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Outdoor Life: To-'Mater Madness!
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The results of a seemingly innocuous conversation

Day 1, Stage 1;
Procurement of Equipment and Essentials
1)    Buy four bags of potting soil, one bag of peat moss, and secure two five gallon buckets of lime.
2)    Continue buying spree with plant food, ‘Mater Magic fertilizer, and of course a dozen tomato plants (upgraded from the original three).
3)    Secure two trays (thirty six) marigold flowers, pine straw and some kind of product to keep grass from growing around the tomatoes.
4)    Get garden tiller from brother-in-law, buy a new hoe, and a soaker hose.
5)    Pull out two different kinds of rakes, string, two different kinds of shovels, tape measure, wire baskets, rods, and a garden hose.
6)    Borrow a hand-held GPS (global positioning device).

Day 2, Stage 2;
Soil Preparation and Procedures for Planting

1)    Plow ground with tiller into a fine dust.
2)    Rake out roots and smooth with rake.
3)    Add lime, potting soil, peat moss.
4)    Till the ground until mixture is thoroughly worked in.
5)    Stretch string using GPS (to insure straightness).
6)    Use tape measure to verify spacing of plants.
7)    Dig holes in correlation with GPS and tape measure.
8)    Introduce ‘Mater Magic and plant food into hole.
9)    Put tomato plant in hole and carefully cover to correct depth.
10) Install matting to keep grass from growing around plants
11) Put down soaker hose and cover with pine straw.
12) Put rods in ground and wire baskets over them for plants to grow around.
13) Plant 36 marigolds around the tomato patch.

I blame it all on Walt and John.  These two gentlemen were friends of mine but their status is currently up for re-evaluation. 
    Walt runs the local Southern States agricultural establishment in town and John owns and operates a top shelf landscaping company. Both are quite good at their jobs. In fact calling them good at their jobs would be akin to calling the Taj Mahal a pretty nifty tomb; it just wouldn’t do it justice. 
    This very commendable quality has, however, jeopardized our comradeship.
Laura (my wonderful wife of over 30 years) was in a tomato planting mood this past week and I was in a generous frame of mind as I volunteered to help. This offer came prior to my brain being fully engaged and idiotically believing that I would dig three holes and gain favor with her. Fact of the matter is I might have actually escaped with the three hole scenario except for an unfortunate meeting between Laura, John and Walt. Their advice to her on the subject of tomato planting was twofold.
    Put lime in the soil to avoid rot (Walt) and plant marigolds around the tomato patch to keep the insects away (John).
    With those two seeds planted (no pun intended), we took a quantum leap into the modern age of row cropping.
    I pray we will have lots of good juicy tomatoes because the financial expenditures, stress and aggregate labor have been considerable. 
    Additional costs include loss of friendship, two blisters, numerous spousal disagreements over procedures and the inevitable anxiety of whether or not the blasted tomato plants will get eaten by the local deer population.  I am not going to voice that last concern because I don’t want to get into the fence building business. 
    Thanks a lot guys.

    Alvin Richardson is a contributing writer, retired educator, and public speaker. Contact him at