Trellising Cucumbers

Reader Contribution by Sherry Leverich Tucker
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Yes, I am getting nice burpless and
picking cucumbers out of my hoophouse! I have been finding enjoyment
from getting summer crops a little earlier than usual this, my first
spring using the hoophouse. The cucumbers do very well in the
hoophouse environment. They grow fast and spread voraciously, and the
cucumbers they produce are very crispy, tender and sweet. I have been
happy with several varieties I have grown in there, Tanga and
Southern Delight have been good slicing cucumbers, and I am always
happy with the National Pickling and Homemade Pickles for the
pickling varieties. Though they may have their place in compact
gardens, or other applications, I have not been pleased with the bush
pickle variety in the hoophouse. The compact nature of the bush
pickle keeps too much moisture and little air circulation leading to
more mildew and aphid issues, which is already a problem in the

Lets take a moment to discuss cucumbers
in general. Cucumbers are very hardy plants and can be started easily
by seed in the ground where they will grow. It is good to make a
small hill (about a one foot area of mounded dirt) because they like
good drainage. Place 2-3 seeds in the center of the hill. Cucumbers
can be planted anytime when the ground is warm and throughout the
summer. They can also be started easily in peat pots and then
transplanted into the garden. To pick the right variety of cucumber,
consider how they will be used. Picklers primary job is to be
pickled. If picked very small, they are good to make gherkins or
sweet pickles with, larger sizes are good for dill or sour pickles,
or sliced for lime pickles or bread and butter pickles. Picklers are
usually bitter to eat raw, and can be upsetting to the stomach. They
are still very edible, though, and do very well if peeled and sliced
and then combined with sliced onion and a little water, vinegar and
salt to taste. These are tasty kept in the refrigerator and eaten
very cold. Burpless, or any slicing type of cucumber, aren’t suited
well to pickling, and can get soft and become dull in flavor after
being processed for pickling. But, they are very tasty eaten just
about anyway raw and fresh. 

In the hoophouse there is only so much
horizontal space, so it is important to go up when possible.
Cucumbers trellis well, since they vine and have the little curly-q’s
that can crawl, twist and grab their way up anything. Welded Cattle
panels work well for this, either looped up and over or standing up
and secured to t-post. Any kind of paneling that can be secured at an
angle (so long as the cucumbers can still easily be harvested), make
it very easy for the plant to climb. Completely vertical trellises
may be difficult for some vines to start to climb and they will need
to be secured with twine or clamps. In the hoophouse is the option of
running cord from the pipes that frame the upper hoops of the house.
I simply tied cord to these pipes, then tied them to t-post that were
laying on the ground alongside the plants. This spring I have two of
these methods, the vertical cattle panels and the cord tied to
overhead pipes. Both methods seem to be working well. As the vines
continue to grow they need to be checked to make sure they are always
moving upward, and as new vines form and grow, they have to be
trained to go up the trellis as well.

I am not a master trellis-er. It’s my
tendency to just let things grow and wander where-ever. But,
trellising, especially for cucumbers, makes a lot of sense. Their
fruit isn’t too heavy that it bears a constant burden on the vine,
unlike a large cantaloup or watermelon would be. Maintenance and
harvesting are also so much easier with the vines up. Another
benefit, especially in the hoophouse, is that pest are more
vulnerable. It is so much easier to keep an eye on possible aphid
infestations and then spray the underside of the leaves with soapy
water when necessary if the plants are off the ground. It is also
easier to use some barrier methods, such as “sticky feet” to keep
ants from climbing up the vines (which can become a problem if they
start tending to the before-said aphids).

Good luck with your vines and growing
garden! I am trying to encourage vertical growth throughout my
hoophouse; with tomatoes, I am using “stake and weave” where a
t-post is placed in between about five or six plants down a straight
row of tomatoes. Then, as the tomatoes grow, twine is wrapped around
the post, then carried down one side and then the other to keep the
plants boxed into the area. This is working really well for me, but
as time goes on and the tomatoes are getting out of control I find
that it is impossible to manage the vines anymore at all. But, it has
helped considerable, and keeps them off the floor of the hoophouse
for the most part. For peppers I am using rebar stakes (actually
electric fence wire posts). Hammer the post next to the pepper plant,
then tie the plant to the post continually as it grows vertically. As
I continue to experiment more with upward growth, I must pursue an
education in better pruning.

 photo:  May 2, me holding my first cucumber of the year.  The cucumber plants have gotten considerably larger now!

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