The best way to grow cucumbers is on a trellis and in a raised row. Using a trellis to grow cucumbers has tons of benefits including more efficient use of space, more sunshine on the foliage, higher yields, and less chance of disease. A raised row increases soil temperature and drainage.
All cucumbers grown in greenhouses are grown up support systems. The reason trellises are not used in all field crops of cucumbers is cost. For any small gardener using a trellis is the way to go and can even be used when growing in a container.
Farmers that grow pickling cucumbers that produce for a shorter time than slicing cucumbers will use a harvester like the one above and cut out large labor costs for picking.
Slicing cucumbers grown in a field may use trellises or may not depending on the farmer. To learn more about this check out “How Do Cucumbers Grow?“
Benefits of Growing Cucumbers on a Trellis
Using a trellis leads to more full sunshine on the foliage and tighter spacing between rows which leads to higher yields. Increased air circulation leads to healthier disease free plants and is especially preventative of powdery mildew, a common problem with cucumbers.
Having the cucumbers off of the ground allows for gravity to form uniformly shaped cucumbers and keeps them away from pests in the soil and the chance of rot from sitting in wet soil for prolonged times.
Having cucumber plants trellised also allows for a better visual of the cucumber plant which leads to picking at the right time and easier harvesting. Picking cucumbers at the right time is extremely important for cucumbers and promotes higher yields.
If just one cucumber reaches full maturity it will send a signal to the rest of that vine letting it know it can stop producing fruit, it has completed its mission of producing mature seeds. One cucumber can easily escape a growers view on the ground but less easily on a trellis.
There are two ways of planting cucumbers in a plot of soil: in rows or mounds. Rows are more uniform and lead to more efficient use of space. A raised row has the benefits of hills/mounds, better soil drainage and a higher soil temperature, while also having the benefit of a row which is more plants in the same amount of space.
How To Grow Cucumbers On A Trellis
Put the trellis in place before planting the cucumbers. Start to train them up the trellis from a young age and be gentle with them as you intertwine them throughout the trellis. A trellis that has enough spacing in it that you can pick the cucumbers from either side of the fencing is nice.
If the trellis has holes spaced too tight some cucumbers can be tough to get at and some might end up growing through that tight space and become misshapen. Proper pruning is important to create optimal foliage and air circulation. There’s a great video on pruning below.
You can make a trellis out of lots of things including an existing fence. Google DIY trellis and you’ll find lots of cool ideas. Here are a few different types and what they are good for.
To the right is an A-style or tent style trellis. It allows the growth of a plant that enjoys shade like lettuce to grow underneath a vine plant like cucumbers. These are garden cage trellises and so are these. Their both good for growing with containers and letting one plant grow bushy and have a good amount of side growth. This is just garden fencing, 5′ tall and 50 feet long, very practical.
Check out “How To Plant Cucumber Seeds” for the ins and outs of planting the seeds.
Variety Of Cucumber To Grow With a Trellis
When using a trellis you need to consider the type of cucumber you’re growing. There are vining cucumbers and bush cucumbers. Most varieties are vining cucumbers and that’s the type you’ll be looking for to grow on a trellis.
It’s often recommended for gardeners with a small space or using containers to grow bush variety cucumbers. In my opinion using a trellis and vining types is just as space efficient and will lead to larger yields. You can place a trellis right next to the container with the cucumber and train the plant up it.
How Tall Should A Cucumber Trellis Be?
A cucumber trellis should be at least 6 feet. Different vining cucumbers grow to different lengths. An A-shaped or tent trellis will allow the cucumber to use both sides of the trellis.
If you’re using a vertical trellis you can always prune at the top and let some side growth occur. The ways for supporting these plants is endless. This is a great video on how to prune cucumber plants.
Can Cucumbers Grow On The Ground?
Cucumbers can grow on the ground and are grown that way commercially in the field. Rows are typically planted 4-6 feet apart with cucumber plants spaced around 12-18″ apart in the rows.
There are many benefits of growing with a trellis and not many with growing on the ground except for the avoided cost of the trellises and labor putting them up, taking them down, and training the vines up them.
Commercial Methods of Growing Cucumbers
Cucumbers are grown commercially in fields and in greenhouses. A typical field has somewhere around 60,000 plants per acre but can range from 40,000 to 150,000 cucumber plants per acre.
Most fields are picked by hand every two days or so as long as the plants are producing. Some fields are harvested by machine and this happens only once and then the field is plowed under and a second crop of cucumbers or something else can be grown. This paper from PennState Extension shows a sample budget for a small cucumber farm.
Cucumbers grown in greenhouses are always trellised. They are taken better care of than field crops and demand a premium because of their uniform shape, size, and color. This article does a great job of explaining greenhouse cucumber growing methods including the drape method, umbrella method, V-cordon method, and lean-and-lower method.
There are many different ways to grow cucumbers and I hope that you’ve come to the same conclusion that I have that using a trellis is the way to go. Growing cucumbers with a trellis saves space, increases yields, and decreases risks of pests and disease.
Have fun with your trellis and do a DIY setup or go with a standard wire fence or anything in between!
Please leave any thoughts, questions, or experiences on cucumber growing with and without a trellis.