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  • lukeathompson

Pinching out and the Runt Trough

7th June.


Cutting off flowers feels a bit Addams family but that’s what I’ve been doing. I mentioned this process last time but thought I’d elaborate just a tiny bit as while there’s lots of advice on why to do this there’s little advice out there on when to stop. I'm slowly figuring it out.


The Cayennetta and an Aji Cristal are the only plants that have required me to pinch out the flowers so far - none of the others are flowering yet. The Cayennetta should reach almost 2ft in height when fully mature and should be around 18 inches broad. That would be a good, healthy plant, squat and bushy. Mine aren’t quite there yet. The largest is about 18 inches high and not as dense in foliage as I think it will become. So I want to encourage it to produce a bit more greenery still.

However, it is starting to throw out lots of flowers.


When they started flowering a couple of weeks back I didn’t really mind picking the odd flower. One or two flowers doesn’t feel awful. But yesterday I snipped off maybe six flowers and could see more coming. Snipping off this many in a single go does feel rude, but I know the plant needs to grow a bit more before it is as strong and vigorous as it can be. A stronger, bushier plant will be able to generate and sustain more peppers, so when we pinch out the flowers we’re hoping to redirect that energy into growth.


The balance is making sure we let the flowers grow soon enough so the fruits can ripen in our climate (Cornwall, UK) and we get as many peppers as possible. That’s our challenge and there are so many factors that can make a difference. This year, the grey weather has been an issue, holding some of the plants back, especially the Chinense varieties. The variety of the pepper makes a difference in other ways too. For instamce, you might want to let some of the slower maturing and slower ripening peppers go a little bit earlier, aware that we won’t be able to get as many peppers from our plants as a warmer climate with a longer sunny season would be able to get. So when the Habaneros do start flowering (assuming they do start flowering) I probably won’t be as attentive to pinching out flowers as I have been with the Cayennetta. Another factor to consider is that the plants will develop at different times in different sizes of pots.


Bearing this all in mind you can see why no one says ‘Stop pinching on 15th June’ or ‘seven says after the June full moon’ or some such. It will depend on when you got your plants started, what the season has been like, what your climate is like, and when you got your plants in the ground or in their final resting places.


I’m going to stop pinching my Cayennetta plants next week. Most of them will have been in their final positions for a month and they will be robust and healthy. I have been pinching out their flowers since moving them outside, although it’s only recently they’ve really started producing lots.


The next to flower will possibly be the Ring of Fire, or maybe the Rocoto, who have livened up this week after doing nothing for ages. Let’s see when they flower and how many plants are likely to produce flowers and fruit before I decide whether or not to pinch them out.

The Runt Trough

Some of the seedlings were runts. Goblins. Gremlins. Maybe one in ten. They just never took off. While their siblings grew tall and bushy and were potted up and moved out, the runts just stayed where they were, grunting and snorting.


A proper gardener would have thrown out the runt weeks ago but I’m keeping them. I was a late starter too and maybe I want to hope they’ll amount to something. So I made the Runt Trough. It’s like a runt university, where they gather and learn from one another and hopefully grow together.

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