber vines that loved the fence. Of course, they also sprawled into the footpath, but who was I to complain when the vines climbed the fence from bottom to top.

The result was fantastic. I had baskets of cucumbers, beautifully clean and straight and easy to pick.

The plants also seemed to produce longer. I am not sure I can attribute that to the fence, but perhaps I was able to keep ahead of the fruit so that it didn’t halt the reproduction process when I couldn’t locate fruit under leaves on the ground.

Given my success, I plan to repeat the process this year. I look forward to the results.

The Process

  • Get the fence panels home. This may be your most difficult task.
  • Pound in stakes, about 5 feet in length for best results. I use 6-foot bamboo poles. I did three last year per panel but plan to do four this year, simply to give it more stability in case a hurricane blows through.
  • Maneuver the fence into position. Doing this may be hard if you are but one. With two people, the awkward length and weight distribution disappears.
  • Tie the fence to the panels. I use jute twine.
  • Point the vines in the direction of the trellis. It is best to do this before the vines get too long because they can easily break. This step is somewhat difficult in my garden because I keep my emerging seedlings under floating row cover for as long as possible to avoid cucumber beetle infestation. It ends up being a judgment call on timing.

Why Steel Fence?

You may be asking why steel fence. Price and durability would be my answer.

I wanted something durable, that very possibly will outlive me. The nylon trellis net that I use for the beans and peas was not something I wanted to keep purchasing every few years if I reused it annually.

I had thought about rolled-up fence and given my experience with it in other uses, I decided against it. I did not want to wrassle that every year. It also was not easy to find at the height I wanted with the openings for each square being large enough.

The steel fence is always straight and upright and requires nothing except removal of any debris still clinging to it from the previous summer.