plucking 101

with planting season nearly behind us, it is officially maintenance time. welcome to the gardeners’ school of how-to. today, we tackle plucking. so grab your sharp scissors and your plucker bucket and let’s get gardening…

before we start: try to look at your subject pot with unbiased eyes. what i mean is, don’t look at your slightly neglected flowers and think about your gardening inadequacies, or how you really should be cleaning out the fridge, or the garage, or volunteering more. there is time for all of that, but for now, you’re outside, enjoying the summer. gardening isn’t just another chore. we love it. so take a second and get lost among your flowers. (after a few years working with people and their plants, i have observed that it can be an emotional thing to work in the garden. oftentimes, a rose isn’t just a rose. it could be from your grandmother’s mother. or maybe the icy blue delphinium reminds you of the lake you grew up on. and never underestimate the power of smell–i whole-heartedly believe i am in hawaii for 4.5 seconds when i smell a plumeria, even if i am in the botanical conservatory in columbus, ohio.) enjoy what you think and feel in the garden. save your stress for when you’re organizing that garage.

first) water! when you water before you pluck, it increases the turgor pressure (think bloated plant cells) which makes the actual plucking (the snap of a petunia arm) easier for your fingers and less stressful for the plants.

second) weed any renegade sprouts out of your potted garden. this doesn’t happen often, but it is funny if it does. i picture life turning into a live-action animated movie where the the tiny maple seedling grows at super speed, bursts through the faux terra cotta urn, and takes a walking tour of ann arbor on it’s seven root-legs, giving shelter to kids trying to keep up with their ice cream cones at washtenaw dairy and taking a nap in west park under it’s uncle oak tree. but i digress…

third) the birds & the bees: annuals (flowers that we have to plant every year) have a mission. they know that as soon as they get pulled from that black plastic cell pack and go in the ground, their time in the sun is limited. so, they are making flowers to make seeds to insure that their children are around next summer. our job is to enjoy the flowers and pluck off the spent blooms regularly. if you want to collect seeds, go for it. but don’t mind my gasps if you have me over…

with most plants you can use your built-in plucker tool–the tip of your thumb and the side of your index finger (and after a few years, your thumb has a flat spot and your index finger a callus.) but some flowers need the snip of the scissors to be sure the cut is clean. your don’t want the wound to be any bigger than it has to be.

fourth) fertilize! i use neptune’s harvest fish & seaweed or alaska morbloom for healthy, natural, and organic plants and flowers. for houseplants and vegan clients, i go for monty’s joy juice. fertilize every other week through the growing season for strong roots, green shoots, beautiful blooms, and delicious edibles.

a note on fertilizers: i realize you may have grown up watching dad spray miracle grow through his hose-end attachment–the zinnias might have been as big as dinner plates, tomatoes the size of a cantaloupes–but freakishly big does not necessarily mean healthy. a healthy garden grows with the process of building soil structure, feeding plants with balanced ferts, and encouraging good bugs and birds. you can still use the hose-end attachment, just fill it with the right stuff. don’t pump your flowers full of a quick-fix! just say (miracle) NO!

now, turn your tassel.
you may go forth and pluck…


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