Urban Jungle, propagation, growing from seed, kitchen garden, vegetables from seed,
The Daily Dibber

Vegetable grower and Propagation Manager for Urban Jungle, UK

A Sore Subject.


It’s an unfortunate turn of phrase. ‘Pinching back’ sounds quite aggressive. It conjures up memories of sibling tussles when hair inevitably gets pulled and it all ends in tears. The definition of ‘pinching’ is compression, confinement, and limitation. The opposite is true.

I noticed a common reaction to this practice when our volunteers started to get to grips with a commercial working polytunnel. Without exception, they found it very difficult. It goes against our plant nurturing instincts, we want large, vigorous healthy plants with masses of flowers, why would you reduce the new growth and by so much? I think one of the reasons it is so difficult is that nature does not mimic it. Self sown seedlings don’t do this. To be honest it was not a practice I ever used to do, hidden away in my polytunnel at home, camouflaged by an embarrassing number of annuals. Now after seeing the effects season after season, I find it difficult not to ‘pinch’.

Removing the top growth on bedding plants, most annuals and even some vegetables and herbs, stimulates side shoots, which results in a bushier plant with more leaves and flowers. Now be warned they do go into shock temporarily, but within a couple of weeks the side shoots start to appear.

Pinching back, like deadheading reminds me of the times I used to sit my toddlers down after a bath and cut their toenails. They can’t do it for themselves, but it always looks better when it’s done and in the end, they will be thankful.

Here are some examples from the polytunnel at Darsham.

A dahlia left to grow naturally.

Removing the leggy new growth.

The resulting bushier plant, now ready to be planted out.

The annual Venidium ‘Jaffa Ice’, left unpinched.


The results are plain to see.

Sunflowers. This one I want to keep tall so have left it unpinched.

A variety earmarked for cafe flowers, so off with its heads. This was difficult even for me.

Regrowth can be worryingly slow.

This is ‘Claret’ a rare dark sunflower, so ideally I would prefer lots and lots of cut flowers. This is the bushed out result.

Amaranth in particular respond rapidly, producing lots more lovely cut flowers all summer long.

Now any self respecting nursery (like ours) should have done this for you, but if you have grown plants from seed then grab your scissors and be brave.

limegarden@sky.com • 5th June 2017

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