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
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