One of the hardest thing for people to do in the garden is to thin a crop. This is most common with beets and carrots, though any crop sown too thickly will need thinning; lettuce, arugula, and Brussel’s sprouts are some other crops I’ve thinned.
What people find so difficult about it is the fact that you have to uproot and kill perfectly viable plants, robbing them of a long, happy, vegetable life in the garden bed. But this is entirely necessary for the good health of the entire bed. To thin out a crop requires diligence, a steady eye and selective hands.
Thickly sowing a crop like beets helps the seedlings to overcome weed growth and get to a good, healthy stage with 2 sets of true leaves; this is the time when you can start to thin them. If not thinned, the beets will grow their bulbous taproots round and end up smooshing their neighboring beets, competing both for nutrients in the soil and light with their leaves. A good thinning at an early (2 sets of true leaves) stage – to about 2″ between beets – will get the beets to a good standing for salad slicing or whole-roasting size; thinning out at this stage to about 5″ allows the beets that are left an even better home and situation to grow exponentially better to a good sliced grilling or beet-chocolate cake size. But if the beets never get thinned, just left there for fear of killing a few, then the whole bed will suffer – stunted and crowded, not producing as hefty or thriving of a crop as the potential it held.
– 1 Cor 15: 36-38
The beauty in the cycles of nature includes death in a very big way; seeds have to die to their forms in order to become stems and leaves and fully reach their potential as plants – from a sprig of thyme to a 100-foot tall Eastern White Pine. Compost, caterpillars and sunlight are all things that have to die to their current forms in order to offer regeneration and new life to another.
So it is with our own life’s cycles; we must die to our little hang-ups, ego-embracers and sometimes our seemingly truest desires in order to cultivate integrity, character and wisdom – or simply to focus and grow the better (and most needed and essential) parts of ourselves that we may have been neglecting by trying to save all the little pieces. To be the fullest, best and most formed person we were created to be, we will be asked to choose between what’s easy or seems to make sense, and what’s life-affirming and sustaining. Without diligence, a steady eye and selective hands we may find ourselves stretched too thin along the surface, instead of being able to thin out and away those things that would keep us from tapping into a depth of nurture and nutrients. I’ve found that each hard decision I’ve had to make has been built upon previous struggles in a way that has matured my conscience, my awareness and my compassion. This is the sustainable life; giving up and letting go that which would hinder us from growth and new life. Growth and change will happen; sustainable is not stagnant.
But just as we can witness a bed of beets sincerely thrive and prosper when tended to with thinning and weeding, so we are assured that our choice to die to ourselves and the little hindrances will bring to fruition both depth and meaning in our lives. The act itself might be painful and smart for a while but just as beets grow more vigorously with a little root disturbance (see previous post: Of Weeding Ways and Summer Soaks) so our characters and personalities can be twice as strong with the mending.
– 2 Tim 2:11
So don’t fret over thinning out that bed of crowded beets, they will thank you for it with a harvest of abundance. You’ll get to enjoy the harvest it produces at multiple stages of its growth. Same goes for your garden of life.