Nothing says summer like biting into a cool cucumber fresh from the vine. But while it’s technically easy to grow cucumbers, you will struggle with rot, pests, and disease unless you use a cucumber trellis.
A cucumber trellis is a trellis designed for growing cucumbers, with wide slots and plenty of strength to hold up abundant harvests. Cucumber trellises come in different materials, but are typically one of five design types: vertical, lean-to, a-frame, arch, or cage. You can easily DIY one. Trellising makes cucumbers healthier and more abundant while saving space.
However, it’s important to remember that whichever trellis you use, it must be strong enough to hold the vines once the cucumber has produced fruit. While each cucumber seems light, an abundant harvest can bring down less hardy structures.
While you can use netting or string, they need to be secured to a railing (like a tensile wire or panel). What works for peas may be too light for cucumbers.
Trellises are also just one part of growing cucumbers, as there are many other challenges. Cucumbers love water, and they can’t get much themselves with their short roots.
When underwatered, the cucumbers taste bitter. Mulching the ground will help keep the soil moist in between waterings. Using a dark mulch or black plastic mulch will also warm up the soil faster if you’re in a cooler climate, as cucumbers love heat (but not too much heat).
Since cucumbers are prone to a number of fungal diseases, pick a resistant variety and keep the leaves dry.
You also need to keep an eye out for the dreaded cucumber beetle. They may be easy to spot, but if allowed to attack young plants or breed into droves, they’ll kill your cucumber plant.
They’re fast flyers, but if you dip your finger in petroleum jelly, you can catch them faster and easier before dropping them into a bucket of water.
Trellising cucumbers will help with all of these challenges.
Ready? Let’s begin.
Join 500+ gardeners to get access to news, tips, and information.
Delivered right to your inbox – once per week.
Like peas, beans, and tomatoes, cucumbers come in two varieties: bush and vine.
Bush cucumbers only grow to 2 or 3 feet tall. They’re great if you don’t have much space and need a compact plant, or if you can’t put in a large trellis.
While you won’t get as many cucumbers as with a vine variety, the loss isn’t that big. However, if you plant them too close and the leaves get shaded out, you’ll have more problems with pests.
While they technically don’t need a trellis, they still like to climb and benefit from some support. Spreading out the leaves will increase air circulation. You don’t need a big trellis, as a tomato cage will be big enough.
Vine cucumbers grow 4 to 6 feet long, and they are natural climbers. If you leave them on the ground, you’ll have a tangled mess of vines and hidden fruit.
Given a trellis (or any plants or structures close by), they’ll climb upwards with tendrils clinging to the structure. Vine cucumbers are the most popular cucumbers to grow.
Why Use A Cucumber Trellis?
While you can grow cucumbers on the ground, cucumbers are made to climb (even bush cucumbers), and providing a trellis gives you so many advantages. A cucumber trellis:
- Encourages their natural growth habit. Like peas, cucumbers love to climb. They develop tendrils that wrap around whatever structures they encounter – fences, strings, and even other plants. Once wrapped, these tendrils are exceedingly troublesome to unwrap. They can also bring down larger plants if they’re not strong enough or shade out the plant’s leaves.
- Increases sunlight exposure. When cucumber vines grow on the ground, the leaves can block the sunlight from each other. By raising up the leaves, they’ll get more sunlight, which means more heat and more fruit production.
- Increases pollination. The more visible flowers are, the easier pollinators can find them and pollinate your cucumbers.
- Adds air circulation. Cucumbers are prone to fungal diseases which take advantage of perpetually damp leaves and fruits. By growing on a trellis, you’ll add air circulation, which helps the plants dry off faster and reduces the chance of these diseases.
- Makes it easier to water. Cucumbers are best watered at the base of the plant while avoiding wetting the leaves, which makes them more susceptible to fungal diseases. That’s difficult to do when you have to search and step through tangling vines. Cucumbers need a lot of water for their shallow roots, as cucumbers stressed by dry conditions taste bitter.
- Lifts cucumber fruits off the damp ground. With fruit off the ground, you’ll have less misshapen fruit and less fruit rot.
- Makes it easier to spot and harvest cucumbers. Zucchini growers know this problem all too well – cucumber fruits can hide so well under foliage that you’ll only find them once they’ve turned yellow and inedible. When on a trellis, you can spot cucumbers much easier, so you’ll end up getting more cucumbers per harvest. You also don’t need to bend down as much to harvest! Your back will thank you.
- Saves space. Like all vine squash, if they’re left to sprawl on the ground, cucumbers will sprawl all over your garden. By growing vertically, you can grow more cucumber plants in less space, and without the cucumbers taking over your entire garden.
- Makes it easier to spot pests and diseases. Oh, the dreaded cucumber beetle. Adult cucumber beetles feed on the leaves and blossoms while the larvae feed on the roots before emerging as adults later in the season. While a healthy adult cucumber plant can survive one or two cucumber beetles, too many will kill them. Cucumber beetles are fairly easy to spot, as they’re large and bright yellow with black stripes or dots, but they can hide easily in sprawling vines. Catching them early and killing the adults is key to keeping them from destroying your crops, although you can also grow them under insect netting or row cover until they’re ready to be pollinated.
How Tall Should A Cucumber Trellis Be?
The ideal cucumber trellis for vine cucumbers is 5 to 6 feet tall. This doesn’t need to be completely vertical.
If you’re looking for something shorter, then use an a-frame or lean-to, which will look shorter but still give the cucumbers enough length to grow. Make sure you can still reach the top of the trellis from all sides, or you’ll have trouble harvesting.
Bush cucumbers only grow 2 to 3 feet, so you don’t need anything too tall. A tomato cage is the perfect size.
