â€¦ grow tomatoes in their home garden, and lots of them. Men who know grow them, too. Because no other fruit, except maybe peaches, translates that high summertide light and syrup-like heat of starry, summer evenings into thrills of flavor like tomatoes do.
Weâ€™ve finally had our first garden-killing frosts. Only the carrots and onions stood their ground. In fact, in the chemistry that occurs between some edibles and fall weather, frosts snapped out the carrotsâ€™ sugars, rendering them tastier. My â€œheirloomâ€ varieties of tomato plants â€“ goners. The last of this yearâ€™s fruits, plucked while green to save them from destruction, sit on the kitchen counter, their strange colors deepening as they strive to fulfill the measure of their creation. By strange colors, I mean yellow-green fruits shot through with dark green stripes â€“ Green Zebras, those are called â€“ and the purplish-red fruits with purple-green shoulders â€“ Cherokee Purples. The yellow Striped Germans that I grow which mottle with red as they ripen â€“ theyâ€™re long gone, diced into fresh salsas and cooked down and frozen for winter storage along with the Brandywines, an Amish variety which just might produce the most wonderful tomatoes growing on the face of the earth. Brandywine tomatoes are my husbandâ€™s favorites. For that reason, and for all the good qualities they bring to the table, I grow more of those plants than any other.
Back in 1994, I planted my first heirloom tomatoes as a gardening adventure. I wasnâ€™t disappointed. Back then, these open pollinating plants could be found nowhere in the vast hybridlands of Utah nurseries. I had to grow mine from seeds. Growing tomato plants from seeds is easy; thereâ€™s nothing special about that. But the results I got from that first season? Wow. The dazzling, bio-diverse beauty of the fruits converted me instantly from standard hybrid fare as well as did their heirloom flavors, each distinct from the other, yet still deeply tomato-y. For me, the tomato-spectrum had blown wide open.
About six years ago, I set out some germinating heirloom tomato seedlings on the porch to bask in the spring warmth. Most of the seedlings had unfolded their seed leaves â€“ those blade-like embryonic leaves that emerge first from the ground, push off the seed cap, and begin photosynthesizing for the seed. As I doted on my green babies, movement caught my eye. Focusing on one of the flats, I saw something that in all my years of growing tomato plants Iâ€™d never seen before: a seedling flapping its seed leaves up and down fast enough that my human eye easily registered the movement.
Before you think Iâ€™d been hitting the trail mix too hard, Iâ€™ve got witnesses. I called my family: â€œYou guys have got to come see this!â€ My husband, son, and daughter all joined me on the porch.
Yes, they could see it: flap, flap, flap, both leaves pumping up and down in synchrony. Kids and husband watched, as mesmerized as I was. No, there wasnâ€™t any wind. Furthermore, all the other seedlings stood quiescent in their growth. As we speculated upon what in the world the seedling was trying to accomplish, we saw that its empty seed hull still attached to one seed leaf, pinching it tightly. Was that waif of a plant, just a thin stalk with two freshly unfolded cotyledons, trying to shake off the offending seed cap? Sure looked like it.
This experience changed how my family thinks about plants. Furthermore, the wonder and joy it brought to us serves as antidote for bad dreams and other kinds of nightmares. One evening, my daughter, then only five years old, walked in on me while I was feeding my clown phobia by watching Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Before I could switch away, she witnessed a ghastly scene that later that night made it impossible for her to go to sleep or even to close her eyes. As she lay by my side, tossing and whimpering, and me feeling guilty and wondering what I could do to lift the discomfort Iâ€™d brought upon her, inspiration stuck. â€œRemember that dancing tomato plant we had last year?â€ I asked. Instantly, the despair lifted and her voice brightened. â€œYeah, that was so cool!â€ she said, and our talk about the tomato plant who danced drove away the evil clowns (“In space, no one can eat ice cream”). To this day, when bad dreams threaten or disappointment lurks, we speak of the tomato plant who danced, and the atmosphere clears like magic.
Women who know know they donâ€™t know much, not compared to what remains to be known, not compared to what God pours forth upon his creation, a cascading glory of striving spirit and unfolding, rising nature. Not compared to the flames of wonder that flicker just outside of our normal range of attention, testifying of more that is and of more to come. A quarter-turn to the right, and you see it â€“ a manifestation of life you might otherwise have missed, such as a bird looking at you with curiosity and interest, a flash of comprehension in your disabled sonâ€™s or daughterâ€™s eyes. All the glints of intelligence with which God endows this earth. All the meaning to life, ripe and ready for harvest.
â€œThou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water: thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it. Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: thou makest it soft with showers, thou blessest the springing thereof. Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness. They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness: and the little hills rejoice on every side. The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.â€
Yes â€“ the corn sings and tomato plant dances. Even if it is just because its shoe is too tight.
I love heirloom (open pollinated) tomatoes. The hybrid tomatoes that the corporate chain grocery store sells just don’t have much flavor.
