Remove blossoms, trim plants to maximize bloom production

Jean Lundquist.jpg

Jean Lundquist

So the last likely day of frost arrives in the middle of this month. I’ve been left in the dust before by friends who like to push the envelope and plant outdoors in April. But I’ll wait. Except for the fact that it’s often the fishing opener, I will plant and transplant on May 15 or shortly thereafter.

I’ve had my entire garden freeze just as it was sprouting up, and it made me cry. I tend not to repeat things that make me cry, like shopping on Black Friday. The last time I went shopping on Black Friday, it made me cry, and that was decades ago.

Now if I want something from Black Friday, I call my friend “Goober,” and she’ll get it for me.

But that has nothing to do with gardening, so let’s get on with it.

I’m always in search of something to do to improve my gardening experience, and this year I’ve found pepper topping.

Years ago I was writing a story for which the late Larry Van Tol was my source. He told me all nursery growers try to have flowers blooming to attract the interest of buyers. But, he said, if those buyers want to maximize their bloom production of their flower plant, the wise thing to do is remove all the blossoms and trim a third of the plant back.

I have tried that, and as hard as it is to remove the blossoms and trim the plant, it’s worth the wait. The big, bushy, showy plants make it appear that I have a green thumb for flowers. I don’t.

Apparently, the same methods work for peppers of all sorts – hot, mild and in between. This is for pepper plants you purchase and for peppers you have sown and nurtured yourself.

I have often tried to support tomatoes and peppers with those spindly wire cages and have never been successful. The plants always overpower the cages and topple. But by topping my peppers, those supports may be obsolete.

Here’s how I’m going to do it: When the pepper is well-established with several side leaves and a good crown of green on the top, simply snip off the top leaves, at stem level, and discard. Then cut off a few of the lower leaves.

The goal is to invigorate the plant stem and foliage growth at this point. If your plant has created any tiny peppers for you to “ooh and aah” over, remove them, too. I know it will be painful, but at this point we are nourishing the plant itself so we get greater pepper production later.

Within a week, there should be new growth at the top as well as along the stem. This is when you take off all the old, large original leaves.

We should be rewarded with a strong stem that needs no support and still will not fall over. And after the initial removal of tiny peppers, your plant should be rife with peppers that will amaze you.

I am definitely going to do this but will keep a “control” batch of pepper plants that I have done nothing to as well, just to compare.

A dear friend of mine had some homemade tomato cages she used for her garden. They were quite tall and wooden, not the weak wire cages I’ve used for my garden that so disappointed me.

She used to train her tomatoes within the cages, and whenever any one grew above the top, she had her scissors ready and snipped them back.

I wondered if she regretted doing that, as there had to be a loss of production. She always said she had more tomatoes than she could ever use.

She’s retired to New Mexico now, and I have her wooden tomato cages. I’m going to put her method into practice, and I’ll see if tomato and pepper topping work.

If you try it, let me know how it goes for you.

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