Cucumbers are a staple of British allotments, found growing in greenhouses and polytunnels up and down the isles, with a few hardy species even growing outdoors. These fast-growing plants are eager to grow, but they require proper support and training in order to maximise your yield. You may be wondering how to train cucumbers to stop them from trailing along the floor, well I have grown cucumbers for many years now and tested out various methods, so let me help!
How to train cucumbers
Cucumbers can be easily trained to grow up support, and there are quite a few different methods people use but the basic principles are the same.
To begin with, you need to build a support structure, I like to do this when the cucumbers are still seedlings. If you leave it too late you risk disturbing and damaging the plants while you are building this support structure.
Different Support Structures
1. Bamboo Canes
The allotment classic, Bamboo canes. These work really well for cucumbers and they are an easy and not to mention cheap way of training cucumbers.
I use one vertical cane for each cucumber, this is the main cane the cucumber will grow up. I then use a horizontal support cane across the top of all the canes. This helps to keep all of the canes upright and adds strength to the whole construction.
I also add a few ties into the roof structure of my greenhouse/polytunnel. This again adds extra support and helps take the weight of the cucumber plants which will be growing up this support.
Tying the cucumbers in
You want to keep tying the head of the cucumber into the cane as it grows up.
I like to twist the cucumber around the cane as it grows as this helps it to “stick” to the cane.
Then once I have the cucumber in the position I want it I will tie it in with a metal cable twist tie.
You just simply twist these to tie them in.
You don’t want to make these ties too tight as this will restrict the cucumber as it grows and can lead to damage as the stem gets bigger and bigger.
So now we will look at method two, training cucumbers to grow up a piece of string suspended from a support. I must admit that I was always a bamboo cane kind of guy, but recently I have started using the string method and now I can’t ever see myself going back to canes!
The reason for this is that it is just really easy, especially with cucumbers. Just twist the plant around the string as it grows and it will do the rest of the work for you, you very rarely need to actually tie them in.
Above you can see the general idea, the cucumber twists and turns as it grows around the dangling string.
How to get started
You just want a piece of string dangling from the roof of your greenhouse or polytunnel, if you have nothing to tie them to then one thing I like to do is run one piece of string the length of my polytunnel and then suspend each individual string from this.
You want a single string for each plant, I set them up when I plant my cucumbers but I don’t tie them in at first and just let the plant grow for now.
When they start getting large enough to need support I tie the bottom end of the string very loosely around the base of the cucumber plant. Another method is to leave the string long and then bury it under the rootball of your plant when you first put it in.
After this I just keep winding the plant around the string as it grows, no need for ties as the plant will hook itself in most of the time.
3. Cucumber Trellis
This is a really popular method and is one of those things you will see all over Pinterest (if you use Pinterest then why not give me a follow!)
It is mainly used for growing cucumbers outside, which not many of us do in the UK due to our climate, although it is something I may try next year.
Often a pallet is used, propped at a shallow angle but any trellis will work. Cucumbers love to climb so just give them a little support and then will go wild.
What To Do With Sideshoots?
As tomatoes have side shoots so do cucumbers. You want to cut these off, I know I know it’s hard to cut off productive growth which may even have little baby cucumbers on. but believe me, it is for the best, for you and the plant.
Here you can see a perfect example of a side shoot on a cucumber. They are essentially any growth coming away from the main stem. These will grow and grow, which sounds good but is actually a problem.
Getting rid of all this side growth promotes more growth on the main stem. If you leave it up to the cucumber then you will end up with vines everywhere and tons of little tiny cucumbers. There is a limit to the amount of fruit a single cucumber can produce so we need to encourage the plant to put extra effort into growing fruit rather than leaves.
There are other added benefits too, such as extra airflow which will help to keep your cucumber plants in tip-top shape. Another plus is that it will make it easier to see the fruit growing. If you have ever let cucumbers grow wild you will know how quickly they can turn your greenhouse into a jungle and it can actually get quite difficult to spot the fruit on the plant.