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Getting More Bang for Your Buck By Ratooning Spring Vegetables

It’s the end of June, and my vegetable garden looks rough. The heat and the insects have wreaked havoc on my once beautiful Garden of Eden. This is the perfect time to rejuvenate some of the crops using a technique call ratooning.

In order to produce more fruit in the fall, a pepper with no blooms or fruit can be ratooned in early July.

In order to produce more fruit in the fall, a pepper with no blooms or fruit can be ratooned in early July.
Zachary Boone Snipes, ©2019, Clemson Extension

Ratooning is the process of cutting the stem of a plant, causing it to push out new growth and produce another crop, typically in the fall. Ratooning can be done once spring crops have stopped flowering and appear to be done with production for the summer. When compared to a new transplant, a ratooned plant has a very strong root system and does not take nearly as long to produce fruit.

Crops well suited for ratooning include: eggplant, pepper, and okra. I have ratooned my peppers for a few years now, and the fall production after ratooning is very rewarding. If properly done, gardeners can enjoy eggplant, peppers, and okra from May to July and September to the first frost of the year.

Crops should be mowed or pruned to 6 to 8 inches above the soil line. The gardener needs to make sure that a few leaf axils are left to provide the plant with photosynthetic capabilities.

A freshly ratooned pepper is cut 8 inches above the soil line.

In order to produce more fruit in the fall, a pepper with no blooms or fruit can be ratooned in early July.
Zachary Boone Snipes, ©2019, Clemson Extension

Once the plants are cut, gardeners will want to fertilize with a fertilizer that has a 1:2 ratio of nitrogen to potassium, which will encourage new growth and stimulate flower production. Examples of fertilizers with a 1:2 ratio include: 4-0-8, 5-0-10, or 10-0-20. Depending on the type of fertilizer used, 2 to 3 pounds of these products should be used per 100 feet of row in a banded application. For more information on fertilizing vegetables, please see HGIC 1254, Fertilizing Vegetables. After fertilization, plants should be watered frequently, as this will be the hottest part of the summer. In about 4 to 6 weeks, the ratooned plants will begin producing fruit that can be enjoyed by gardeners up until the first frost of the season.

Happy ratooning!

References:

2019 Southeastern U.S. Vegetable Crop Handbook. Page 55. https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/southeastern-us-vegetable-crop-handbook

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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