10 Rules for Editing Personal Essays

Caring for a Raspberry bushes is confusing — they’re not like other plants. Applying the same rules to Rubus that you do to any other plant is asking for trouble, unless your goal is a whole lot of thorns and poor or no fruit. Prune better, eat better. It’s that simple.

Rule #1: Know your variety
Red raspberry bushes and black raspberry bushes grow differently, produce fruit in different times of the year, look slightly different, and yes, make fruit of different colors, but you can’t wait until the fruit comes to prune it properly, as you can’t rearrange the printed page.

Rule #2: Learn which canes will produce, and which won’t
Last year’s new canes will produce this year’s fruit, and last year’s fruiting canes can no longer be productive. You might not always want to admit it but it’s obvious even to a beginner which is which.

Rule #3: Prune new weak canes and old dead canes mercilessly
Find every single dead cane and prune it to the ground, with no mercy. Consider every single cane on your plant and ask yourself — is this cane viable? Be more than honest — be honest.

Rule #4: Throw the cuttings away completely
What you prune you throw away completely. Pretend it never existed. Don’t leave it in a pile next to you or next to the plant or on the ground a few feet away. Procure a bag, throw all the canes in the bag, and then put the bag on the curb.

Rule #5: Interrogate each remaining cane deeply
You’ll only be left with 10-12 healthy canes when you’re done pruning — if you choose right, they’ll produce enough fruit for an entire season. Make sure the ones you plan to leave behind are the correct ones.

Rule #6: Look for bad roots or broken middles or damaged tips
Inspect them for damage carefully — prune frost bitten tips and look for other signs of weakness. The canes translate sun and moisture into fruit — of of the most important aspects of how the bush communicates.

Rule #7: Pay attention to the distance between the canes
Properly spaced canes allow for optimal growth, but it’s oversimplifying to say “prune all canes that are closer than 12 inches,” because two very healthy canes 10” apart will not cause a problem. Do the best you can, but remember that what you remove is just as important as what you keep.

Rule #8: Mind the overall size of the plant
Allowing canes to extend too far beyond the crown of the plant will reduce their ability to produce fruit of adequate quality or quantity. It may look beautiful, perfect even, but it if it’s in the wrong place, it can never thrive. Save yourself the trouble and prune it now.

Rule #9: Attach it to a structure
Some gardeners would call this step optional but most agree that if you’re going to try and let your bush form and grow of its own volition with no structure or trellis to rely on, you should at least have the experience of working with structured bushes first. When your bush is trellised properly, anyone can come upon it, find the fruit, and therefore delight. When you let things grow wild, the treasures inside may be sweeter, but remember that you are excluding some from the experience.

Rule #10: Stop just before you’re done
Your bush is bigger than the bush itself. It is part of an ecosystem, in the ground and in the air. Nothing in the natural world has a true sense of doneness, and seeking a state of completion will often find you whittling until nothing is left. The purpose of a raspberry bush is to provide fruit, not to keep you endlessly employed in the art of pruning.