Possumhaw: It's all in the dirt

May 22, 2017 10:19:03 AM

Shannon Bardwell - [email protected]


"Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad."


Brian O'Driscoll, former Irish rugby player




The mornings are cool enough, shady enough and enjoyable enough to work with the flowers and tomatoes, even if you're not a morning person.


I've been trying a few new things with tomato plants, all from a little bit of the varied advice given by successful tomato growers.


Two tomato plants, one a "Better Boy" and one a "Roma," are planted in a flowerpot that waters out of a holding tray from beneath the plants. Wire baskets fit over the plants for the day when they are tall and heavy with tomatoes. These plantings are in the perennial garden, protected by an outer fence.


In the greenhouse, there are three tomato plants. Two plants are planted in the usual way, each in a different raised bed to see if soil or lighting makes any difference. The third tomato plant was planted on its side. The reason given for planting on the side is that the tomato plant will right itself, but the stem will create its own roots for greater stability and nourishment. It looked so sad lying on its side that I put a small prop under the leaves rather than having it lying limp on the dirt.


The next morning, I found the little plant, just as the advice-giver had said. The stem lay down on the dirt for about 2 or 3 inches, but the rest of the plant had risen up toward the sun. We shall see how this planting method affects health and productivity.


The sixth and last tomato plant is planted in a half-full bag of potting soil with a few holes poked in the bottom of the bag and a wire cage fitted around the bag.


All things considered, if I were betting I'd bet on the potting soil-bagged tomato plant. The reason being I bought some new soil in a green and white bag labeled "Soil Prep" potting soil made by Penick Organics, from down at Macon. You cannot buy this soil from the maker, but you can buy it locally. I've learned to trust anything Penick makes.


There are several flowerbeds scattered around. This season I am focusing on the first bed as you near the house. A tree was taken down, and I determined to make a flower bed. We have several spots where trees have been eliminated we call "the place where nothing grows."


Naturally we continue to plant in these spots, hoping something will take root. Nothing has been successful until this spring when we filled the area with this particular Penick soil and planted the usual yellow lantana, daisies, blue salvia, Prairie petunias and verbena. Within the week, the flowerbed looked great. We'll see what happens.


The native wildflowers I planted from seed in the fall have bloomed. I wouldn't say they look just like the catalog pictures, but we're just starting out. The nice part about them, as Sam keeps reminding me, you just leave them alone and let them do their thing.


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.