Like parking spots and quarters, space in an urban community garden is precious. We think about yield per square foot like the folks at Del Monte. Grow a watermelon that’ll sprawl and cover 10 square feet and produce two melon? Or plant kale in the same spot? Go for the kale.
That’s why whenever it’s possible we urban gardeners take our veggies vertical. This is especially true for vining or sprawling vegetables. You may recall I created a DIY pea trellis/frame earlier this spring, which I’m happy to report is doing its job excellently. My next project is to devise a trellis or support for cucumber plants.
Let’s first go over the reasons for why we would want to have our cucumbers lifted off the ground:
- It saves space (already mentioned above)
- Air is better able to circulate around the leaves, allowing them to dry better and therefore (and hopefully) preventing the spread of mildew and disease.
- Crawling insects have a harder time getting to the plants to eat them.
- Pollinators can find the flowers better.
- The cucumber fruit is suspended off the ground, helping them to 1) ripen all the way around the fruit (usually the places where the fruit touches the ground remain yellow) and 2) be out of reach of crawly things.
I’ve researched cucumber trellises online and have also looked at structures local community gardeners have built to support their trellises. Two structures are most prevalent:
A completely vertical four-sided frame. Twine woven in a pattern of squares crosses the two vertical and two horizontal supports. The frame is driven into the ground about a foot. The vines wind their way up the trellis and fruit hang down.
A similarly constructed frame but positioned diagonally. I’ve seen these in many community gardens, as I believe they are offered as pre-built items both online and in store. Sometimes the squares of woven twine are instead a grid of heavy wire.
As I prepare to build my own cucumber support this weekend, I have a choice to make—vertical or diagonal? I imagine the pros and cons are:
The vertical frame saves more horizontal space, but the air circulation is limited by gravity pulling all the foliage down into somewhat of a curtain.
The diagonal frame takes up more horizontal space, but the air circulation would seem to be improved as the foliage is growing diagonally and also tilting downward due to gravity.
So, those are my two options. Unless I come up with a third, as-of-yet-not-seen option. What might that look like, I wonder?