A vegetable garden can truly be a peaceful haven. It’s the perfect place to release stress while tending to your plants, or for entertaining guests while sparking fun conversations. A much less serene discussion is the pruning of fruits and vegetables. When this topic pops up it can get a little intense between gardeners. Some may argue that pruning edible plants is a total waste of time. Others will state in major detail why pruning should be done. Let’s explore A Guide to Pruning Your Plants
How to Prune Your Vegetables
So, asking the question “what exactly does a gardener do prune or not?” may naturally come across your thoughts. The truth is, pruning vegetables isn’t quite an essential thing to do. However, it can contribute to bigger yields, tastier vegetables, and other benefits.
As you roam around your garden and the heavy downpours of rain become more frequent, you’ll notice some pruning may need to be done. If you haven’t picked up your loopers or hand pruning shears in a while now is your chance. Here’s a guide for you to refresh your pruning skills. Continue reading to find out more about the steps to prune plants and the different vegetables that are okay to be pruned.
What is Pruning?
Pruning in gardening also called trimming, is the practice of removing particular parts of a tree, vine, or other plants. These areas include snipping off the buds, branches, leaves, stems and roots of plants.
Why Prune Vegetables and Plants?
Many gardeners still aren’t quite sure if vegetables should be pruned. Some may say it makes no difference but other gardeners think otherwise. Pruning keeps your garden looking groomed instead of having large overgrown plants everywhere. Gardeners often prune to:
- allow a plant to grow in a specific way. A plant that gradually becomes oversized will use up more than its appointed space in your garden. It can even overshadow the other plants, especially those that require excessive sunlight.
- increase fruit and vegetable yield. Over the years gardeners have spoken about the higher yields they’ve experienced during the harvest. Pruning unwanted parts increases a plant’s ability to put more energy into growing better vegetables.
- remove dead parts of a plant. Pruning the dead and diseased areas of your plants prevents other healthy parts from becoming infected.
- enhance air circulation. With too many overhanging branches it can be hard for plants to breathe. Pruning improves light and airflow and this reduces the threat of pests.
Pruning Tools for Gardeners
If you intend to prune a plant that is not fully developed or overgrown then you may only need your fingers or thinning shears. If the plant is much thicker then having the right tools will keep your garden looking fresh, healthy, and well-groomed. Here are a few pruning tools to choose from.
- Hand Pruners
Hand pruners are great for smoothly cutting thin stems, tiny limbs, or any softer nonwoody parts of a plant. If the area is over ½ inches thick then use another tool for that job as it could damage the hand pruner. The blades work like scissors to create a clean cut.
- Needle-nose Pruners
Needle-nose pruners are the best for reaching into small spaces to cut wherever on a plant you need. They are made with straight blades and rubber handles that help provide a clean cut.
Loppers are stronger than hand pruners and the lengthier the handles the more leverage you’ll have for cutting thicker branches between ½ and 1 ½ inches. Ratcheting gears are available on some loppers to help you cut hardwood timber with less strain. Anvil blades are common on these versions, where the cutting blade joins the smooth surface of the opposing blade, similar to a knife on a chopping board.
- Thinning Shears
Thinning shears resemble small scissors and are used to prune delicate plants, flowers and small trees or shrubs. The blades are quite short but allow you to make a neat snip and the handles are average size.
Vegetables to Prune
Before pruning it’s best to think about what type of tomatoes you’re growing in your garden. Bushy tomatoes grow a set of crops that are ready to reap all at the same time within 1 to 3 weeks. Try not to trim too many of the branches as that could reduce yields. If there are any signs of disease or yellow leaves hanging pinch those off. For vine tomatoes, pruning could increase the size and quality of the vegetable.
If you’re growing cucumbers in your home garden then they generally don’t require pruning. However, if you want to save space prune the cucumber to a single stem. The leaves are also prone to powdery mildew so pruning cucumbers will also limit the spread of disease. If you see tiny white or gray spots on the leaves, use your hand pruner to cut and discard them. Ensure to sterilize your tools before pruning any other plant.
Pruning squash usually requires removing dead or diseased leaves and blossoms. Quite similar to cucumbers they sometimes display a powdery mildew layer. To prune squash, allow the plant to grow until it produces three to five fruits. After that snip the end of the vine two leaf intersections from the last crop with sharp a pruner.
Prune your bell peppers at least 3 to 5 weeks after germination. Ensure the plant is at least 6 inches tall and has produced flowers. You can remove the suckers, flowers, and shoots by pinching gently. Advanced gardeners have stated that this practice creates harder plants and a higher yield.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Prune Vegetables
If you’re concerned that pruning plants seem way too difficult or that you’ll make a mistake and kill anything, here is a step-by-step guide to help you. New gardeners stress a lot about pruning but after reading this you’ll be able to prune with ease. Trust me, it’s not really hard!
Step 1: Sanitize Your Tools
Before pruning ensure that your tools are sanitized and ready for use with sharp blades. It’s best to keep a spray bottle with a diluted mix of water and alcohol close by. As you prune different plants, you’ll need to disinfect the blades.
Step 2: Select the Plants to Prune
As mentioned before check for plants that have small gray spots on the foliage. If you find these, then that diseased plant needs to be pruned.
Decide if it’s your goal to stop the spreading of the disease as well as trimming the plant. After all, vegetables like tomatoes do grow and spread quickly. Regardless of the plant, start by pruning from the bottom to allow more airflow from the ground up. Trim some areas that are crowded with leaves but not too much as the foliage is for protection from too much sun.
Step 3: Prune Early
Pruning should be done early in the day. When the day is bright and dry it’s best to prune your plants so that they can heal faster and properly. Do not prune during the new growth or harvesting season. The best time to do this would be during early spring.
Step 4: Be Gentle
For very small plants that have not fully developed using your fingers is suggested for pruning. Pinching is a great pruning technique for removing yellow leaves and diseased parts of a plant. If you do feel the need to remove the smaller shoots called suckers use your fingers.
Step 5: Use a Pruner for Bigger Plants
If the vegetable plants are much more mature then use a pruner or shear. Using your hands would remove thinner parts but a pruner gives a cleaner cut.
When shopping to buy gardening tools a cheaper pruner doesn’t necessarily mean better. There are many with reasonable prices that maintain a high quality for a long time.
Always remember to disinfect before pruning other plants!
Step 6: Thin the Ground
Many sprouts will appear in your vegetable garden throughout the different seasons. Although you may be tempted to let them all grow into mature plants it’s best to remove them. You will boost the chances of fruit reaching full maturity by thinning sprouts off the ground. That way they won’t have to compete with tiny plants all of the time.
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- 10 Organic Gardening Hacks That Will Make Your Life Easier
- Growing Strawberries In A Raised Bed Garden
- Benefits Of Community Gardening
If you’ve decided to prune your plants then I hope this guide was useful. If not, then this is useful information you’ll be able to discuss with a fellow gardener.
Do remember however that pruning a vegetable plant isn’t entirely necessary but doing so has some really great benefits.
Feel free to read my other blog posts to learn about all things gardening, vegan and more.
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