A lesson in pruning

My tomatoes started looking rough about a week and a half ago.  Lots of dry, dead leaves.  It started with one plant, but continued to spread.  I go to the garden to water every other day and always give my plot a nice long soak.  But maybe it wasn’t enough?

This past weekend, I emailed the following photograph to my mom and my good friend Kate with the question – is this due to lack of water or lack of fertilizer?

My mom said water.  Kate suggested fungus.  Minutes after sending the email, two men wandered into the garden, one of whom was a horticulturist for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  Just my luck!  He suggested watering more frequently and some mixing in some compost.  All three recommended pruning the suckers back.

I’m not really a pruner.  Every time I’ve grown veg or herbs in porch containers, I’ve kind of just let them go.  And, for the most part, they did fine.   Maybe I’m afraid of over-snipping? But the more I read about gardening and the more I talk to other gardeners, I realize that pruning is important to the health of the plants and can result in greater production.  Instead of coddling them, I need to instill some discipline.

I returned the next morning and cut off almost all of the dried and dying branches.  I left the few that had some sort of flower activity on them.  I’m happy with the results.  The plants look better and my plot doesn’t seem as unweildy.  I have no idea if I’ve employed proper pruning technique, but it’s been a few days and the plants haven’t died so I’m not too concerned.  Once I had them pruned, I realized that I have a lot of space for interplanting.  I could sow spinach in between the tomatoes.  The spinach would still get some shade from the sun and I’d get more out of my plot. 

I also can see the tomatoes better, and they’re my real focus, not the leaves.  I discovered that two of the roma tomatoes had developed blossom end rot.  Blossom end rot is caused by lack of water.  Now I know I need to go more frequently to water or mulch around the plants.  (Mulch! Must investigate mulch options at the Urban Garden Center.)  At least it only took the loss of two tomatoes to teach me this lesson.  I would have cried if it was an entire plant worth of fruit.

This coming weekend, my focus will be taming the overgrown cucumber plants.  After 3 weeks of consistent cucumbers, they don’t seem to be producing as much.  There are plenty of flowers, however, so maybe I just need to be patient.

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3 thoughts on “A lesson in pruning

  1. mluv1 says:

    This Clemson garden site is great. Some of it is specific to the Carolinas and some is just good general gardening information. Maybe Cornell has one for NY?

    http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/vegetables/crops/hgic1323.html

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