No summer salad is complete without fresh cucumbers added to it. They are usually grown along a fence or trellis to help save space and protect them from snails, birds and rodents that enjoy chewing on them. Cucumbers can take up a lot of space if allowed to grow on the ground, and hence prevent you from growing and expanding your vegetable garden. Vining cucumbers are also known to grow straighter and are typically cleaner than those grown on the ground.
Keep the following tips in mind when training these prolific producers to grow off the ground and up a trellis.
Select an area in your garden that receives indirect sun to partial shade. Remove any weeds at the site and dig the soil to prepare it for planting. Add a good amount of compost to enrich the soil and mix it well. Make mounds that are about 2 inches high for each plant, spacing them about a foot apart. Refrain from planting the seeds until the soil temperature is about 70 degrees F.
You can even plant the seeds in pots indoors to transplant outdoors once the weather gets warmer.
Erect a Sturdy Trellis
Erect your trellis using bamboo poles or posts and wire mesh or chicken wire. Set it up to the north of the mounds and push the poles far into the ground since climbing cucumbers will pull on them as they grow and become heavy.
Sow Seeds and Await Germination
Plant 3 to 4 seeds per mound and water the soil. Cover the seeds with a jar to prevent bird or rodent thefts until they germinate, which will take about a week to ten days. Cucumbers are known to have a good germination rate, so you will have to thin weaker seedlings out to leave one plant per mound. To do this, simply cut the plants off at soil level.
Train Plants to Grow
Initially you may have to train the cucumber plants to grow up by gently tying their tendrils to the trellis with string when they start to show. Remove the string when the plants begin to grow and attach themselves to the trellis. Growing stalks have more tendrils to grip the trellis with, helping the plants grow upwards.
Encourage thick bushy growth up your trellis by pinching out tendrils when they have more than eight leaves on them.
Caring for Cucumber Plants
Cucumbers are thirsty plants, so water the soil regularly. Inadequate water will result in a bitter crop. Avoid watering the foliage to prevent moisture disease.
Mulching the base of the plants will help shade the roots during hot weather. Feed the plants a liquid fertilizer every two weeks to encourage good produce.
Harvesting Your Crop
Allowing your cucumbers to get too large and stay on the vines longer than needed will result in a bitter and seedy produce. Frequently harvest your cucumbers when they are the size you want to encourage vines to keep producing.
Do not pull or tug the cucumbers from the vine. Instead, cut your vegetable with scissors to prevent damaging the vine.