Lessons from my Tomato Patch on Pruning ‘Sucker’ Blogs


Warning, Tangent Ahead – One of the best tips I’ve had in my new found hobby of growing vegetables is when it comes to growing Tomatoes (we currently have more than V and I can eat – so the tip is working).

The idea behind the tip is simple.

Tomato bushes grow fast in the right conditions and while they might start as a small seedling, left unchecked they will sprout out into all directions with new stems and can quickly become quite out of control and tangled. The result is that you end up with a very healthy looking bush – but because it is so large a lot of the energy that ideally should be being directed into growing fruit is wasted on growing leaves and stems and as a result your crop suffers.

The tip therefor is to look for ‘suckers’ and to prune them.

A sucker is a little shoot that grows out between two stems that can grow out into yet another stem (see picture below). In pruning them you keep the number of branches down and the bush doesn’t get out of control. Suckers also suck the energy away from your bush’s ability to grow fruit.

When I first heard this advice from my green thumbed friend it seems a little strange – surely one would want a big bush – wouldn’t that produce more fruit than a smaller one?

I decided to do a bit of an experiment. I let one bush go crazy and didn’t prune the suckers while I too the advice and removed them on my other bushes.

The results speak for themselves….

Trebor57 3I now have one out of control bush that stands taller than I do. It’s actually producing some fruit but is so out of control that it’s obvious that there is less tomatoes and that they are in worse condition and are smaller than what the other bushes are producing. The other problem with this unruly bush is that it’s got a lot of weight to it with so many branches and so yesterday (a hot windy day) it fell over and I lost a fairly large part of it and quite a few un-ripened tomatoes.

As per usual, as I worked on salvaging what was left of my sick tomato bush yesterday, my mind wandered to blogging and I began to ponder how pruning off ‘blog suckers’ might actually be something that bloggers might need to do from time to time.

Perhaps this is more a lesson for me as a blogger with multiple blogs – but I wonder if it might also be where others are at.

As I look at my blogs (I have quite a few) I can see that they have a range of performance levels. Some are doing fantastically in terms of traffic and earnings while there are others that even after many months only attract a handful of visitors per day and correspondingly make little money.

When I analyse how much time goes into these non performing blogs I realise that while I do spend a little less time on them, they do consume energy and time that I could be funnelling into more fruitful activities.

It’s easy to get to this position over time. You have hopes of your blogs being vibrant places of community around a topic – but some just never take off. You convince yourself that they just need more time, that maybe next time Google updates that things will click and you persist – all the time pouring energy into something that bears little fruit.

The advice I regularly give to bloggers is to persist over time. Good blogs do need to mature and can take years to get to a decent level – however there are also blogs (suckers) that are unlikely to ever succeed at anything other than distracting you from your more fruitful blogs.

I’m coming to a point where I’ll need to ‘prune’ some of my own sucker blogs. I’m not planning of deleting them all together (after all they do continue to get a little traffic and make a few dollars a week – which adds up over a year) but instead I’ll just stop giving them attention and allow them to die their own death in their own time. The beauty of not deleting them is not only that they continue to earn a little bit but that they are there if for some reason they ever do take off (either as a result of the topic becoming more popular or by the search engines reindexing in their favour).

I’m still a big believer in diversifying interests and think multiple blogs are a good strategy – however one needs to keep balanced and realistic in the way they spend their time. Afterall – bloggers working by themselves on multiple blogs can only really sustain so many blogs without the quality of their work (their fruit) suffering so once you get to a point of working at capacity – one smart way to grow is to ditch the unproductive areas to focus on what is working.

update: The more I ponder this topic (and I apologise for it’s longwindedness, I’m thinking outloud somewhat) the more I find myself thinking of a book I read in my last holidays called The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Success by Achieving More with Less by Richard Kosch.

In the book Richard argues that 80% of results usually comes from 20% of efforts. In identifying where the productive stuff happens you can increase productivity. Pruning the unproductive parts can help in this process.

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