After talking the talk (about pruning the cucumbers and tomatoes) and walking the walk (pruning the suckers on the tomatoes), it was time to take the leap and prune the terminal stems of the tomato and cucumber plants.  Hopefully, this pruning will not prove terminal for any of them.

With the tomatoes the process was straightforward, mainly because we have been carefully pruning all along.  Each of the plants has only two or three main stems, all with equally and widely spaced branches.  The plants are restrained—sparse, even—and every leaf and fruit has ample room to grow.  However, most of the vines have reached the top of their supporting cages and if left unchecked will spill over the top and become unruly (as we know from prior experience).

To prevent this, we treated the tips of the main stems the same way we have been treating the suckers and simply pinched them off.  Where the stem was thicker than 1/16” (or so), we used gardening clippers to snip it off.  The terminal branches will continue to grow laterally (like all of the other branches) but the plant should not get much taller.  Because we committed to this early, we did not lose too much plant material (and no blossoms or future fruit).

The cucumbers were a different story.  We have not been pruning them (at all) and they have gotten overgrown, especially the very aggressive lemon cucumbers.  About a week ago (see July 15, 2012), we untangled many of the cucumber vines and tied them to the cages.  Since then, they have continued to grow and several are dangling from the highest rings of the cages, looking for something to wrap their tendrils around.

We traced several of these, disentangling them from their cages and each other, and then (after pausing to take a deep breath) cut them off three or four nodes from the end.  From each vine, we lost about 18 inches of main stem as well as several blossoms and developing fruit.  Our hope is that the plants will divert their energy to the remaining stems and cucumbers (of which there are many).  We also hope that the cut ends of the stems, which were oozing a steady flow of water droplets, do not expose the vines to disease.

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