On Pruning Bobby

On Pruning Bobby


Yes, the tomato plant I'm tending to has a name.

Yes, the tomato plant I'm tending to has a name.

Bobby was gifted to me by a neighbor who grew Bobby from a seed. Bobby was kind of the runt of the pack, the neighbor, Tom, wasn't sure if this tomato plant would make it. Along with the gift of the plant, Tom shared lots of knowledge and wisdom with me. And little baggies of organic fertilizers with the timing of when to give them on a sticky note.

We chatted about how we were unsure if this plant would make it and so, I said "it's nice to have low expectations for tending to my first tomato plant. If this one doesn't make it it won't entirely be my fault."

Bobby is HUGE now. So huge in fact that several branches of Bobby grew beyond the borrowed tomato cage. And three of them have snapped. The first one I thought it was because of the person who watered the plants while we were away. I kindly cut the branch off where it had snapped and composted it, checking in to see that Bobby seemed okay. Then the other two snapped just a few days ago,  I think. Bobby is so bushy and full that the snaps may have happened earlier and I just hadn't noticed till I took a closer look.

If you don't know about tomato plants, I've read and learned they need consistent care and watering. I'm learning that I'm not the most consistent human. And I'm trying to make that okay – and well, trying to give the small amount of consistency I do have to things and beings who solely depend on me.

A few weeks ago Bobby got blossom end rot, where the bottoms of the fruits become gray and black... I beat myself up about it until I learned that some of Tom's tomato plants also got it--and I know he is super consistent with his watering. Some of the fruits rotting is just part of the deal, I guess.

Back to the snapped branches... just this morning I had the time to tend to Bobby. Focused time. In my mind and my heart, I talk with and listen to Bobby. It seems to be how I garden. Bobby told me it was time to cut the snapped branches off, as well as give Bobby 5-10-10 fertilizer.

I rubbed my fingers around, finding the spot to cut the first snapped branch. I cut and then the branch fell away from Bobby.

Oh f*ck.

More of the branch than I needed to cut had fallen away, taking with it at least five flowers and five fruits.

I apologetically lay the branch down on the grass. This is just like life sometimes. I couldn't see through the incredibly full bushy plant, there was too much going on, and so, I pruned too much, pruning beyond what had already died, pruning life along with death.

It was done, I couldn't go back. I sometimes back pedal in life, second guessing an already made decision. Many of the decisions in my life I can go back on--or at least it appears like I can. But gardening, tending to a plant, it's starkly clear how one cannot go back.

I moved onto the next snapped branch. And brought my learnings along with. I pushed away all the leaves. I pruned nearby the snapped branch to give further space (Bobby said that was wanted). And then I let my fingers find the exact spot I needed to cut. Before I cut, I did a thorough check along the branch, making sure the cut was only going to bring an end to what, in a sense, had already died.

I had the all-clear and then, I cut. The branch fell away and I got to see the full result. I lay this smaller branch alongside the other one, admiring both of them for what each had just taught me.

I continued pruning where Bobby indicated it was good to prune, noticing where the flowers were, noticing where Bobby was extra droopy (Bobby is a type of tomato plant that has a normal droopiness to it). In the pruning, too, I realized that I could help prevent further snapped branches, pruning one long branch that had extended past the cage, hopefully warding off future snaps.

I pollinated Bobby's flowers, too. This is such a great thing. Tom showed me he uses a battery operated toothbrush to buzz near the flowers, thus, sending out the pollen. Basically the toothbrush acts as a bee.

I use my own electric toothbrush, changing out the head for "Bobby's toothbrush head" and buzz nearby each flower or group of flowers, sending humming energy towards the flowers. It's beautiful to witness the pollen streaming out of some of the flowers. The nearby bumble bees buzz right next to the buzzing toothbrush, considering it kin, I suppose. It's a funny thing to do, but it seems to encourage the fruits along.

Bobby's been teaching me a lot over this summer. The other plants, too, but there's something about Bobby, maybe it's that this plant needs extra attention and connection. Maybe it's that Bobby is the only one with a special name. Maybe it's that Bobby just has a lot to say.

Bobby's been showing me how it's not only good to prune out dreams and ideas, sometimes, full alive projects need to also be pruned. Bobby is somehow also still rocking and giving fruits that have no blossom end rot thereby showing to me that consistency isn't the be all end all.

Maybe a project, an idea, a life... maybe it's not on a sole individual if it "makes it" or not. Maybe it's a host of reasons why one flower comes to blossom, comes to ripen, comes to nourish--while another one falls off, another one dies, yet another one is cut off.

All who don't "make it" find their ways back to the earth, either into the compost yard waste bin or directly back to the dirt below. Wherever they end up, they naturally give of themselves to future flowers.

In looking at Bobby as I look at my own life, am I Bobby (the full tomato plant)? Am I a flower? Am I one of Bobby's branches connected to the web of creatures on this wild planet?

Bobby was the runt of the pack. Now, Bobby is incredibly full and lush. Expectations be damned. I have no idea how Bobby's fruits will taste but I sure know that Bobby's gifted me plenty already.