Pruning


On Christmas Day, I was outside at a family member’s house and had been meaning to prune several trees in their orchard (it was actually on my calendar to do so a couple times, but something always came up). You see, there were half a dozen trees that didn’t bear much ( or any) fruit the past couple seasons because of how overgrown they’ve become.

Fruit trees — to product super delicious, sweet, tasty, and normal size fruits — need a number of things. Some of the normal, expected elements like water, soil, nutrients, sunlight…those are anticipated and thought of by most people.

Pruning is a little harder to spot. We can easily notice the absence of water (wilting) or soil (hanging out in space) or nutrients (yellow leaves or dying plants). Pruning, on the other hand, is a little more tough to spot.

Think of it this way: when a tree grows and is completely pruned it looks terrific and produces fruit. The next year, if not pruned, will still be great and probably produce tons of fruit, but slightly less quality. And so on each consecutive season the quality and size diminishes, but each year it’s somewhat close to the prior year that it’s harder to notice.

Until branches get in the way. Or you notice many branches are dead. Or the tree is suffering from disease, rot, or something else — all because it grew too much and took on too much. Imagine a tree becoming more like a shrubbery or bramble: it grows into itself and you can no longer reach into it because it’s woven together so tightly.

Sunlight can’t get in. Fruit goes bad. The tree weighs itself down, and it begins to produce less and less and the fruit just isn’t the same. That’s far past the date you realize it needs to be pruned.

So you prune. And you prune. And you prune. You’ve to prune so much, that you’re convinced you must be hurting the tree! There are more branches on the ground that on the tree. How can a tree produce that way?

But that’s exactly what it needs. It allows light in. Nutrients — or resources — aren’t rationed off between a thousand different branches but can instead be concentrated in a few to produce a stronger trunk, sturdier limbs, and branches that can support glorious, wonderfully tasting fruit.

That’s the best place for the tree. It’s where we felt we must have hurt the tree. We must have pruned it too far back. But, in fact, that’s what it needed. It needed to stop doing a lot of things in order to do a few things better. It needed to pull many lines out of the water to have the freedom to restart and to strengthen what remained. Because now what remains will become strong and durable.

The tree will be stronger and healthier than ever. Able to fight off infection, disease, pests, and fungus better than before. In a sense, the tree is less distracted. It has less to worry about and can return to that young, thriving tree that once gave you delicious, appealing fruit you craved seasons ago, back when it was pruned. It will last. It will lead with great fruit.

Pruning, it seems, is not something that happens naturally in the wild, but an activity that we must step into and consistently work on. In other words, pruning is a necessary part of the tree that we tend to forget, but without it the branches will become overloaded, overburdened, begin to fail and lead to a withering tree and poor crop. No farmer wants that. It hurts, but we want a pruned tree. We need pruning.

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