A late summer prune in the vegie patch

summer prune tomatoIt’s tempting to let your vegetable plants go wild. Bigger isn’t always better. There comes a time as summer slides when the gamble must be taken. Will those immature fruits fully develop? Will all that foliage help or hinder the harvest? Here in the bottom half of the north island NZ we’ve moved into cooler nights and mornings, meaning growth is slowing down and mildew and fungal growth is up – it’s time to get your prune on!

Tomatoes need to be kept to their stakes or the next big wind will bend and break the unattached bits. There’s no greater tragedy than finding your whole tomato plant snapped off and all that unripe fruit on the floor. The sudden change to cooler nights means they’ll also need good airflow so prune for this. Letting more light in is also a good move.

Pumpkin vines need to be pruned back to allow the fully sized fruits to ripen. Leaving the new, wee fruits on will compromise the ripening of the grown ups. From now on keep the vine cut back to the developed fruits.

Zucchini should be pruned for airflow and all round convenience. Remove the older leaves that are funky ie: mouldy, ripped and ratty; and any leaves that are impeding the progress of other plants or indeed yourself as you try to bush bash your way to the fruits.

Cucumber can also be nipped back. If like me, you grow cucumbers up over frames, pruning is easy. Cut it to keep it on the frame and trim bits as required for airflow and light. If yours is on the ground then do the same, keeping it pruned back to where it’s wild rambling suits you and the plants surrounding it. Be sure to keep it on the sunny side. By keeping the ends nipped out there’ll be more energy for bigger fruits (unless of course gherkins are your thing.)

The joy of all this pruning is, of course, a compost pile. Awesome!