This afternoon, I was standing in our scrubby, mostly-shaded vegetable garden in the back yard, listening to the neighbor’s baby screaming and staring at all the knee-high crabgrass that had somehow grown in while I was on vacation. When the garden gets like this, as (confession) it does every year, I have to take tasks a little bit slower so as not to get too overwhelmed by the “rustic” look. This afternoon, I was staking up a couple of the tomato plants.
The tomato is an interesting vegetable, all history aside. To flourish, it requires lots of sun, good soil, and plenty of water. It’s pretty finicky compared to, say, lettuce, which will grow pretty much anywhere. Here in southern Minnesota, the tomatoes can’t be planted out until after Memorial Day, when the danger of frost is mostly past us. We wait a few weeks, and then tie the plants to sturdy sticks so they don’t flop all over the garden. Part of this process is pinching off the lower leaves so they don’t get any number of tomato diseases.
Anyway (I’ll try not to get off on a vegetable cultivation rant), more recently, I’ve been working my way through the 20-odd plants Mama bought, putting them in those wire tomato cages, or trellising them. All of them have started to bloom, and some of them have started to set fruit, so now a really important part of maintenance is removing a good chunk of the offshoots.
What, you say? Maiming a poor innocent plant? Well, um, yes. By removing a large proportion of the leafy stems, the tomato focuses on other things, like growing taller, bushier, and ultimately producing more fruit. If you’re familiar with grapevines, you’ll know that in vineyards, the plants are vigorously pruned so that a large crop of good fruit can be harvested later.
In this way, the tomato (and the grape) are pretty admirable plants. I mean, imagine if they had opposable thumbs and a gardening knife–they’d probably go crazy removing any leaf they didn’t need. The challenge for all of us creative people (whether you sell handmade, market a service, or just craft for fun), is to get rid of all the extra baggage that impairs your creativity and efficiency. Do you have a preconceived notion about what your art form “should” be? Get rid of it. Are you hung up on outdoing all the other Etsy sellers in your category? Lay off. Are you not trying new things because you’re afraid someone will steal the idea and make it better? Time to let go.
So what extra leaf stems are impairing the creative growth of your tiny business, your big project, or that lunch break diversion? Drop me a line in the comments and we’ll all do some pruning together.
Ta ta for now…see you in the comments section.