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The answer to the above question is “No!” and “yes”. The reality is I probably don’t have a choice.

In the late 50’s, my grandmother Green moved off the family farm to a small house across the street from First Baptist Church in Clarkton, Missouri. I started college at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee in 1960. Every month or so I would travel the 150 miles to see her on a weekend. She had a small 20’ x 30’ garden beside her house. She raised tomatoes, corn, squash and a few other vegetables on sandy soil with less than 1% organic matter in it. She used 10-10-10 fertilizer. Each morning she would go out to the garden and use her hoe to cut out any weeds or grass. The soil dried out quick. The tomato plants never got over 3’ tall and the corn produced small ears. Her garden was clean!

My first garden was behind the church parsonage in New Salisbury, Indiana in 1965. Mr. K lived behind the church property and raised chickens. Each spring he would spread chicken manure on my 50’ x 30’ garden area and disk it in. It had been a part of the church and parsonage lawn. Grass loved the fertilization. Because of my seminary and jobs schedule, I had limited time to garden. I spread my rows wide enough to use the church mower to mow in between them. I planted tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas, squash, onions, and anything else church members gave me. July and August are drought months in southern Indiana. Mr. K’s and most of my deacons’ gardens tended to dry up without irrigation. My tomatoes kept right on producing right up to the first frost. The moisture under the grass in between the rows kept them alive.

My garden in El Paso, Texas had been a cotton field before it became a housing development. It had been a part of the soil plain flooded by the Rio Grande before the dams were built in New Mexico. It was a rich loam with some organic matter. The area was 30’ x 50’ with Submatic drip irrigation. By adding a lot of compost and organic fertilizers such as cotton seed meal, the chemistry and PH of the garden soil was changed enough that weeds and grass seed that had grown there didn’t flourish. However by the third year I came back from my two weeks’ vacation to Tennessee and Arkansas in June to find thick grass over two feet tall in the rows and middles. I pulled and cut out the grass. I left it to be sheet compost in the middles and to act as a mulch for the rows of vegetables as the fall garden renewed in the cooler temperatures. This was the pattern each year from 1987 until I sold the house in 2007. It was a lot of hard work. The garden was always very productive unless I used too much organic fertilizer like when I spread rabbit pellets around the tomatoes and a 2” rain came. Some plants died or were burned up by the chemical reaction. (TO BE CONTINUED!)


5/10/2018    Garden Journals