3810 Whites Creek Pike, Nashville, TN 37207 (615) 876-1014

Archive date:  March 7, 2009

Back to Basics

It ultimately leads to soil preparation

A common theme nowadays is getting back to a more fundamental approach to life, getting green. Our lives have become intertwined with technology. I’m as guilty as anyone. I love my devices…I’m working at one now. But there comes a point where all the bells and whistles become a bit much. I don’t know if technology has made our lives better or just different.

That is where the outdoors comes into play. It is the love of all things outdoors that connects us with our past. Getting out in the woods, fishing in a pond, or digging in the dirt are all legacy activities. The passions of the connection with our love of hunting, fishing, cooking and gardening are all things that have been passed on to us by our friends and family; they have been doing so for many generations.

In my case, my grandmother was an early influence. Bessie Bates was a survivor of the great depression. As my Dad would say, “She could make a living on a flat rock.” To say she was resourceful is an understatement. She saved things that never seemed to be used. I remember her having a ball of string. This was no ordinary ball of string, not that it was particularly long or special; it was a collection. It was at least a dozen different kinds of string tied together over some period of time. I guess she used it occasionally, perhaps to put around a brown paper wrapped package, or to tie up gladiolus, but I only saw her save string to it.

We called my grandmother Nannie. She was very proficient with household chores. She could really cook. Nannie was famous for putting out a spread of food that largely came from her garden. Turnip Greens, cornbread, and chicken and dumplings come to mind. Whenever I think of her chicken and dumplings I am reminded that I misunderstood her as a child. I thought she said chicken and ducklings…she probably had her teeth out when I heard her first say it. She also had a chicken pen and a few ducks. I guess that is why I heard chicken and ducklings. I thought they went together.

The time of year never mattered. There were always lots of fresh canned foods in her root cellar basement. She had shelves of canned tomatoes, cabbage, beets, okra, green beans, turnips, cucumbers and peas. She would also have “Arsh” (Irish) potatoes in wooden bins on blocks up off of the ground. Nannie also dried large amounts of cayenne peppers that she hung in her kitchen joined together by thread. They really made a beautiful decoration and a great spice for chili. There was also her “Deep-freeze”. It always seemed to be full of strawberries, creamed corn, turnip greens, blackberries, carrots, and squash.

Nannie was never afraid of work, in fact she loved it. She wasn’t afraid to ask you to help either. My Dad would recount numerous times while working with Momma on a hot day, taking a break to rest from the heat, and her giving them something to work on while they rested.

Nannie knew that getting a good yield from her garden didn’t happen by accident. Every year we would spread cow manure over her entire garden. She might have used commercial fertilizer, but I never saw her. Back in the days when she started our business, way back in 1932, there were no commercial fertilizers. In fact, when she grew potted geraniums, they were fertilized by filling a barrel with manure and water. They would churn it to make brine and water the geraniums with this delightful solution. This is back when greenhouses were really green. Must have smelled wonderful!

Several years ago, I became frustrated with the lack of availability of soil products in the market place that met the standards of horticulture that I grew up with. I knew my grandmother was on the right track because I saw the results with my own eyes. As a kid, I began to understand just how important proper soil preparation is with regard to plant success.

Proper soil preparation begins with the best amendments. If you are only going to use one thing to improve your soil this is it: mushroom compost. Mushroom compost is an organic by-product of the mushroom growing industry. Mushroom compost is comprised of horse, cow and chicken manure (sorry duck manure not available) combined with straw and composted for 60 days. This compost mixture is placed into large bins where the mushroom spores are then broadcast for germination. Once the mushrooms have grown and been harvested, the compost is dumped, no longer usable for growing additional mushroom crops. The mushroom compost is then however, ready for use in any gardening application. Mushroom compost, being naturally high in mycorrihizae fungi; a very beneficial fungus that creates many thousands of microscopic root-like structures, greatly enhances any plant’s ability to uptake nutrients.

Mushroom compost is an important component to our own EarthMix® brand soil mixes, blended here at Bates Nursery & Garden Center. We developed EarthMix® out of the need for a “real” topsoil blend. I think Nannie would approve. Did you know that bagged products at the box stores and elsewhere labeled “Topsoil” actually have no topsoil at all in them?…none. EarthMix® brand Premium Topsoil Blend is exactly what is says. We use shredded river-bottom topsoil, mushroom compost, pine fines soil conditioner and coffee grounds to produce the finest outdoor growing medium available…anywhere. There are no chemical additives. Nothing but truly “live” soil that will produce results you can see. Soil-less mixes are great indoors, but for best results outdoors, EarthMix® has no equal. EarthMix® and mushroom compost are available in either bulk quantities, just bring your pickup or trailer and we’ll load you up, or by the bag. Either way, you can be confident to get the best results in your vegetable garden or landscape. It’s not too early to get started preparing your soil.
So all this talk of getting green is no new concept at Bates. I invite you to come in and let us help you make the most of your landscape garden. After all, we’ve been doing just that here in Nashville, now in our 77th year. We’ve been taking the guesswork out of your garden since 1932.

Best Regards,

David Bates

ing��nxHH�1!uge shipment of annuals, vegetables, tropicals and much more…remember our average last frost date is April 15. Check us out on Fox 17’s website for a cold weather story from earlier this week: Bates Nursery Freeze Preparation

Warmer weather is coming,

David Bates