Garden · Plants

The old ways: chemical-free fertilizer and fat tomatoes


Last weekend, we took a little road trip to visit some of YC’s people out in the country. I met his uncle for the first time, and boy is he a character. He was sittin’ in his lawn chair, killing fire ants, watering his new vegetable garden, and drinking cheap beer when we arrived. He said we could get either a BA chair or an SA chair, and when we asked him what those were, he said, “Either you have a big ass or a small ass. What kinda chair ya want?” We went with the BA chairs. We sat for a few hours, enjoying the spring day, water oak leaves raining down on us as new blooms pushed them out, and he told us stories about growing up and gardening and raising a hundred chickens.

When they were kids, they brought 300 eggs to town twice a week to trade at the grocery store for things they needed. They grew all their produce. They canned. They had a garden year-round. But when they first started the big garden back on their old homestead, the top soil was terrible. So YC’s uncle, the oldest of all his siblings, dug a long trench in their field. He ground up a bunch of leaves with a leaf shredder. He layered cow manure down in the trench, and then put the shredded leaves on top of it. Lastly, he put all that top soil back on the trench.

Then he let it alone for a year.

He came back the next spring and ran a tiller down the trench. He said that year, and even the years after it, he couldn’t give away enough vegetables.

When we were leaving the house he lives in now, a nice place in town with a good backyard, we noticed some big, black rubber canisters sitting in the driveway. We asked him what they were, and he declared proudly, “Those are filled with manure.” Sometimes the old ways are the best.

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