Gardeners have the option of growing vegetables that develop on annual vines. In some instances, the vines need sufficient room to spread out, but you can support some of these vegetable vines with stakes and grow them vertically. Some vining vegetables are native to North America and have a long history of cultivation on the continent. Others hail from other continents. Although some of these species may be fruits botanically, people use them as vegetables.
Summer squash, or Cucurbita pepo, is a North American native, with its origins probably in Mexico, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. The term "summer squash" covers such squash types as zucchini, crookneck squash and straightneck squash. Summer squash develops quickly after the vines bloom, often within 50 days. The vines are compact, maturing to between 2 and 4 feet long. Plant summer squash vine cultivars 3 to 4 feet apart, with 8 feet between rows to give the vines abundant room. Plant the seeds outdoors after the last threat of frost passes, when soil temperatures reach 65 F.
The vines of cucumbers, or Cucumis sativus, sprawl along the ground or grow with support, climbing as high as 6 feet. Cucumbers are not North American native vines, potentially originating in India. Cucumbers require full sunshine, fertile soil and consistent water to grow properly. Cucumbers come in varied forms, with those suitable for pickling growing to between 3 and 4 inches, while those appropriate for slicing normally between 7 and 8 inches in length. Some cucumber cultivars grow as bushes, but the vines yield more fruit.
The larger types of pumpkins, Cucurbita maxima, sometimes need a prolonged growing season, making them unsuitable for some northern climates. Pumpkins are a form of squash that grows on an annual vine, with some vines being 12 feet long. Pumpkins are edible or ornamental, with varieties bred for taste or size. The seeds are edible when toasted. Pumpkins are a Central American native species. Cucumber beetles, aphids and the squash bug are some insect pests that attack pumpkin vines.
South and Central America are the likely origins of winter squash, Cucurbita moschata, a type of squash harvested after growing on the vine all summer and into the fall. Winter squash comes in what Cornell University describes as a "staggering" number of cultivars. Types such as acorn, Hubbard and butternut squash are common forms of winter squash. The vines grow along the ground, some to lengths between 10 and 15 feet. Winter squash is cold sensitive; it fails to grow before the temperatures reach 65 to 70 F. Diseases, including bacterial wilt, and powdery mildew, affect winter squash vines.
The vines of pole beans,Phaseolus vulgaris, sometimes grow to 10 feet high. Needing the support of long stakes or a trellis, pole beans grown in this manner produce as much as three times the amount of beans as bush beans grown in an equivalent space will. Pole beans, like most bean species, resist transplanting, making it important to start them outside where you intend them to stay. Wait until all chance of frost is gone before planting pole beans. Diseases, such as bacterial blight and leaf mold, affect pole beans, with the chance of spreading the ailments among your plants great if you work among the plants when their leaves are wet.
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Cucurbita Pepo
- Cornell University: Gardening Resources -- Winter Squash
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Cucurbita Moschata
- Cornell University: Gardening Resources -- Cucumbers
- Cornell University: Gardening Resources -- Pumpkins
- Cornell University: Gardening Resources -- Pole Beans
John Lindell has written articles for "The Greyhound Review" and various other online publications. A Connecticut native, his work specializes in sports, fishing and nature. Lindell worked in greyhound racing for 25 years.