Jonathon Wallace of Hartselle stands next to eight-foot tomato plants in his backyard organic garden on Nelson Street. He built the 12-foot frame for their support but expects them to climb even higher before the end of the growing season. | Clif Knight
Jonathon Wallace of Hartselle stands next to eight-foot tomato plants in his backyard organic garden on Nelson Street. He built the 12-foot frame for their support but expects them to climb even higher before the end of the growing season. | Clif Knight

Archived Story

Organic garden grows tomatoes 8 feet tall

Published 12:04pm Monday, July 1, 2013

The eight-foot tall tomatoes in Jonathan Wallace’s backyard garden stand as proof commercial fertilizer or insecticides aren’t needed to grow a productive garden.

The second-year organic gardener replenishes the soil in his 16-foot by 60-foot garden pot with homegrown compost and fortifies it with other natural nutrients and trace minerals.

Wallace’s Better Boy and Park’s Whopper tomato plants took off like rockets when he transplanted them May 12, and they show no signs of letting up. He quickly constructed a 12-foot scaffold from which he suspended cords to the ground to give them support.

“They’re on track to grow higher,” he said. “I’ll be picking tomatoes from a ladder before the end of summer.”

Wallace also grows corn, squash, cucumbers, potatoes, field peas and beans.

“This has been a good year for gardens – plenty of sunshine with just enough rain,” Wallace pointed out. “What little watering I’ve done has been from the rain barrels at the back of my house.”

Wallace said he got his passion for gardening from his grandfather, Horace Wallace, when he was a kid.

“He’d let me follow behind him when he was working in his garden,” Wallace said, “and I got hooked the first time I felt the soft dirt under my bare feet.

“My first garden three years ago was a failure,” he pointed out. “Nothing would grow and eventually everything died even though I used a generous amount of 13-13-13 fertilizer.

“I knew there had to be a better way. That’s when I began doing some serious research into organic gardening,” he said. “I found that composting yard and food waste and using it to build up the soil was essential.

“I added 10 wheelbarrow loads of compost to the garden two years ago and the tomatoes grew so big they crushed the cages. I picked 300 to 500 pounds of ripe Better Boy tomatoes. We ate some, canned some and gave the others to family and friends.”

This spring Wallace tilled in 37 wheelbarrow loads of compost.

“I like organically-grown vegetables because they have a better taste and are more nutritious than those found in most farmer’s markets and grocery stores,” Wallace stated.

Wallace also discovered gardening is a good way to help him stay physically fit.

“I usually gain 10 to 15 pounds of weight over the winter,” Wallace said. “Last winter, I decided to grow a winter garden and spent more time outside.

“It helped me keep my weight at the same level it was last fall.”

Wallace mulches his garden plants with a four-inch cover of wheat straw to help keep down weeds and conserve moisture.”

Wallace uses three natural products to facilitate the growth and productivity of garden plants. Mykos is a root enhancer, Hzomite is a trace mineral and Azos is a nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

To control insects and diseases Wallace uses a self-made compost tea. It consists of rainwater and compost, gently mixed by a fish tank pump for 24 to 48 hours. The mixture is sprayed on the plants, giving the stems and leaves a wax-like protective coating.

Wallace credits his success to research on YouTube, soil control and experimentation.

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