LSS: Plant, nurture, support, thrive

Earlier this spring, I planted tomatoes. Let it be known that I have never had an ounce of luck with tomatoes. This year, I decided to give it one last effort. In doing so, I called The Tomato King, my father, and asked for advice.
He told me the oddest thing.
First, he said, “How tall’s your tomato plant?”
I told him the plant was about ten inches high.
He said, “How deep’s the pot?”
I told him it was four inches deep.
He then said, “OK, you need to dig a hole about a foot deep to plant those tomatoes.”
Ever holding up my end of our relationship, I said, “Daddy, the whole plant, roots and all, is only 14 inches. If I dig a hole that deep, that will only leave two inches of the plant sticking out of the ground.”
He said, “Exactly.”
“Are you sure, Dad?”
“I’m sure,” he said.
And so, I did.
I gave those tomatoes the opportunity for some really deep roots.
Four days later (and I recognize that this is not the general order of things), I was in Wild Birds Unlimited (to buy some meal worms for my 13-year-old to fry for my 9-year-old’s scout troop—but that’s a different column). Anyway, I saw a few bags of a locally produced compost called Pooyie. I decided to buy a bag.
I came home, opened the bag and poured it around the already planted plants—knowing that wasn’t how to do it, but feeling like it was better than doing nothing.
What happened next is, for our family, almost unbelievable. Granted, our tomato expectations weren’t high. But, all I can say is this, somewhere between planting them deep and nurturing them well, we’ve got more tomatoes on the vines than any of us ever expected. Even my ultra-green thumb neighbor has noticed all the tomatoes coming our way.
I was so amazed by how easily things grow in the compost that I called Ken and Phyllis Arceneaux in Rayne, owners Oak Heart Humic Compost, who made it.
“We make it with the Cajun holy trinity—onions, garlic and bell pepper,” Ken Arceneaux said.
They get remnants of mass produced Cajun trinity and add discarded cabbage, rice hulls, wood chips, cane and horse manure from Evangeline Downs, plus some soil to it to give it texture. Voila. They create some amazing compost—not to mention being ecologically brilliant.
Based on the results I’ve gotten, I wouldn’t be surprised if, as Ken said, “you put some Popsicle sticks in the compost and grow two by fours.”
I’ve added the necessary tomato supports, and for now, those plants are thriving and bearing lots of fruit.
As our tomatoes ripened this week, I got a message from a friend about a local organization called Family Promise, a non-profit whose mission is to mobilize the community to help homeless families achieve and maintain their independence. My friend sent me Family Promise’s summer wish list.
I spoke with their executive director to get more details and checked out their website. On their home page, was an image of a seedling, with the word, “Plant.” Then an image of a tiny tree and the word, “Nurture.” Then an image of a small tree, and the word, “Support.” Then an image of a big tree with happy people standing in its shade and the word, “Thrive.”
I thought of my tomatoes and that amazing Cajun compost. Then I took a closer list at Family Promise’s wish list for summer. They’re asking for simple things.
They need cleaning supplies, toilet paper, paper towels, hygiene products, G and PG movies and field trip sponsorships.
Sometimes it’s tricky finding the best way to help others. Here’s a simple and direct way that a little bit of effort can contribute to a community effort and help to nurture and support families going through a rough patch.
“We graduate 85 percent of our families. To graduate means to become self sufficient,” said Reneé Menard, executive director of Family Promise. “Donations help a lot because our budget is so small. Without the community’s support, this work isn’t possible.”
Menard said the community is welcomed to drop items off at 1604 W. University Drive.
Take this opportunity to be the compost, Cajun or otherwise, that other families need. Help an organization that needs and deserves a hand.

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