One of the hardest chores for some gardeners to perform is the act of pruning or thinning their plants.  I think that after all of the hard work that goes into getting those tiny seeds to germinate and grow – it becomes difficult to then begin cutting off the living parts of them!

Whether its grapes, tomatoes or peppers - pruning is a must for better yields and healthy plants
Whether its grapes, tomatoes or peppers – pruning is a must for better yields and healthy plants

However – if you truly want to get the most from your garden – thinning, pruning and trimming is a must for some plants – otherwise you can be left with low yields, smaller veggies, and a garden that can be overly inviting to disease and pests.

So we spent this last week around the farm pruning back everything from our tomatoes and peppers to our young grape vines in the vineyard – as well as thinning out our radishes, onions and carrots.

Pruning Tomatoes and Peppers:

As our tomato and pepper plants begin to grow – we prune up under the bottom of each plant, removing the first few sets of branches and leaves near the bottom 4 to 6 inches of the ground.  As the plant matures and the growing season progresses – we will take off a little more until there is about 10 to 12” of air space at the bottom of each plant.

With tomatoes - we take of the first few stems on the bottom of the plant when they first start to grow
With tomatoes – we take of the first few stems on the bottom of the plant when they first start to grow

This allows for increased air circulation to the plants – and for rain water to more easily reach the root zone areas.  It also makes it hard for crawling ground pests to have easy access to the plants by hopping up and climbing on those low, ground area stems.  The openness and circulation really help to cut down on the possibility of mildew and mold for the plants – and helps at ripening time too.

That extra space also really helps when it comes time for us to water by hand – making it easy to get right to the root zones.

Thinning The Ground Plants:

When it comes to radishes, onions, and carrots – the name of the game is thinning.  When sowing the tiny seeds in the early spring – you always end up with more sprouting in the rows than you will need.

Thinning out the radishes. Mary is not fond of this either - and always wants to replant the thinnings :)
Thinning out the radishes. Mary is not fond of this either – and always wants to replant the thinnings  🙂

Although it’s very tempting to let all of the sprouts all have a chance – it’s important to begin thinning out to allow the remaining plants the space to grow big and juicy.

If not – you will end up with smaller onions and radishes – and even worse for carrots – a tangled mess of intertwined orange roots under the soil – making them hard to use!

Grapes

Our grapes are heading into their second year of full growth – and are nearing the top of our fourth and final wire trellis lines in the small vineyard.  We have been training them up the wires – and once they have reached the fourth wire – we will begin to train the branches out and allow them to cascade down and fill out.

A few of the vines have made it to the top wire - and we can let these little grapes hang on for a taste
A few of the vines have made it to the top wire – and we can let these little grapes hang on for a taste

As we walked the rows of the vines this week – sometimes Mary had to turn away as I would cut off lower branches that were full of tiny grapes.  She would laugh and say – “I know it has to be done, but I can’t watch.”

Although it would be nice to get some grapes this year – we need to keep the main trunk vines growing to the top of that 4th wire – and the only way they will is to cut off all the lower shoots to make the vines put their strength into growing upward.

On an unrelated note - It is so nice to see hanging baskets in bloom and not SNOW anymore at the farm!
It is so nice to see hanging baskets in bloom and not SNOW anymore at the farm!

It really makes you appreciate the old Paul Mason commercial line of “we will make no wine before it’s time.”  🙂

The good news for Mary – a few of the vines have already made it to the top cordon wire –and we were able to leave some grape clusters on – so we will at least get a taste this year!

Happy Gardening! Jim and Mary
Old World Garden Farms

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