When to Scrap a Veggie Plant

by - August 08, 2011


Seasonal vegetable plants in the kitchen garden are typically annuals that experience a time of peak production before tapering off for the season. Occasionally, I've had plants take a mid-season break before having a second burst of production, which this makes me hesitant to scrap my plants before they are clearly dead. However, as I've learned to extend the growing season with fall crops and overwintered crops, a square foot of garden space becomes valuable real estate that I can't afford to waste on sentimentality or hope of just one more vine-ripened tomato.

When should you scrap a plant?

1) If the plant is showing signs of disease, scrap it. Prevent disease spread by removing the plant. This is especially important if you are a close planter like myself. Diseased plants should be disposed of separately from the compost you intend to put back into the garden.

2) If the plant makes you cry, scrap it. This spring I conducted multiple surgeries on the squash plants in an attempt to salvage them from the vine borers. Eventually, I saw the plants survived but were no longer fruiting. At some point, it's just not worth the effort anymore.

3) If production has greatly tapered off, scrap it, especially if you need the space for the next set of plantings.

4) If your freezer is full of the produce, scrap it. My neighbors still have frozen produce from two summers ago. Your other option is to donate your excess to programs such as Plant a Row, but it is also good to give the soil a rest before the next set of plantings.

5) If you are nearing the end of the season and the plant has still produced nothing, scrap it. I can't tell you how often I've tried to grow watermelons only to have 5" vines with 2" leaves at the end of the season. Why waste the space?

6) If the plant is dead, scrap it. I'm sorry, but in this heat, resurrections don't often happen in the garden.

Remember, if you compost, scrapping a plant is never a waste!

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