In a Pinch! - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

In a Pinch!

Summer is not the preferred time to prune landscape trees and shrubs, but it is a great time to prune many annual flowers. Plants such as petunias, impatiens, zinnias and marigolds tend to get leggy and produce fewer blooms by mid summer.

Pinching these plants back about halfway will encourage more branching and, in turn, more flowers. The plants may look a bit raggedy initially after being cut back, but with a little water and fertilizer, you’ll be rewarded with a much more attractive plant.

Removing the faded blossoms from annual and perennial flowers, which is often referred to as dead-heading, is another good gardening practice. Dead-heading will help encourage more blooms by preventing seed pods from competing for the plant’s food supplies. The plants also will be more attractive with the old spent blooms removed. Many annual flowers simply can be pinched off as they fade. Some will need to be cut off with a knife, scissors or pruning shears. Send the clippings to the compost pile to be recycled.

The answer to the age-old question of whether or not to pinch the suckers (small side shoots) from tomatoes really depends on how the plants are being trained. If you have staked tomatoes where the goal is to have one main stem that is tethered to a support, then removing the side shoots is helpful in preventing them from breaking off from the weight of the fruit load.

However, if your tomatoes are caged or allowed to sprawl along the ground, there is no advantage in removing the suckers. In fact, the additional foliage provided by the suckers will help reduce the incidence of sunscald on the developing fruit, as well as increase the potential for flowering and fruit set.


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