Bigger harvest?

Do your tomatoes, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, or peppers have flowers already? If the plants are small or not very bushy, take a moment to pinch off the flowers until about mid-June in the Chicago area. The flowers will bear fruit once pollinated, but if your plant is too small when it begins flowering, it won’t yield a large harvest because it can’t provide the energy required to grow much fruit.

By pinching off the flowers now, you can re-direct the plant’s energy into producing more leaves and stronger stems – and once you allow the flowers to bloom, you’ll have more tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and peppers!

Small tomato plant with flowers already blooming.

Small tomato plant with flowers already blooming.

Pinched-off tomato flowers.

Pinched-off tomato flowers.

Curious as to “how big” your plants should be before they should be allowed to flower? Here are some guidelines:

Tomatoes – over 2′ tall, about 1′ diameter

Peppers and Chiles – over 1′ tall, at least 6″ diameter

Cucumbers, Climbing – over 2′ of vines

Cucumbers, Bush – at least 1′ in diameter

Squash, Vining – over 2′ of vines

Squash, Bush – at least 1′ in diameter