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When and how to pinch.

The best pruning tool for new growth in spring and early summer may be your thumb and forefinger. Pulling off young suckers is more effective than cutting to eliminate dormant buds at the base, and pinching off branch tips is an easy way to make plants denser and more compact.

With a rub here and a pinch there each time you walk through the garden, you can direct plant vigor just where you want it. You also eliminate hours of work and quantities of debris by reducing the need for dormant pruning next winter.

Watch for unwanted buds and shoots. Remove any growth that sprouts below the graft line. Most deciduous fruit trees and citrus, grapes, roses, and many other plants with choice fruits, flowers, or foliage are grafted to roots that produce less desirable growth. You can usually see the graft line near the base of the trunk-look for a sudden change in bark color or texture, in the angle or girth of the trunk, or in the shape or size of foliage. If a shoot is too big or tough to twist off, cut it as close to its base as possible,

Even when a tree isn't grafted, new shoots from the base often ruin its shape; remove unless you want multiple trunks and the shoots are vigorous and well placed.

Higher up, remove shoots or buds that grow too close to an established limb, that will block a walkway as they grow, that are aimed toward the center of the plant or at an awkward angle, or that reduce the beauty of the plant in any other way. If growth seems leggy or sparse, pinch off branch tips-from one or more sets of leaves to 3 to 5 inches of growth, depending on the plant's size. Tip-pinching encourages new side shoots. On fruiting and flowering plants, wait to tip-pinch until after this year's crop.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:May 1, 1989
Words:317
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