Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Pinch Me

I mentioned in one of my recent posts that my annuals are getting a bit tired.  July is the time when things begin to get a little over grown and lanky.  The first push of blooms is done and the plant may be covered in seed pods.  Having achieved its purpose, it may just give up and die.

  Heat or excessive rain will also take it's toll, as will pests.  Now if you are super organized and ambitious, you could replace the spent plants with fresh backups you've been coddling in the wings.  Or, you can do some maintenance.  It gets to the point where you can't make it look any worse, so just go in there and cut.

Last week this planter full of Nasturtium was yellowing and fading.
 I considered dumping out and replacing it

You can do this with surgical precision, taking just a little bit off the ends.  Or you can take drastic measures and whack them off at the knees.

A dose of fertilizer and a trim and this week the plant has
perked up and put out some fresh new growth an blooms

Black Aphids
If you have pests, it is best to take drastic measures, cut as much out as you can, and destroy the infected foliage or wrap it up and put it in the garbage.  Don't try composting it and don't cross contaminate it with your healthy plants.  

One week you are perky and in your prime

And a week later you are worn out and bedraggled
Some things should be pinched back right when they are planted.  Often, a pack of annuals will have one or more weedy inferior plant.  I pinch these way back, re-pot them in a gallon pot and store them in the garden where they will catch up and be available to replace failed plantings or add color to an area where the perennials are past their bloom time.

This row of Portulaca was looking pretty pitiful before I pinched it

Sometimes the whole pack of plants is a bit too weedy and lanky.  This year I bought Portulaca from two different sources.  The first variety was Sunseeker and a week later I saw some really nice Happy Hour and I decided I need more.  When I planted the Happy Hours, they immediately made the Sunseekers look like crap by comparison.  I carefully pinched back all the Sun Seeker plants to the point of new growth,  They were left as tiny little nubs that pretty much disappeared into the background.  And now they are bushy, compact and blooming almost as prolifically as the Happy Hours.  

I love Portulaca.  I never plant enough.  The blooms are so iridescent and intensely colorful.  Because they have succulent leaves, they withstand heat and dryness.  And they volunteer.  I am always finding cheerful little Portulaca volunteers popping up in odd corners.  Maybe next year I will plant them in large groups instead if neat little soldier rows.

This plant started out with three long bare stems and hardly
 any leaves and now it is round and full of buds.

But not everything is tired out and needing maintenance.  The Coleus are looking great.  They will begin to bloom now, and if I want them to stay compact and bushy I will need to pinch back the growing tips to prevent the tall blooms from forming.  Coleus is grown for its lovely foliage, not its sparse spikey flowers


  1. It might be too late for much of my flowers, but this post has given me hope. We've had so much rain this year that my planters look very sad and they are partially under the house overhang! It has rained on top of rain and powdery mildew abounds on my summer squash (hopefully u den control now). The rabbits ate many of the other flowers I planted in the front bed, so it's just a big mess of impatiens with no colour variety. Also, aphids, aphids, everywhere. I am a vegetable grower, so while I love the look of a nice flower bed, I don't spend as much time tending to them as I should. The goldfinches are helping with the aphids on my plum tree and the leaf miners on the beets. But I'm finding aphids difficult to get under control. I like your Japanese beetle suggestions in your last post and I've started getting them off my raspberries in the morning. Every year is a new surprise and challenge...at least it keeps things interesting!

    1. Anything that looks bad enough to pull - cut it back. That will make it look tidier and you may be surprised with some really nice late summer growth.
      The only place I ever get aphids is the Nasturtium. One year I was lite on Nasturtiums and they found the tomatoes instead. So the Nasturtiums are sort of sacrificial, but I love them. I just accept that mid-July they need a drastic haircut.