Grow cucumbers on a ready-made “Trellis”
Re-purpose a wood pallet into a quick and sturdy DIY cucumber trellis — no tools required. It gives space for the plants to grow and makes harvesting an easy task.
There’s no better way to grow vining cucumbers than on a cucumber support. Without one, they’ll happily scramble over the ground but there are quite a few soil borne diseases that can affect the plants. Not to mention slugs and other critters that might want a taste. Growing cucumbers vertically also makes harvesting a treat since the fruit are easy to find and pick.
Though you can purchase a ready made cucumber support, it’s easy to make one yourself. All you need for this garden project is a heat-treated pallet, a couple of posts and baling twine.
Benefits of a Pallet Cucumber Trellis
Depending on where you are in the world, there are various fungi and viruses that affect cucumbers. One of my own challenges is downy mildew, a fungus that’s blown in with warm, damp winds. Keeping my plants off the ground with plenty of good air circulation is key to keeping it under control. The quicker that the leaves dry after a wet spell, the less likely that the fungus will take hold.
My pallet cucumber trellis helps with that since the plants are off the ground and have plenty of air around the leaves. It’s south-facing position means that it gets sun all day — a bonus for added growth and for drying those leaves quicker. Using a trellis can also help control powdery mildew, another fungus that affects cucumbers.
Harvesting made easy
As the cucumbers grow up the face of your trellis, their fruit hangs down. Can you see how easy it is to spot the cucumbers? Sometimes the fruit won’t drop down but will grow on top of the pallet’s slats. That can make it even easier to find and pick them.
A pallet is the perfect size for a couple of cucumbers to scramble over and the right size for harvesting. Squat at the open end and just reach inside for your cukes. If your plants were sprawling along the ground then you’d be even more bent over trying to find the fruit under masses of leaves.
Maximizing gardening space
Another great reason to grow your cucumbers on an angled trellis is that you can have two crops in the same space. Since the cucumbers grow off the ground, that space underneath is perfect for growing greens. Lettuces, radishes, spinach, and oriental vegetables will appreciate the semi-shade and protection the trellis gives. At one time this year I had ten heads of lettuce growing under the cucumbers. Talk about maximizing gardening space!
Choosing a pallet
You should also choose the right kind of pallet for this project. Many are heat-treated against insects but some are sprayed with an insecticide called Methyl bromide. It’s not something that we want anywhere near our food or the beneficial insects in our gardens.
Fortunately it’s easy to see how a pallet has been treated. Look for a stamp on the side and discard any pallets that have the letters ‘MB’. If you see ‘HT’ you’re good to go, since that means it’s been heat-treated. Ignore the letters DB — all that means is that the wood has been debarked.
How to build a Pallet Cucumber Trellis
Now that I’ve convinced you that it’s a good idea to grow your cucumbers vertically, let’s get building. If you’ve not already guessed from looking at the photos, I built my trellis by first digging two posts in the ground 18″ deep. They’re square posts about 3×3″ and about three feet tall from soil level. They’re dug in so that the pallet can sit level on the edges of both. I didn’t use a spirit level to make sure that the posts were the same height but you could if you wanted to.
Next I propped the pallet against the posts and then lashed them on with baling twine. I chose baling twine because it won’t degrade in the sun like natural string will do. Over a summer, natural fibre string can break down in uv light and becomes easier to snap.
The reason I used twine instead of screwing it together is that this is not going to be a permanent structure. At the end of the season I can cut the twine and move the pallet someplace else. I really do like quick, easy, and effective garden solutions.
Planting and training cucumbers
When you build your pallet cucumber trellis, make sure to put it in the right place. A south-facing aspect is ideal and the soil should be moist and fertile yet well drained. Cucumbers will reward you with more fruit than you can eat if you give them a good helping of composted manure.
With my cucumber trellis I planted three ‘Moneymaker’ plants at the base. Outdoor grown cucumbers in my region won’t get as large as plants grown in a greenhouse. If you’re in a warmer climate, you might opt for just one or two.
Aftercare includes keeping those plants well watered and helping the vines find their way up the pallet. The slats are a little too large for them to find their way up naturally but it’s not difficult to show them the way.
If you’re interested in more pallet projects for the garden, check out my project for a strawberry pallet planter, and how to build a pallet compost bin. And if you’re running out of ideas on what to make with all your cucumbers try Grandma’s Dill Pickle recipe.