Blossom Buddies

Many of the plants we eat from the garden produce flowers, but when is a flower good to keep and when is it best to snip?

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Tomatoes developing on the vine. Once pollinated, the blossom falls off and a tiny tomato begins to grow.

 Peppers and Tomatoes

After pollination, the flower dies back and a tiny pepper or tomato begins  to form. Peppers and tomatoes are usually self-pollinating, not requiring a  visit from a pollinator (such as a bee) to produce fruit. Although they are  self-pollinating, the flowers are necessary – don’t pinch them off if you  want tomatoes and peppers! While it’s a good idea to pinch back  blossoms for a few weeks on plants that are too small (so the plant  can focus on growth rather than fruit production), doing so for the entire  season will end your chance of getting in a good harvest.

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Squash, Melons and Cucumbers
These plants produce separate male and female flowers on the same plant and require cross-pollination by insects to produce fruit. It’s easy to distinguish the flower sexes – look for the swollen ovary at the base of the female. While you can remove many of the male flowers to make stuffed squash blossoms or to toss in a salad, you need to keep the female flowers on the plant. Be sure not to remove all of the male flowers, as some are still needed for cross-pollination (and fruit production) to happen.

Basil
When basil flowers, the stems get a little woodier and the plants begin to have fewer leaves as energy diverts from leaf production to seed production. Frequent harvesting can delay the production of flowers, but if you find yourself with a blossom-covered plant, you can snip them off to keep your basil producing more fragrant leaves for a longer period of time. Be careful to snip the flower stems at the correct point – too high and the flower will grow back immediately, too low and you will stunt the plant’s growth.

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Rather than removing each flower on a multi-flowering stem individually, follow the stem down to the first point where the leaves are growing. Snip the flower stem just above those leaves – this leaves space and access to sunlight for growth.