Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pinching Off Tomato Suckers- an Analogy for Life

This morning while working in my (container) garden, a life lesson hit me in the form of a gardening analogy. (I suddenly understand why the scriptures are full of so many gardening analogies.)

I'm growing a berzillion tomato plants (in containers) on my deck. (A post on just container gardening coming soon.) If you have ever grown tomatoes you know you have to pick off the suckers. This is my first ever attempt at any sort of gardening (with the exception of putting a blueberry bush in the ground last year and telling it to fend for itself). The concept of picking off the suckers was foreign to me. I heard about it from several people, and even watched a YouTube video ("Pinching out" your growing tomato plants) on it, before I finally gave in and tried it.

I'll be honest, the idea of breaking off what appeared to be perfectly good piece of the plant did not seem reasonable to me. It didn't matter that everyone kept telling me that by pinching or picking off the "suckers" that the rest of the plant would flourish. Many of the "suckers" already had blooms on them, and appeared to be putting out good fruit. Why would I want to cut those off?

If you have never done it before, here are some pictures.
On a tomato plant you have the main stem, and then branches. A "sucker" is the little branch that grows out between the stem and the branch (making it a tripod, in a way).

It is hard to see the sucker in the picture above until you get more familiar with the concept. If anything, the picture above looks like a healthy, blooming, fruit bearing branch. 

But if you look closer, it is easy to see the sucker. It's that little branch my finger is pointing at, that grows out of the middle.
But if you look closely, you can see it has potential to be a fruit-bearing stalk. It's furry and has the right kind of leaves. It can be really hard to convince yourself to pinch that stalk or stem off.
 Why do you pinch the suckers off? What's the point?
Well, the general idea is that they 'suck' the energy from the more important branches. You want the plant to be sending all of its goodness to the right place. And the more suckers you have, the more the energy gets sucked up. The suckers can put out good fruit. You can leave them there. But the fruit you get won't be as good. It's a choice between quality and quantity. Do you want really good tomatoes? Nice, big round ones? Or just a lot of them? That's the choice you have to make. Quality v. quantity.
 Your suckers can even have suckers. The picture above is a great example of suckers within suckers.
If you aren't familiar with tomato gardening, it can be hard to recognize what a good stem or branch looks like. You want your fruit or blooms to be coming off the branch like in the picture above. When you see a good branch, it is easy to tell. But they are often hiding beneath all of the suckers. Here is the first picture I showed you. Did you even notice the good fruit? Or did you only see the sucker branches?

Here is the life lesson or analogy I picked up along the way today-
Our time, energy, and efforts, are often split and divided in a dozen different directions or branches. Some of the branches are good, some just appear to be good, and some are time sucks that are easy to spot.
But sometimes it can be hard to cut the suckers out of our lives. They can put out fruit, and be hard to cut out. Why would you want to cut something out that produces something good? Even when you know having more time and energy to put into the truly good things would be good for you, and make things grow and flourish, it can be really hard to do.
It can also be hard to identify which things you need to cut out. And you'll find yourself justifying not cutting out some of the suckers, because they do put out good results.
This sucker is so big and strong that it was hard to convince myself to cut it off. It already had blooms on it. But I could see the healthy, good blooms right above it. I knew if I removed the sucker (no matter how big and healthy it appeared), the blooms would benefit from it.

It's all a choice.
I do know this much-
I picked off dozens of suckers a few days ago off of my plants. Just 3 days later my plants have grown tremendously in size, and more of the good blooms have really gotten bigger and healthier.
After I witnessed the improvement in my plants after trimming off the suckers, I got the courage to cut off even more of the suckers - the ones I had left on the plants because they looked so big and healthy, and were putting out fruit already.
I don't feel guilty about it anymore. In fact, I'm excited to see how much more improvement my tomatoes will make. They should all be coming in and ready to harvest in about 2-3 more weeks. (It would have been 3-4 more weeks if I had left the suckers on.)

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