Every Wednesday Gardening Know How features a different guest blogger with a fresh take on gardening. This week’s guest blogger is Robin Follette of Robin’s Outdoors who is here to encourage you to think differently about how you grow your cucumbers! Robin has gardened for more than 40 years, and grows all of the vegetables and most of the fruit and herbs eaten by her family. She harvests fresh food year round by growing in high tunnels. Robin and her husband Steve live in the woods of rural Maine.
Growing cucumbers vertically solves a myriad of problems gardeners encounter when growing vine crops. Space is usually the most important issue, and by growing vertically, you need only one square foot of soil per plant. An overhead support that is six to eight feet tall and sturdy, twine and trellis clips are all you need to grow vines vertically.
Place each seed or transplant 24 inches apart in amended soil. I like to put my twine up before the seeds and transplants are in so that I’m not stepping around the plants.
Weeds are easy to control when growing cucumbers vertically. Weeds are easier to see when they’re small because aren’t leaves on the ground for the weeds to hide under. Watering at the base of the plant helps to prevent the germination of weeds seeds, and it conserves water.
Cucumbers will grow any place you can attach a piece of twine to a solid object. If you’re container gardening along the porch, you can tie the twine to a solid rail. In a greenhouse, attach twine to the frame. If the vine grows taller than the frame, you will gently pull the vine down, attach it to the twine, and let it continue to grow. In the outdoors garden, attach twine to a teepee form and guide the vines up as they grow. You’ll need to check on the vines twice a week to keep them from falling down.
There’s no need to attach the twine to anything on the ground. Plant the cucumber at the bottom of the twine and watch to be sure the plant’s tendrils find the twine.
When plants naturally head in the opposite direction, you can attach the two using trellis clips. These clips are available at garden supply centers. Encourage tendrils to wrap themselves around the twine’
After the initial planting and clipping, vertical growth is easy on your back. You won’t be bending to the ground to push leaves aside as you look for cucumbers to harvest. They’ll be in clear view as they hang from the vine.
Pruning each vine to one main stem is important. Pruning concentrates growth to the cucumbers and one vine. Cut new vines at the lateral node using clean scissors or a knife. Drop the vine to the soil and let it decompose. It’s easy to cut the wrong vine when you’re moving quickly. Don’t despair! As long as you haven’t cut the main vine below the first node the plant will produce a new vine in no time. Remove the young vine close the node without damaging the main vine.
Cucumbers that are grown vertically will be clean because they don’t touch soil. They won’t have white sides caused by lack of sun, and they should be straight. Growing your pickling cucumbers on vines will save you a tremendous amount of time in finding, picking and cleaning them. The few minutes you’ll spend clipping vines to twine each week are saved later on.
Life gets busy and vines can get ahead of even the most diligent gardener. If you discover a new vine with immature cucumbers, you can either cut the vine immediately, or train it to the twine. Remove the tip of the vine so can’t continue to grow. Check this new vine each time you check the main vine, and prune it at the lateral node.
Remember to tune in every Wednesday to get another unique perspective on gardening!