Monday, September 9, 2013

To Prune or Not to Prune?

It's a long held belief that watering correctly is the hardest held part to teach of how to produce healthy plants. 

I don't disagree, but would argue that correct pruning comes a close second. The aim is to end up with a well shaped, structured plant with flower, fruit or buds ready to open. At the same time, the head size needs to be matched to the pot size. The top heavy ones are the first not to get watered and it's downhill from there. 
 

Pruning in the springThe pruning process starts in Propagation and can be as simple as pinching out a flower bud. That will allow new shoots to break, giving a multi-branched liner when it's ready to be moved to the next size of container. The majority of liners go to a one gallon pot where they will receive at least two, but as many as four, more trims before moving to their final container. 

Up to this stage, plants are trimmed as a group using hedge shears or a lawn mower deck mounted on a wheeled gantry that can be adjusted for cutting height. Once in its final container, a plant is treated as an individual and most of the pruning is done with shears. The skill level of the user can make or break the finished product. Too hard and the plant may be set back too far, too high and you'll be back in a few weeks to find a loose floppy plant without enough body.

That doesn't sound too difficult, does it? Now for the fun part of how to keep the plant that looked good in April still looking good in September.

This is where the practice of cycle pruning comes in. The idea of the game is to prune part of the crop and to hold it back for a period so it finishes later. But, not so late that the growth isn't mature before winter.

The difficult part is that there are no rules, no formula that tells me how many weeks it takes for that plant to recover. And, of course, every growing season is different. If you're up for a challenge, come join us at the farm. We'll put a pair of shears in your hands.
 

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