Cucumbers are a wonderful addition to your balcony garden, but do you have the space for a cucumber plant? They are vines that tend to sprawl out a bit. The simple secret is planting the climber variety and growing cucumbers vertically. Here, the vines are trained to grow upward instead of expanding around. Of course, this requires some preparation, and we’ll get to that, and more, in this post.
- Why You Should Try Growing Cucumbers Vertically
- How do you train a cucumber plant to grow vertically?
- Choosing a Container & Trellis for Your Vertical Cucumber Plant
- Requirements for Healthy Cucumber Plants
- Diseases and Pests that can Affect Cucumber Plants
- How to Harvest Your Cucumbers?
Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) are easy to grow, and require sun exposure and deep watering. They’re a great addition to your kitchen, and can be used in salads, in cooked food, and can be pickled as well.
Why You Should Try Growing Cucumbers Vertically
Well, to save space! Cucumbers that are grown on the ground tend to spread out and cover up to 20 sq ft in area. Nobody’s balcony has the space for that kind of sprawl. We could try to grow bushy varieties of cucumber that are smaller and take up much less space. But these produce fewer cucumbers.
So, it’s a trade-off that you have to make, and the ideal solution is to use support for the cucumber vines and encourage them to grow vertically. Not only are the vines more productive (more cucumbers than what the bushy varieties produce), but grown vertically, they take up much less area (only about 2 sq ft).
Other Advantages of Growing Cucumbers Vertically
1 / Avoid fruit rot
Cucumber cultivation comes along with the problem of fruit rot, which happens when fruits sit in wet soil for long periods. If you’re training the vine to grow straight up, this problem of soaking in wet soil does not occur. This also prevents the occurrence of slugs due to wet leaves.
2 / Improve air circulation & sun absorption
Growing vertically helps the plant have better air circulation, which can prevent fungal diseases such as Powdery mildew. In addition, the leaves will be able to absorb more sunlight, resulting in a healthier plant.
3 / Harvest easily
Not only will the cucumbers be healthier due to greater sun exposure on a vertical plant, but it’s easier to access and harvest the cucumbers when the plant is growing vertically.
How do you train a cucumber plant to grow vertically?
The cucumber plant will develop tendrils, which are touch-sensitive leaves that wrap around anything they touch. Provide support to your cucumber tendrils with the help of a trellis. You can use pergolas, teepees, cages, arches or A-frame trellises, along with jute ropes to tie the vines to the support frame.
As your cucumber plant starts growing, the tendrils and vines will begin to latch on to any support available in order to pull itself up. Encourage it by tying the vines to the support structure, so they receive more and more support in order to grow taller.
If the vines seem unable to climb, it’s likely because the tendrils aren’t finding anything to latch onto. Make sure the trellis frame is not too far away from the reaching tendrils, and that the bars are narrow enough to wrap around. Use a thin string, chicken wire or netting as a bridge if your plant is struggling to reach and latch onto the trellis.
As they climb up and grow, prune the plant regularly to limit it to the trellis.
Psst, you can even try growing cucumbers upside down!
How to support the weight of the cucumbers?
We know that cucumbers can get heavy. To encourage the baby cucumbers to grow out to their full size without falling off due to their own weight, use slings to cradle the cucumbers. These slings can be made of cloth or netting, or any contraption you can come up with. The intention is basically to support the weight of the growing cucumber. Make sure you leave enough space for the cucumber to grow.
Choosing a Container & Trellis for Your Vertical Cucumber Plant
Get a large container of between 12 to 18 inches deep and wide, with adequate drainage. Vine plants grow tall and develop very long roots, so the pot needs to accommodate for that.
Get a sturdy trellis that’s at least 5 to 6 feet tall. Or have some structure that the vines can latch on to for support as they grow higher and higher. Make sure the plant is supported sufficiently at every stage of its growth. An important point is to set up the trellis right at the beginning (before transplanting the seedlings into the pot), because then they will not affect the roots. Setting up the trellis once the plant is already a foot or more high can damage the roots.
Requirements for Healthy Cucumber Plants
1 // Sun
Cucumbers need warmth and quite a bit of sun. They’re originally from southern Asia, so they like it hot, and don’t do well when the temperature goes below 50 degrees F.
The ideal temperature range for cucumbers is between 60F and 95F (between 15 and 35 C). Make sure there’s not too much wind; the vines tend to flounder if it’s too windy for them to latch on to the support.
2 // Soil
Fill your deep pot with loose, rich, organic potting mix. Make sure the soil drains well.
3 // Water
Watering the cucumber plant regularly and deeply is key. Don’t allow the leaves to stay wet, or they could develop fungal diseases.
4 // Nutrition
The cucumber is a hungry plant. Mix an all-purpose slow-release fertilizer with the soil at the time of planting. Carefully observe the growth and development of the plant, and provide specific nutrients as per the plants’ appearances. Once flowering begins, add organic liquid fertilizer to support fruit development.
Diseases and Pests that can Affect Cucumber Plants
Cucumber plants can suffer from many diseases, including anthracnose, powdery mildew, downy mildew, and leaf spot.
Pests that commonly attack cucumber plants include aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, and other common garden pests.
In order to prevent damage to the plant, check it regularly for signs of infection and take action immediately if you find something.
How to Harvest Your Cucumbers?
Cucumbers can be harvested 60 to 90 days after planting. Are they firm to the touch and smooth? Have they reached the size specified by the seed variety? Try tasting one, and if it’s crunchy, then go ahead and harvest them.
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