5.27.2008

Growing Strong

Saturday was a time to plant.

A time to plant tomatoes, that is.


And there we were, weeding and spraying and digging and planting sweet tomato plants in all of their green, lacy, furry, tender newness.

[It’s important to introduce some garden “players” along with us as this adventure unfolds. Rest assured, all names have been changed to protect the innocent. Today, meet Liz. Liz is a New Testament scholar finishing up her PhD here in DC. C’mon…what is the likelihood of that? What kind of life are we living?

Now we are finding that “garden people” have a range of ways of imposing their garden wisdom/experience/knowledge/BS upon new gardeners. Liz doesn’t impose at all. She is gentle and most of all, helpful. Praise God! Liz’s gardening specialty is heirloom tomatoes. What a good neighbor to have!]

We had a range of plants to put in the ground. With the exception of Sweet 100s (a cherry tomato), we’re only planting heirlooms. We like the idea of heritage minus genetic engineering.

Frankly, I think we also enjoy the risk.

[We started out thinking we were only going to plant our own plants started from seed. First lesson – it is really difficult to start and nurture plants from seed to ground in the context of our lives. The kids tried really hard and had a great deal of enthusiasm when they planted those seeds in the cold indoor days of February. But we don’t have lights and they were moving them back and forth from the basement to the dining room table. And then, they lost some interest. It’s hard to wait for seeds to sprout. We’re all a little short on patience. Hopefully we can cultivate some of that as this process unfolds. Back to plants - Maybe we’ll try harder next year, or maybe we’ll just continue doing business with reputable growers.]

Anyway – while Matt was spraying more thistle, I was setting these sweet plants in the ground. Liz wandered over to share her good news (15 new tomatoes on her plants already) and asked what we were planting. We told her a bit about our selections – black krim, bloody butcher [I kid you not], Brandywines, mr. stripey… [When I grow up, I want to name plants.] She provided lots of positive feedback about our choices and cooed politely about our strong young plants.

And then, she shared her wisdom.

“You see those bottom two or three sets of leaves on this plant…[ah yes, leaves One, Two and Three on a plant with maybe Seven total]…Some gardeners who have been planting tomatoes for a while just pinch those off. Then you can set the plant into the ground deeper…just go ahead and plant the stem that much deeper. Really confident folks pinch everything back but the crown of the plant. The plant develops a whole new root system at that section that you bury.”

I looked at my sweet little tomato plant nestled into its new soil.

Huh.

Really?

So if I pinch back that lovely, albeit young, growth, the plant will be…

Stronger?

She sort of smiled at my response. “Some people are afraid to damage the plant.”

Well, I’ll say they are.

I didn’t really have time to take her to where my head was. Wow. That might be a new life rule. Sometimes you have to pinch back the new growth in order to strengthen the roots.

Yes.

Indeed.

As a parent, as a partner, for myself.

Sometimes you have to pinch back the new growth in order to strengthen the whole plant.

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