There are some little gardening facts, picked up in the past that always stay with you and turn out to be really helpful …. not in a monumental way, just interesting and useful on an almost daily basis.
I learned one of these years ago at horticultural college, and it’s generally referred to as ‘pinching out’.
Pinching out, or snipping off, the growing tip of a plant results in two tiny growing points being formed, replacing the single growing point. This means that the plant becomes bushier and stronger, rather than growing upwards, and you get fare more stems.
Practically this means stronger, healthier more fruitful plants.
Simply pinch out the stem between your thumb and first fingernail to just above a pair of leaves. Thicker, tougher stems will probably need scissors.
This helpful little technique can be applied to all kinds of plants:
- it’s what gives any topiary a solid look so that crisper edges can be made,
- great for hedges, especially newly planted ones, so that they mesh together and look like a solid hedge rather than a row of plants,
- most plants grown from seed, or as cuttings need this treatment,
- autumn sown sweet peas will be nice and bushy if their tips are pinched out when they’re 4in/10cm tall,
- it works especially well for herbs, like my small basil plants grown from seed,
- or small plants that have been bought, like the mint I’m growing.
If you’re a bit of a plant geek, like me, you’ll be interested to know that this is all about apical dominance:
the top bud on the main stem makes auxin to minimise the growth of side-stems on the plant. Remove the main bud and the side stems can grow and compete with the main stem, voila a bushier plant is formed.
Obviously it’s to be avoided on trees and plants that need a strong main stem for vertical growth.
Happy gardening, Jill
all photos: Jill Anderson