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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

KNOL: Building a Squash and Cucumber Vine Trellis Garden

Copied from Googlk Knol to be stored on my blog.

Squash and vine crops are great additions to the garden. They, however, take up a lot of space. One way to defeat this need is to plant them with a place to grow upward. Squash and vines need four things to do really well. They are heat, water, food, and space. This Knol is about giving them space to grow.

Building a Squash and Cucumber Vine Trellis Garden

Let them Climb!
By Gary Pilarchik LCSW-C
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I love gourds. I grow them out of interest and for my kids. Gourds come in dozens of shapes and if you let them dry on the vine, they last virtually forever. They can be stained, glazed, and painted. Some can even be turned into birdhouses, hence the birdhouse gourd. The vine crops in the pictures below are apple gourds and snake gourds. This design can be used for all vines were the fruits don't exceed 2 pounds. It is hard to create supports for large melons and pumpkins.

This project can easily be used to grow edible squashes, gourds, cucumbers, and anything that climbs. I am going to present this in pictures mostly because it is self explanatory. Types of crops for this project are:
  • Any type of climbing bean
  • Spaghetti, Acorn, Butternut squashes and the like
  • Sprawling zucchini versus bush types
  • Any type of cucumber
  • Small melons such as Tiger melons
  • Even tomatoes. They can be weaved through the support strings

The key elements to this project are:
  • Make sure the supports are strong enough to hold the weight of the crop
  • Keep the plants spaced, so they can grow to full size
  • Add extra supports when in doubt
  • Manage for disease, specifically powdery mildew and other mildew (sulfur spray or dust)
  • Add fertilizer to start. Gourds feed heavily as do most vine crops
  • Vary the way you tie the horizontal string supports to the posts

The Empty Space to be Turned

The plot was covered in the wood that is now stacked behind it. That wood was used to build my bench supports for my transplants. The first step is always to clear the space and turn the earth. The plants will also create a screen to hide that wood. I won't need it till next year.


Five Stakes to Support the Weight of 4 Gourd Plants
If you are growing beans versus spaghetti squash, you will need to worry less about the strength of the supports or the depth they get put into the ground. The plants I am using will produce a heavy crop. The wooden posts on the ends are hammered about 12-18 inches into hard ground. When in doubt add more posts.
The Gourds Grown from Seed and Peat Moss Amendment

Dig the Hole.  Add Amendments and Fertilizer.  Gourds Feed Heavily.
Gourds, squashes, and vine crops feed heavily and love water. Make sure you amend the soil with organic matter to hold water and give them some fertilizer to start off. This project should be started when the days are typically in the 80's. They grow best in heat.

Gently Break Up the Root Ball and Plant
While you wait for the warmer days, you can start your vine crops in cups, like I did. They will do well in the cups and can be moved in and out the house based on the weather. You can see below how large the plants grew in cups.

A Planted Snake or Apple Gourd

Jute Strung Post to Post to Support the Growing Vines

It is important to tie the jute/string to different posts and in different ways so the weight of the vines and gourds bares in various ways across the whole support structure. Notice the bottom string is tied (left) brown post to (right) white post. The upper string is tied from (left) brown post, (behind not tied) past the white post, and (right) tied to the brown post. Just do this randomly. The supports will be stronger in the long run.

Side View to See the String Supports

The Four Gourds and Support System
The general rule I use is one support/post for fairly heavy vine crops like this bunch of gourds. I can't stess enough that if you are unsure of the weight of the crops... add more supports. I added 1 extra to this group. You never run into a problem because you made the support trellis to strong.


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