Can you train a cucumber to climb like a pea?
Cucumbers on pea fence

Cucumber plants with pea fence in place.
Cucumber seedling

Protected seedlings

Inside the enclosure.

Ready for chilly spring nights.

I’ve been using galvanized wire tomato cages for about 15 years now, and most of the originals are still in service. I prefer them over stakes or ladders (most readers of this blog agree) because they are easy to use (no pruning or tying) and I like being able to wrap them with garden fabric to create a cozy, early-season microclimate.

I use the Veggie Cages to support my peppers, too. Though pepper plants can usually get along without extra support, when they’re loaded with fruit the plants appreciate a little extra help. This year I’m growing husk tomatoes for the first time, and I’m planning to support them with Veggie Cages.

The other day, when rummaging around in my barn, I came across a couple Expandable Pea Fences. I haven’t used these hinged fences for several years, because once I started growing Sugar Snap peas (which get to be 6 or 7 feet tall), I switched to a homemade, extra-tall system of steel posts and Nearly Invisible Netting.

Within 10 minutes I’d come up with two alternate uses for them. First was as a temporary fence to keep my dog from taking a short cut through the vegetable garden. During the winter months when the garden is fallow, she gets used to walking wherever she wants. Once the vegetable garden fills out a bit, she remembers that she needs to walk around. But right now the baby onions and lettuce don’t have much of a presence and she sees no reason for extra steps. So I stretched one of the pea fences out to about 4.5 feet long, and pushed it into the garden right where she usually cuts through. It took 10 seconds to install and it works like a charm. I’ll just take it out in a couple weeks, once she’s settled on a new route.

Lots of people like our Wire Cucumber Trellis, but the 48” footprint is too wide for my beds. I grow the long, Asian style cucumbers (Suyo Long), and have found they grow best on a trellis of some kind. How about using the Expandable Pea Fence? One section of the regular height Pea Fence is about 3 feet high and 4 feet long. I set it up down the center of a row and planted four cucumber plants on each side.

Pests are rarely a problem in my vegetable garden, but I do wage a constant battle with striped cucumber beetles. The damage is most intense early in the season, so this year I decided to cover my cucumber plants with garden fabric for the first couple weeks to see if I can get them through the worst of it. With my new trellis in place, I simply wrapped a piece of Garden Quilt around the sides and secured it with rocks, clothespins and Earth Staples. (Though I don’t need the extra frost protection, Garden Quilt is thicker than Garden Fabric and isn’t as likely to tear when wrapped around a wire cage.) The plants seem extremely happy in their little cocoon and I hope the beetles won’t find them.

Are there some unconventional ways you’re using these galvanized supports? Two of our other galvanized supports – the Tomato Tower and the Bean Tower – started as suggestions from customers. We’d love to hear about your own creative ideas. Leave us a comment!

UPDATE: I took the fabric cover off the cucumbers this past weekend. After a little over a week under wraps, they looked miserable. I didn’t see any cucumber beetles, but the plants had been nibbled and some of the leaves were misshapen and yellow (classic cucumber beetle damage). One plant was dead. So I fertilized them with liquid seaweed and then dusted them with Garden Dust (which is organic and primarily consists of Rotenone). The plants are now uncovered and look happier. I haven’t given up on the idea of keeping them covered. Might take the trellis down and try the Insect Netting with Hoops — from the reviews, it seems like people really like it.

Kathy LaLiberte, Director of Gardening, Gardener’s Supply