I picked 22kg (48lbs) of tomatoes from our garden last night.

The fantastic book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver inspired me to try growing a big quantity of tomatoes. My family eats a lot, and canned tomatoes are nothing on the flavor of homemade ones. We have the land (2.5 acres) and my husband is keen on gardening. This was my first foray into gardening at scale. We now have over 200 tomato plants.

Every step of the way, I’ve been looking at these tomato plants (and fruit) and can’t help but think of analogies about growth in general. At first, I’d laugh to myself and think I was being rather silly that I kept thinking this way, but it really is a natural comparison.

We’re all wanting growth. Whether it’s our plants, our kids (!), our business, our website traffic…

Here’s three things I’ve thought about website growth by growing tomatoes:

#1 Small pots restrict growth

The seeds which we replanted from their initial seed trays into bigger pots at the right time grew so much bigger and better than those we never got around to replanting. Small pots restrict growth. The difference between those we replanted and those still in small pots was incredible: the small pot plants were weeks behind in size (and productivity). Next time, I’ll transplant them all to a different pot when they grow to a certain size.

I also asked my husband why we didn’t plant the seeds into a big pot in the first place so we didn’t need to do this whole transplanting thing. His answer: We use fewer resources as there’s no point filling a big pot with soil if the seed never germinates in the first place (and a bunch never did grow).

What are the small pots my website has outgrown? The things my website has outgrown which are now holding it back from growing further could include…

  • Shared hosting plans which slow the site down
  • Mailing list systems which are restrictive (e.g. Feedburner or Jetpack)
  • Website designs which aren’t mobile-friendly (disadvantaged in Google)
  • Navigation isn’t user-friendly (people leave instead of finding what they need)

Likewise, there’s no point buying an expensive server plan when you’re starting out. Start with something small and when (and if) it grows, then move to that.

#2 Good fruit means restricting certain growth

My husband taught me to remove all the lateral (side-shoot) stems from the tomato plants so the plant grew fewer, but bigger tomatoes. At first, it felt weird pinching off perfectly healthy bits of the plant which were growing quite naturally and happily. Sometimes, I’d miss a few laterals and they just kept on growing, bigger and bigger (with their own laterals too!).

I began thinking about how pruning (at the right time) is advised for all sorts of plants to produce focused growth and fruit. More energy goes into growing fruit than leaves.

What are my side-shoot stems? What are the things I’m doing which are using up my energy in too many different directions that need to be cut off rather than focused on growing income?

  • Too many social media accounts done half-heartedly
  • Consuming too much information leaving me overwhelmed, unfocused and inactive
  • Creating more and more content which isn’t solving what readers really need help with

#3 Growth requires continual manual labour work daily

Given all the right conditions, tomatoes simply do their thing: grow and produce fruit. The bit that makes it hard is that there’s always some work to be done – and it’s not always fun:

Planting, watering, transplanting, preparing the ground, digging holes, planting, mulching, weeding, pruning, tying up, squishing bugs, picking, weighing, cooking, processing…

I’ve dreamed about pulling out weeds: certain types are easy to pull out, others not so much. My hands have turned green and smell of stink bugs. I also have black nail polish for the first time (I’ve always wanted to experiment, but having endlessly dirty nails seemed the perfect opportunity!). My kitchen smells of cooking tomatoes every evening and I remember a friend telling me that some Italians have a second kitchen dedicated to their tomato processing…

Everyone wants website growth. It’s easy to read about new tactics and strategies. It’s much harder to do something consistently day after day in a process. Some days I didn’t want to do the gardening but if I didn’t keep on top of it, all the work to date could go to waste.

What are the tasks I need to do consistently to grow my website that aren’t always fun but are the basics I shouldn’t get behind on? What plans did I put in place that I need to stick to doing?

  • Regularly and consistently sending to my mailing list
  • Following up on leads and unpaid invoices
  • Keep adding to my Pinterest board as part of my annual marketing strategy to food bloggers

I hope you found these ideas useful and they stick in your mind too. Do you grow plants too and think about these sorts of analogies?

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