I’ve been in the mood for a little plant-pinching lately, and that’s a good thing, because the early June garden needs it. “Pinching” refers to the removal, with thumb and forefinger, of the end growth of a plant. This encourages lush, dense branching, and better flowering. Would you like to see a few of my pinching victims?
Day-Neutral Strawberries – To insure a bountiful harvest, one that lasts from June through frost, I pinch the flower buds from ‘Seascape’ strawberries during their first five weeks of production. Technically, I’m really “disbudding,” not “pinching” the plants, but the goal is the same: bushy, compact growth, and an abundance of flowers that will later become baskets of delicious, juicy fruit.
Eastern White Pines – I’ve been snipping the new shoots or “candles” from these for several weeks now, but each time I pass my trio of pines I find candles that I’ve missed. I don’t pinch the entire shoot, only half of it. My trees are particularly bushy (up to my 5’8″ height, anyway) as a result.
Chrysanthemums – These need pinching in order to avoid leggy growth and flowers that collapse soon after they bloom in autumn. Proceed this way: When shoots are 8 inches high, pinch them back by half. When a new chorus of shoots grows, pinch again by half, and so on, until July 15.
Geraniums – To have flowering specimens for winter windows, I keep a few of my young, spring-purchased plants (or those I’ve grown from cuttings) in pots, and I pinch off every single flower bud until September. As you can imagine, the plants explode with bloom when they are brought indoors before frost.
Annuals – Salvia, marigolds, petunias and etc., all benefit from early pinching in order to avoid leggy growth. Zinnias, in particular, seem to demand it.
A final thought. Besides pinching your way to beauty, remember to deadhead, too. Removing faded blooms keeps the garden tidy, and usually encourages further flowering. Use fingers to deadhead soft-stemmed plants; anvil pruners can take care of the woodier subjects.
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