• Kimberlyn Owens-Hughes

The importance of pruning your garden

Like many others in pandemic(al?) times, in 2020 I started a vegetable garden. I've always dreamed of growing my own feeds, but I declare myself an absolute novice to the trade.

As a newbie, I've been fascinated by how nature works, often letting myself sit back, water, and let the soil and leaves do their thing. Recently, I'd been in awe of how the compost pumpkin and tomato vines had taken on a life of their own. Spreading out and taking over space mostly vacated after the chard and spinach harvest. Yet also threatening to overcome my cabbage patch and beloved kale.

For a time, I defended my garden proudly (to my fiancé who commented that it looked unkempt). I claimed that it was not overgrown, but that I was allowing nature to run the course, and if that meant it looked a little "messy," it was fine. We were fine.

Until it wasn't.

As I examined the tomato vines, now thick impenetrable bushes, I saw the plants folding over, green tomatoes plopped down on the ground. Shit, I thought. I knew I should have installed some poles to keep the plants upright. To keep the weight of the fruit from pulling them down.

I was perplexed, and a little discouraged, by the seemingly complex task of penetrating the dense forest of tomatoes, to train vines well past the point of training.

And then it hit me. Maybe instead of adding, I should be subtracting. I whipped out my phone and googled "how to prune a tomato plant," grabbed my scissors and set off to tackle the beast.

What I learned from Saint Google, and what would soon become terribly apparent to me as I snipped away, tomato plants do actually need to be pruned. In fact, they have secondary branches that don't produce fruit (i.e. easy to spot) and need to be cut off.

Honestly, I was scared shitless at first. I checked each branch carefully to make sure I wasn't sacrificing any tomatoes in my first attempt at pruning. But it soon became incredible clear which branches needed to be snipped and which did not. And that's when the magic happened.

You see, these branches are quite appropriately named suckers, and you can identify them as the secondary branches that sort of detour off and curve down from the main stalk. Quite literally, they are the ones that suck crucial nutrients away from the fruit-bearing vine, pulling the plant down, and holding it back from greatness.

It turns out that tomato plants, much like our homes and our lives, need to be decluttered, to be pruned. And we must take the time to weed out what's sucking away precious resources from what matters most. When we let our garden become overgrown, we have a harder time seeing the fruits from the leaves. And we unintentionally prevent our plant from reaching true greatness.

As I cut away the suckers, I noticed the plant perking up, stretching upwards as the weight was lifted from its shoulders. Thanking me for taking the time to give it the pruning TLC it desperately needed.

So how does someone so conscientious about decluttering the excess from her home and life fail to see that what her garden really needed was a little bit of decluttering?

Here's the thing, when we come from a scarcity mindset in any area of our life, it's easy to accumulate. It's easy to forget to filter, to discern the important from the excess.

As a new gardener, I'd never grown a tomato plant in my life. So, in part, I guess you could chalk it up to ignorance of proper plant care. But in part, I also came at it from a position of lack. I'd never grown tomatoes before and was content to watch the mass of leaves sprawl out across the garden. My eyes saw abundance and were too afraid to intervene for fear of losing the tomatoes I'd suddenly amassed.

That's what scarcity mindset does. It makes us hold tight to what we have, for fear of losing it. For fear of being thrust back to a time when we had nothing. It's what leads us to hoard, despite a lack of space. To cling tight to our busy schedule, despite overwhelm.

But if we allow ourselves to let go just a little, to part with what is excess, what is dead, and what is sucking us dry, that where the beauty is. That's when our plants grow strong. That's when we can finally see the fruits of our labor. That's when we learn that less truly is more. And that's when we begin to trust the process.

As I would learn with my pumpkin patch, pruning is not always such an easy feat. Our suckers are not always so obvious to discern. But that's where trust and abundance mindset are so crucial. Sometimes who have to snip what might be good, to redirect your resources towards something with the potential to be great.

But that's a topic for another day...

What are the suckers in your life? What people, commitments, expectations, etc., are you letting pull you down? What extra weight are you holding onto? What beauty in your life are those suckers preventing you from seeing? How might cutting those suckers out propel you into greatness?

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