It’s the middle of June, but already the grass is August-crunchy and the leaves, though green, sound dry and papery in the occasional but much welcomed breeze. I’m standing by our little garden, with fear, trepidation, and a set of clippers, wondering where to start. The puny-in-April tomato plants, the ones I feared wouldn’t live to see the month of June, experienced an astonishing recovery and growth spurt. The debates between remove the suckers or leave the suckers, raging on the internet gardening blogs and groups, continues. Something however must be done before the plants pull down the trellis and the tomatoes smother in their own foliage, and I miss all those big nasty green caterpillars that wreak havoc on tomato plants, because it’s so crowded I can’t even see them til it’s too late.
Do I cut this branch? Am I depriving the plant of leaves needed for photosynthesis? Some branches even have blooms, and that is painful to even consider removing. I’d hate to lose even a single tomato for caprese salad made with homegrown basil as well. I approvingly watch a fat bumblebee in the act of pollinating my cantaloupe as I wrestle with the decision of which branches, if any, I remove. This pruning is hard from a gardener’s point of view.
Really, I try to convince myself, I am helping these plants by pruning them. I already water, use organic oil to remove the little red bugs on the leaves, train the vines up the trellis, have plenty of compost in the soil for nutrients, and I carefully consulted charts and blogs to choose companion plants and those that just benefit each other by close proximity as I laid out my garden plan. Each tomato plant has its own basil, marigold or both planted at its base to help keep away bugs. Why not prune? It just seems counter-intuitive to cut off a plant to make it healthier. Then I find this:
“The main reason to prune tomato plants is that it helps your plant direct its energy toward producing fruit rather than producing more foliage. The excess foliage will eventually grow into new branches that will form fruit, but most experienced growers advise that tomatoes should be pruned to not only produce larger fruit earlier in the season, but also to protect the plants against pest and disease problems…When a tomato plant is pruned properly, all of the foliage receives adequate sunlight, and the plant is able to photosynthesize (and, as a result, grow and produce fruit) more efficiently.”
So here I am, trimming suckers and a few branches off the already tangled mass of branches. One branch, I am convinced, despite the enticing yellow blooms, must come off. Take a deep breath and snip, it’s over and joins the pile of excess branches now laying, already drying out on the grass, waiting to be thrown away. The plants already look better, healthier. That wasn’t so bad, now was it?
The bumblebees continue to buzz, the Wonderdog rests lazily in the shade of the weeping cherry, and the passage comes into my mind and spirit: