Climbing vegetables: Large yields in a small space

cucumber is a climbing plant
cucumber is a climbing plant

Climbing beans and cucumbers, pumpkins and capuchin peas do not need much space and produce a rich harvest at airy heights. These vegetables are veritable climbers for your kitchen gardens.

Climbing vegetables offer large yields in a small space. The vegetables use different strategies on their way up. The following applies to all climbing plants: They need a support that is adapted to their growth form.

Vines or climbing plants?

Climbing plants such as cucumbers are best grown on trellises or nets (mesh size 10 to 25 centimetres / 4 to 10 inches), heavyweights such as pumpkins need a more stable climbing aid with additional slip-off protection. Vine plants such as runner beans, on the other hand, are among the high-flyers among vegetables. Most varieties easily manage three metres / 10 feet, so you need correspondingly long poles. However, these should be no more than four to five centimetres / 1.6 to 2 inches thick, so that the tendrils can hold on by themselves. In comparison with the only knee-high bush beans, the strong-growing varieties score with impressive yields, tender, fleshy pods and a fine bean aroma.

Drive the stalks for the climbing vegetables at least 30 centimetres / 12 inches deep into the soil before sowing, so that the young shoots can hold on as soon as they pierce the soil. The shoots turn around their support to the left, i.e. anti-clockwise. If you guide shoots that have been accidentally torn loose by wind or during harvesting against their natural direction of growth, they can only loosely wind around the poles and therefore often slip off.

Cucumbers need a lot of warmth and should only be allowed outdoors after the last frost. Creepers often have a hard time starting out. Tie young shoots loosely to the trellis at first. Later, when the plants are well rooted and really get going, the shoots will find a hold by themselves.

The runner bean ‘Tenderstar’ is at the top of the list of high-yielding and low-maintenance climbers and scores with bicoloured flowers and many tasty pods. Capuchin peas tend to grow up to 180 centimetres / 72 inches high. Young pods are prepared like sugar snap peas, later the floury-sweet, light green grains are enjoyed. Last sowing date is end of May.

The Caigua decorates fences, trellises and pergolas with its long, branched tendrils and the attractive, five-fingered leaves. Young fruits taste like cucumbers and are eaten raw. Later, they form hard seeds inside, which are removed before steaming or grilling. Grow the climbing vegetables in small pots from the end of April and plant them in the bed two to three weeks later.

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