© 2010 Joshua Stark
I have trouble cutting back in many ways. Ask my wife, and she'll say I can't pass up a "free" craigslist posting, and I have too many seeds and kitchen gadgets. However, this post is about cutting back old plants to make way for the new plantings.
I babied a terrible patch of corn and beans this year, to the detriment of their bed-mates (squashes and cucumbers), because I kept detecting the potential for great reproduction. The corn never grew more than 40 inches or so, and of the 15 plants, we harvested about one-half of an ear. But, the corn was the trellis for the green beans, since I like growing the three sisters together (corn, beans & squash), and the green bean plants, after a slow start, looked lush. So I kept them on, even though I saw only a couple of flowers on the vines through much of the Summer.
Then, about mid August, I decided I'd had enough. There was some grey wilt on the squashes, but my reticence toward actively working the bed had led to an aversion for the space - I just didn't want to work in it, because I knew it would entail giving up on the patch of corn & beans. However, this aversion, coupled with the thickness of the patch, had allowed the wilt to impact my zucchini crop. I headed over to the patch, and found dozens of flowers on the beans. Great! And, crap! My resolve thoroughly crushed, I let them stand.
I harvested maybe about 8 beans. Meanwhile, my zucchini and cucumbers never recovered from the wilt.
Last week, I yanked the patch of beans and corn, and cut back my other plants. I'll give the squashes and cukes one more week, and then the whole patch gets root veggies and alliums.
Next time, I'll know to be more direct in gutting those that aren't making it. I've got worm bins and ducks who are more than happy to compost the lot, so it won't be a total loss... it's just so hard to cut back.