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Pruning: a Science and an Art

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Anyone who has ever seriously cultivated tomatoes knows how the vines can become a kind of out-of-control monster like that plant in Rocky Horror Picture Show. They are so prolific that too many days of neglect makes you throw up your hands and let nature win. Personally, I’ve sworn off growing tomatoes at present.

So what did I do? Set up shop with 230 raspberry plants…HA. Raspberry canes are at least as aggressive as tomato vines. The science of pruning is as follows: cut back the “suckers”, e.g., small starts, leaving the biggest canes, and the plant will use its energy exclusively for the best producing parts. Also, the lowest leaves tend to be insect bait and provide cover for all sorts of unwanted bugs. Remove all of that, and more light and air can circulate, which deters pests.

There is also an art to pruning. Every cut (and there are hundreds), requires a decision, and some can be somewhat subjective. It comes down to a kind of dynamic judgment, not a formulaic thing that requires no thought.

It occurs to me that the concept of pruning has parallels in the realm of the spirit as well. This business of cutting away unnecessary parts of one’s life (whether deliberately or by “misfortune”) though painful, often results in a renewing of strength and purpose which could not come by any other way. “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” (Proverbs 3:11-12). And a corollary in James 1:2-4: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Caroline McColloch
Chez Nous Farm

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