Riverfront Reflections

Lessons from the vine

By Jennifer Walker - For Ohio Valley Publishing



I have decided to grow tomatoes. As someone who can barely keep hanging baskets and a small flower bed alive each spring and summer, the idea of planting and tending to something edible is not only intimidating, but a bit laughable. Since nothing especially rewarding happens within comfort zones, I have decided to move beyond mine and try something new and different this year.

Lacking any real knowledge about gardening, my gangrene thumb and I decided to turn to the internet for guidance. After reading a few articles, I began to understand what it takes to grow strong vines and healthy fruit. As it turns out, sunlight, water and nutrient rich soil aren’t the only things a tomato plant needs to grow, thrive, and be productive. Even though a plant may appear tall, strong, and full of lush greenery, some of those seemingly robust leaves are imposters, also known as suckers.

Although suckers appear harmless, and even healthy, they are incapable of yielding fruit. They steal valuable nutrients and water, selfishly preventing the other tomatoes from reaching their full growth potential. The only way to stop the suckers from damaging the fruit is to remove them. But first, you must identify them.

Pruning too aggressively can kill the plant, while inadequate pruning can leave it vulnerable and susceptible to breakage and disease. Just the right amount of pruning allows air circulation and healthy growth. I could go on with all my new-found internet tomato plant knowledge, but I won’t.

At some point during my self-education, I had a lightbulb moment. What began as a curiosity about gardening methods turned into an unexpected life lesson. I realized that suckers exist beyond the plant world. Just like those deceptive, healthy looking leaves on the tomato plant, they hide in plain sight, expending energy, draining resources and hampering growth.

Real-life suckers, like their tomato plant counterparts, are harmful, difficult to recognize, and must be located and removed. As delicate and uncomfortable as the process may be, we must find and discard them. If we are to cultivate and grow the best, most fruitful parts of ourselves, we must not waste our light and energy on fruitless habits and behaviors.

Whether it is the tomato plant, or the choices we make daily, our prosperity depends on how diligently we tend the vine.

Lessons from the vine

By Jennifer Walker

For Ohio Valley Publishing