Wire mesh provides the perfect climbing surface for cucumbers.
This simple, functional trellis creates a scaffolding that cucumbers climb up readily. It takes less than 15 minutes to put together, can be built almost entirely with recycled material, and looks cute when it is covered with vines. The trellis isn't fancy and it doesn't need to be. Cucumbers have beautiful heart shaped leaves, tendrils that curve like scroll work, perky yellow flowers, and fruits that look like ornaments dangling off the the vines. They also grow really fast, which means they cover whatever they are scrambling up in no time. To build this trellis you will need:
An electric drill *
Four 4-foot tall pieces of wood (1" by 1" pieces work well, but whatever you can find will do)
2 1/4" by 4 1/2" carriage bolts *
2 1/4" wing nuts *
4 2-foot wooden stakes
4-foot wide, 8-foot long piece of welded wire mesh or chicken wire
1/2" staples *
Staple gun *
This particular trellis uses wood found in a free pile and welded wire fencing leftover from another project. If you do not have any recycled or scavenged material around, purchase 1" by 1" cedar poles. They are sold in 8-foot lengths and you can usually have them cut in half at the lumberyard for free. Welded wire mesh and chicken wire is usually sold in 4-foot wide by 25-foot long lengths, you can also sometimes buy it by the foot at well-stocked hardware stores.
To make each side of the trellis, select two lengths of wood. Drill a 1/4" hole in the center of each piece 2 inches down from the top. Secure the two pieces of wood together loosely with a carriage bolt. Open the legs up until they form a triangle with a 3-foot wide base; screw the wing nut down tightly. Repeat with the other two pieces of wood. These triangles form the sides of the trellis and they are there to support the wire, which is simply bent over them into a U-shape.
It is easiest to assemble the trellis with a friend. Place the sides parallel to each other in the garden and just under four feet apart. Drive a wooden stake 12 inches into the soil next to each leg of the trellis. Tie the stake to the leg with twine. To form the climbing surface bend the welded wire mesh in half crosswise so it forms an upside down U and set it over the sides. Staple the mesh to the legs in a few spots. Don't have a drill and/or staple gun? No problem. Use zip ties to secure the sides together and afix the mesh to the legs.
Plant cucumbers on both sides of the trellis. Space the plants about a foot apart. Train the vines up onto the trellis as they begin to lengthen. The tendrils will wrap tightly around the wire and help hoist the vines up the trellis. Continue to train the plants up and over the trellis throughout the season. Don't plant "bush" varieties at the base of the trellis as they have a short, compact growth habit rather than a vining one.
(Re-edited from a post originally published on 8.08.2011 - CM)
Willi Galloway writes The Gardener column. She lives in Portland, Oregon and writes about her kitchen garden on her blog DigginFood. Her first book Grow. Cook. Eat. A Food-Lovers Guide To Kitchen Gardening will be published in January 2012.
(Images: Willi Galloway)