What Angle Should A Cucumber Trellis Be?
The angle depends on what kind of trellis you use. If you’re buying a trellis, just follow the instructions. A vertical trellis should be vertical.
A lean-to should be set at a 45-degree angle, unless you have a windier garden, then use a steeper angle to keep the trellis lower to the ground and more stable.
How To Plant Cucumber To Grow Up A Trellis?
To plant cucumbers so they’ll grow up a trellis:
- Setup the trellis. This just makes it easier to find where to plant the cucumbers. It also means you won’t accidentally destroy roots, place it on top of the seeds, or damage vines when adding the trellis. If you’re transplanting, you can use the hardening off time to set up the trellis.
- Sow or transplant the cucumbers as close to the trellis as possible. This will give the cucumbers close access to wrap their tendrils around it.
- Train the cucumber vines. When the cucumbers are short, you may need to wrap the vine around the trellis or attach it with garden twine or stretchy nylon rope. When using twine, tie it loosely enough that the vines can grow thicker without cutting into the twine.
- Wrap loose tendrils around the trellis. This is part of the training process, but it’s a good thing to note. If you see loose tendrils waving in the air, encourage them to wrap around the trellis. The tendrils will latch on and help keep the vine close to the trellis.
What To Plant Under A Cucumber Trellis?
An a-frame or lean-to takes up more space in the garden than growing vertically, but you can still take advantage of the lost space. Cucumbers grow best during the heat of summer, and their large leaves and abundant growth will shade the ground underneath.
Likewise, you’ll get a shaded area behind a vertical trellis. This shaded spot is a great place to grow cool-season crops like spinach, bok choy, cabbage, and lettuce, as they grow in part-shade and can take advantage of the cooling effect of the cucumber trellis.
But what about in front of a trellis? If you’ve got the space in front, try planting:
- Borage: attracts pollinators with abundant flowers
- Calendula: attracts pollinators and can serve as a trap plant for aphids
- Carrots: uses the deeper soil that cucumber’s shallow roots don’t need
- Bush beans: fixes nitrogen in the soil without competing for sunlight or trellis space
- Dill: attracts beneficial predators that eat aphids and spider mites
- Nasturtium: attracts pollinators, repels cucumber beetles, serves as a trap plant for aphids, and some claim it even improves the flavor of cucumbers
- Radishes: takes advantage of the deeper soil that cucumber’s shallow roots don’t need while repelling beetles and rust flies (for carrots)
5 Ways To Support Cucumber Vines
While there’s a ton of options out there, cucumber trellises come in one of 5 shapes:
#1 Vertical Trellis
Vertical trellises are trellis that are vertical. They’re pretty straightforward, and you have tons of material options for different price points and aesthetics, including:
- An iron trellis from the gardening store
- Wooden lattice
- Wire cattle panels held up with t-posts
- Wooden/steel frame for netting or string
If you opt for netting, make sure that the netting grid is wide enough that your hand can pass through and your frame is strong enough to hold up a lot of cucumbers as fruiting cucumber plants get very heavy.
While you can grow cucumbers up a fence, especially a chain-link fence, make sure that you can reach all the fruits without having to go into a neighbor’s yard. On street-facing or back-alley-facing fences, passersby may assume fruit on that side of the fence is theirs for the taking (and may not be all that gentle).
You could also attach a trellis or net to a fence to save space, but you may have trouble harvesting cucumbers that grow between the trellis and the fence.
#2 Lean-To Trellis
A lean-to trellis is a panel set at an angle with a couple of supports holding it up. While they take up more space than other options, lean-to’s are great if you have a windier garden, since you can shorten the angle to keep the trellis lower to the ground, making it more stable with less wind to push against it. Otherwise, a 45-degree angle works well.
If you grow underneath the lean-to, orient it so that the cool-season plants underneath get some morning and evening sun when it’s not as hot.
#3 A-Frame Trellis
An a-frame trellis is shaped like a ladder with two panels for cucumbers to grow up. Place an a-frame east to west, rather than one panel facing south and one north, to maximize the amount of sunlight each side gets. Alternatively, you could try peas on the northern side to take advantage of the shade and cooler conditions.
A-frames take up more space than other trellises.
#4 Arch Trellis
While a lean-to or a-frame trellis will take up a garden bed, an arch trellis adds more vertical space while also creating a whimsical garden feature. As the name suggests, an arch trellis is a panel that arches from one garden bed to the next, leaving enough room for people to traverse underneath. Many arches are round at the top, but you can also find wooden ones that are square.
You can install one as an entrance to or over a pathway within your vegetable garden. If you line up multiple arches, you can create a cool place to walk during a hot day. You can even use an arched trellis over a raised or elevated bed.
Arch trellises are more expensive to buy, but you can easily DIY one with a cattle fencing panel and four t-posts.
If you’re growing bush cucumbers instead of vines, you don’t need a big trellis setup. You can just use a tomato cage or a small garden obelisk to give a bush cucumber something to climb up to keep its leaves off the ground and give you easier access to cucumbers. (Tomato cages are also great for zucchini plants.)
A taller garden obelisk will also work for one or two vine cucumbers.
While you can grow both vine and bush cucumbers without a trellis, you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle and disappointment while growing a lot more cucumbers by installing a trellis.
Cucumber plants wilting after transplant? Find out why here!
Learn about how to protect cucumber plants from cold here.
To find books, courses, seeds, gardening supplies, and more, check out The Shop at Greenupside!
Join 500+ gardeners to get access to news, tips, and information.
Delivered right to your inbox – once per week.
If you want to read some of my most popular posts, check out the “Best of GreenUpSide” page here. Enjoy!