Growing the biggest and best in the garden

So it goes to reason that letting plants grow to their biggest and best is a no-brainer. Often, however, the key to the nicest plants, the showiest flowers, or the biggest vegetables is all in knowing what to remove from the plant and when.Take, for example, flowers. If I have a dahlia plant, I can let the plant happily chug along, producing all of the flowers it wants. I can also, however, sacrifice the number of flowers on the plant to increase the size of individual flowers. If one branch of the plant has three flower buds on it, I can select the biggest one (usually the one on the end) to keep and remove the other two by pinching or pruning. This is a trick used often by people who show their plants in competitions. Having been a judge for flowers at the state fair, I can tell you that there’s some big competition out there, especially when it comes to roses, dahlias, zinnias, and gladiolus (who knew?). The same can be said for fruits, as well. By removing flowers that will turn into more fruit, you can increase the size of the remaining fruit. While you may have fewer pieces of fruit, you can increase the overall size and quality of the harvest by removing excess flowers. Grapes provide a good example here. Many viticulturists (people who grow grapes) will remove extra flowers or fruit clusters earlier in the season to harvest better grapes. It is much easier to harvest one large pod of grapes rather than several small ones. Overall pruning to reduce the size of the fruiting plant can increase fruit quality and size as well. Keeping grapes as an example, the grape vine on the fence in my back yard (which belongs to the neighbor, though she gives the grapes to me) hadn’t been pruned for many, many years. The harvests consisted of hundreds of small four to five grape clusters of small grapes — not very pleasant to pick. After I pruned the grapevine back into shape, the clusters got much larger and easier to pick. The same can be said for removing the suckers that grow from between the nodes on tomatoes. Think of all of the things a plant grows as an energy sink. Basically, they are areas where energy is used in the plant. The most intensive energy users on a plant are the flowers and fruit. It makes sense, since a plants main purpose for survival is to reproduce. The more energy sinks there are, the less energy there is to go around. While it isn’t necessarily meant to grow bigger flowers or fruits, removing flowers is also key to good establishment of new plants in the garden. Removing flowers on perennial fruits such as berries and trees are important for the first year or two to allow more energy to go to growing roots to establish the plant. This is also a good idea with perennial flowers. At the very least, it is best to avoid buying plants already in full bloom to plant. It is harder for these plants to get established if they are trying to support flowers and grow roots at the same time. This goes for both fruits and flowering plants. And while I could dedicate a whole article, or book, about the importance of pruning, most people don’t realize that it is pruning that helps plants grow bushy and full. It is sort of like reverse psychology — making the plant smaller will help it become bigger. The bud on the end of the branch produces a hormone called auxin that suppresses new growth along the branch below it. Removing this bud removes that hormone and allows the branch to bush out. I’ll sometimes see people with trees that are basically tall skinny trees that look nothing like they should. Unfortunately, they didn’t get the memo about pruning. – See more at:

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