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Growing Tips

How to Prune and Manage Plants' Growth

Lettuce Grow | SEPTEMBER 1, 2021
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Plants will produce large amounts of vegetative growth as they mature. While this is exactly what we want them to do, it is helpful to understand the importance of selectively removing parts of the plant or

pruning

. This practice is most common in fruits and vegetables, like tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini, but it can be useful across all plant types!

What is Pruning?

As previously mentioned, pruning is the practice of selectively removing parts of a plant. It is important for maintaining plant health, preventing pests and disease, and promoting new growth and fruit/vegetable production. It can be done reactively, like if you notice a leaf is infested with pests and want to remove it to prevent them from spreading, or proactively, such as trimming the end of a cucumber vine to prevent it from growing into a walking path.

Why You Should Prune

There are a number of reasons why pruning is beneficial but here are the most common:

• Maintains healthy plants by getting rid of overgrowth that hides pests and fungus

• Promotes new growth and fruit production by redirecting energy and resources away from old growth

• Removes unhealthy parts of a plant to prevent pests or disease from spreading

• Prevent plants from shading each other out by removing leaves or growth that blocks sunlight

• Keeps growth manageable by trimming growth that extends into walking paths, living spaces, or other undesirable areas

How to Prune

There are different pruning techniques for different plant varieties; however, a few simple tenets are the same for each plant. First, you should always use a pair of clean gardening shears or scissors. This will prevent any disease from being introduced into the plant. Second, prune plants about ½” from where they meet the main stem. By doing this, it reduces the chances of damaging the main vine which can cause larger issues. Third, never remove more than ⅓ of a plant’s growth in a single pruning session. Pruning can be stressful for plants and removing too much may cause the plant to go into shock and die.

Learn more about how to prune in the video below!



Variety Specific Pruning Tips

Broccoli & Cabbage

You may have noticed that these cool season plants can grow to be quite large and sometimes overcrowd the plants near them. Try removing some of the outer, older leaves to make room for surrounding plants. You won't harm the plant and these leaves are actually edible. Try replacing kale in a recipe with broccoli leaves!

Cucumber

This variety can be allowed to trail down the side of your Farmstand and left to grow on the ground near the tower. Plants should be kept trimmed at the ends when they reach the desired length to encourage bushing. Unwanted vines and leaves can be cut ½ - 1 inch from its base so that airflow and sun can reach all leaves to prevent possible disease or mildew. A little pruning and harvesting will keep those cucumbers coming!

Zucchini

Overgrowth and large leaves can shade out other plants on your Farmstand, hide blossoms from pollinators, and pull the plant out of the Farmstand. Prune this plant by removing the older, larger leaves that are closest to where the main vine is growing out of the grow cup. Cut leaf stems ½ - 1 inch from the main stem.

Tomatoes

Indeterminate* tomato plants will require regular pruning of the ends of branches to keep plants compact. Additionally, pruning suckers (pinching off the shoots at the "elbows" between the main stem and branches) will keep growth from becoming too dense - tomato plants require ventilation and access to full sun for best leaf growth, flower setting, and disease prevention. Harvest tomatoes when they are red with a slight give to the fruit.

*The only indeterminate tomato variety that we offer is our

Don’t Forget the Roots

As mentioned in the video above, plants’ root systems can develop extensive growth as the plant gets bigger. This can block or divert water inside of the Farmstand from reaching seedlings which will cause them to wilt. Large root systems can also grow into the reservoir where they can clog the Farmstand’s pump. Occasionally trimming no more than 1/3 of your plants' roots, once every 6 - 8 weeks, can keep your plants healthy and your Farmstand running smoothly.

READY FOR THE NEXT STEP?

Learn to Harvest



REVIEW THE PREVIOUS LESSON

Assessing Your Plants' Health