by Matt Gibson
There are two distinctly different kinds of cucumber: the vining style, and the bush style cucumber. The vining type of cucumber plant is perfect for vertical gardening, as these plants will grow upward naturally when they’re provided with a vertical support. Gardeners have a lot of options when it comes to providing support for plants like cucumbers that need it. You can go with a traditional style trellis, or you can create your own support method and let your creativity lead the way. You might decide to just plant your cucumbers next to a tomato cage or some garden netting, or you could even repurpose a rickety old ladder that had been collecting dust in your shed and turn it into a neat looking and super inventive support system for your vertical cucumber garden.
However you decide to get vertical in your garden, the benefits will be the same. First things first—you are going to save a ton of space in the garden. Traditional gardening can take up a lot of room, and managing and keeping up with a sprawling, spread-out garden that covers lots of ground can literally be a pain (as in a pain in the neck and the back).
Vertical gardening not only clears away the clutter, opening up lots of ground space for more plants, but you’ll find you’re able to harvest the fruits of your labor without stooping down low to do so. These vining cucumbers are not the only element of the garden that is easier to spot with vertical gardening. The extended vertical growth of this type of gardening also makes it easier to spot and destroy weeds as well as insects and pests.
Cucumber plants that are allowed to spread out across the ground can be more susceptible to damage from bugs and overexposure to water. Powdery mildew disease can become an issue quickly when soil conditions are moist and air conditions are humid, especially if your cucumber plants are planted close together. Raising the plants off the ground and going vertical with them both reduces moisture levels and increases the flow of air around your plants, creating an environment where fungus is less likely to appear—and one it cannot survive in permanently.
Types of Cucumbers
There are two different classifications of cucumber fruits: slicing cucumbers and pickling cucumbers. Slicing cucumbers are grown to be eaten fresh, are commonly found in supermarkets, and you’ll most often find them used in salads, on sandwiches, and to enliven other fresh, healthy fare. These pretty, dark-green vegetables are typically six to nine inches in length. The skin usually appears glossy when you buy these cucumbers in the store, as slicing cucumbers are often waxed after harvest to increase their shelf life.
Pickling cucumbers are available in an array of different varieties, but these types are not commonly found in supermarkets. Instead, they are usually sold at farmers’ markets and in specialty stores. These varieties are usually just called pickle or pickling cucumbers instead of being referred to by their official cultivar names. Pickling cucumbers are usually going to be smaller and shorter than the slicing cucumbers that you would find in a supermarket. Probably the best-known pickling cucumber is the gherkin, known for its small, squatty appearance and bumpy skin.
Special varieties of pickling cucumbers are only available seasonally, but you can find common slicing cucumbers, as well as Armenian and Japanese cucumbers, year-round. Here are a few of the most commonly cultivated cucumbers that you can choose from.
Kirbies are well known because of the popular brand of pickles that carries the same name. A large majority of the Kirby cucumbers that are grown are turned into dill pickles and sold commercially, but these special cucumbers are also harvested and sold fresh. Kirby cucumbers have become a popular choice for chefs around the world, who prefer to use them due to their thin skin, crispy texture, and tiny seeds as well as their tendency to be left unwaxed after they’re harvested.
Hothouse Cucumbers (English):
The hothouse cucumber, also known as the English cucumber (or European cucumber), is massive. Though slender, the fruits of a hothouse cucumber can grow up to two feet in length. Hothouse cucumbers are also seedless, which makes them easy for those with sensitive stomachs to digest. These cucumbers are milder than field-grown varieties, but they tend to be more expensive to purchase simply because they are grown in hothouses instead of outdoors.
Japanese Cucumbers (Kyuri):
These small culinary favorites are both slender and short, with dark green, bumpy skin. They have a crisp, juicy, well balanced taste with a sweet finish. Both the skin and the seeds of Kyuri cucumbers are edible.
Armenian Cucumbers (Snake Cucumber, Snake Melon):
The Armenian cucumber is a slicing cucumber with a mild flavor. The fruit turns yellow and releases a somewhat pungent odor similar to that of the muskmelon, a plant to which it is closely related. You may recall seeing Armenian cucumbers at the supermarket. You’ll know them by their thin dark green skin, which is marked with pale green longitudinal furrows.
Lemon cucumbers are fully ripe when they have grown to nearly the size of a lemon. This variety’s crispy texture and delicate, citrusy flavor has made it a favorite in culinary circles. Its lemon-colored skin starts out a pale yellow and matures with the cucumbers to a golden-yellow hue when they’re ripe.
Persian Cucumbers (Sfran):
Crunchy and watery, the Persian cucumber is commonly grown to eat fresh. Similar to the common slicing cucumber in its flavor and complexity, the Persian cucumber is shorter, fatter, and more compact.
Providing Support for Your Cucumber Plants
As mentioned above, there are a lot of different options for gardeners to choose from when they’re deciding how to provide vertical support for cucumber plants. The most important thing is that your support system is tall enough—and that it’s sturdy enough to not topple over as the plants grow larger. In most cases, for growing cucumbers, a trellis or ladder that’s at least five or six feet tall should suffice. If you’re worried about your climbing cucumber varieties not choosing to climb up your support system of choice, try the A-frame trellis design, which will allow the plants to crawl up and down the structure with ease.
Growing Conditions for Cucumbers
Cucumbers love warm and sunny locations with minimal high-speed wind exposure.
The optimal temperature range for growing cucumbers is between 65 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
A loose, deep soil that offers plenty of drainage is preferred. For growing cucumbers, you should also strive for soil with a neutral pH level and lots of organic matter.
Due to the high water content of the cucumber fruit, regular and deep watering is essential for gardening success. When you’re watering, try to keep the plants’ leaves dry to avoid fungal diseases.
Using a light layer of mulch around the base of the cucumber plants will improve the soil’s ability to maintain the appropriate moisture level for them.
When you’re planting cucumbers, add an all-purpose, slow-release fertilizer to the soil. Once the plants begin to flower, side dress them with aged manure, then apply a balanced liquid fertilizer.
Whether to Grow Cucumbers in Containers
If you are using containers, you will want to select large ones that are more than 12 inches both in depth and width. It is also important to consider the type of cucumber that you will be growing when you’re selecting the containers for them. Some varieties require more room than others to flourish. Vining cucumber varieties grow tall and send out long roots for support, so a deep container is crucial. Bushier varieties of the cucumber plant are short and therefore will require less depth in their containers and less vertical support.
Videos About Growing Cucumbers Vertically?
This invaluable resource will give you the knowledge you need to properly prune your cucumber plants when growing them vertically using a trellis:
This video comes with five helpful tips for growing cucumbers in containers using a vertical support trellis:
Check out this DIY how-to guide to learn about three different ways to grow cucumbers vertically and save space:
Want to Learn More About Growing Cucumbers Vertically?
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