By: Justin Russell | January 25, 2013
Inspired by my OG colleague Phil Dudman, I'm growing this summer's cucumber crop on a piece of reinforcing mesh and can report that to date, the results have been excellent. The plants are still reasonably young, but they're scrambling up the mesh nicely and are covered in fruit and flowers. I'd be reticent to again go back to growing along the ground.
Phil grows all sorts of vines on trellises, including cucumbers and watermelons. Ingeniously, he supports the ripening melons with a pair of bamboo canes, a technique that stops them from breaking off the vine before maturity. Cucumbers don't need this kind of support, but the advantages of growing the vines on a trellis are the same.
For one, the plants tend to be less troubled by fungal disease because they're up off the ground, and exposed to plenty of sun and air. But the main advantage is the efficient use of space. Vines take up a lot of room when grown horizontally, but train them vertically, and the space required at ground level is vastly reduced. In fact, some trellis arrangements even allow for a crop to be grown beneath the vine, effectively stacking crops in the one space.
I've got a few pieces of old reinforcing bar mesh laying around that get dragged out for various uses in the vegie patch. For my cucumber trellis I'm using a galvanised piece about four metres long and two metres wide. To create the trellis, I simply fixed one end of the mesh to one side of a raised bed, and fixed the other end to the opposite side of the bed. The result is an attractive mesh arch about 1.5m tall at the peak. I planted four 'Lebanese' cucumber seedlings at the base, and have been simply weaving the vines onto the trellis until their tendrils cling to the mesh. It's an easy, and effective growing method.
But here's my favourite aspect - beneath the arch is about four square metres of prepared garden bed. As the cucumber vines cover the arch, my plan is grow late summer lettuces and other leafy greens below. They'll appreciate some dappled shade in the hottest part of the day, and the plants are low growing enough to not interfere with the cucumber vines. I'm calling it my Arc de Cucumis, and so far, it's been just as much a triumph as the admittedly more famous landmark in Paris.