Having heirloom seeds (of various garden plants) in storage may make sense, too, if they keep for multiple years.
Having a majority of a given crop across the country being hybrid creates a risk of catastrophe if a blight attacked a certain hybrid. There is something to be said for bio-diversity.
Also, with heirloom (open pollinated) varieties you don’t have to buy seeds from the seed manufacturer every year. Something that can be a big benefit in places like Africa where political forces can keep outside suppliers from delivering the annual seed.
Tomatoes good. Frosts bad. Apples after the frost good.
“Weâ€™ve finally had our first garden-killing frosts.”
We had a cold snap, too: the high was only 86 today. It is hard not to hate.
Women who know that they are the most notorious plant killers in the world also know this: that Home Depot gives a one year money back guarantee if you buy a plant from them that dies within one year. Of course you probably need the receipt!
Patricia, our tomatoes were producing splendidly for most of the summer. Planted in May and fine up through August. But then as we got into September, our tomatoes started splitting.
Any idea what’s going on here?
Here in Snail Hollow, our tomato vines frosted more than a month ago — even under plastic in the greenhouse. One of the disadvantages of living in a high mountain valley (elevation 6200′).
We harvested about fifteen gallons of baseball-hard green tomatoes. Some of them are just starting to turn silver-pink.
BTW, I think most of the quality difference in table tomatoes results from differences in cultural practices. If you grew your plants like commercial production, I suspect they would probably taste about the same. I see no reason to believe that select hybrid plants sing or dance any different than randomly pollinated varieties.
The emerging dance of cotyledon leaves is generally too slow to track. How magical to get to watch an instance where the movement was so dramatic! Usually it is easier to observe through time-lapse photography — lots of these on YouTube. Look for “seedling time lapse”. This kind of evidence confirms the idea that the life of plants holds some secret components we seldom observe, because our speed is set to such a dramatically different level, and it is impossible for us to synchronize.
Our cold snap came about two weeks ago.
Actually, I am a pretty crappy gardener. There is no way we could feed our family for any substantial period of time with the fruits of my labour. Which is why I am still not suite sure why I plan on building a greenhouse. :)
Maybe I am hoping the longer growing season will help. I have convinced myself, however, to grow only flowering plants from now on (tomatoes, cukes, peppers, etc). There’s just so much more benefit to plants that produce all season long.
Just a few definitions for the city-dwellers. I didn’t know these things until well into my adult years.
An “heirloom” or “open-pollinated” variety of plant means that the seeds it produces will create another generation of identical plant.
A “hybrid” variety generally (though not always) has one of the following characteristics:
1) it’s sterile, with no seeds, or sterile seeds, or:
2) the seeds it produces do not create plants identical to the one that the seeds came from. Strange but true.
Therefore, if you save the seeds from heirloom plants, you have something to plant the next year. However, with most hybrid varieties, you must buy new seeds from the seed-producer every year.
Therefore, it is to the economic advantage of the seed producer to create hybrid varieties that are sterile and not “open pollinated.”
Some man-created hybrids, whether through natural hybridization (cross-pollinating the old-fashioned way) or through gene manipulation, do in fact create open-pollinated or “fertile” plants. However, the contracts that farmers must sign when they buy such seeds prevent them from legally using his crop’s created seed for the next year. (I believe this is justified under patent and/or licensing law, or just plain contact law, as in “hey, we won’t sell you this stuff unless you agree to “X”.) Under such a contract, if the farmer takes his crop’s created seed and plants it next year, he would be “seed stealing” and farmers who do so are subject to lawsuits for breach of contract, and perhaps license or patent infringement.
Heirloom seeds are somewhat of a cause cÃ©lÃ¨bre among small-farm and community-farm advocates.
Jim Cobabe: How does your premise about commercially produced tomatoes tasting the same as home grown except for certain cultural practices explain the fact that there are also differences of taste between my home grown tomatoes. Brandywines are, as Patricia testifies, supreior tasting to just about any tomatoe ever grown, and they have some tough competition. I grow some hybrid tomatoes as well as some “heirlooms,” and the heirlooms have more variety in flavor than do the hybrids and, so, I assume, more chance of being liked better by one of those eating them at my house. Of course a hybrid picked from the vine when it is fully ripe tastes better than one shipped to me and ripened in storage (just as sthe tomatoes I’m ripening on the counter right now won’t taste as good as their older brothers and sisters did).
Yup… what I know is that Sister Beck has coined a new term that’s going to stick around giving us chuckles for years to come!
What I know is that I am currently salivating at the thought of home-grown tomatoes. None in sight here.
My wife and I have started container gardening with a hanging tomato grower shown here:
We had a lot of good tomatoes this season, but next season, I’m going to be planting in the ground. This season, it was all we could do to keep our container plants pest- and disease- free, so I’m dreading the amount of maintenance the ground-grown plants are going to require.
The tomatoes will be growing along trellises of Muscadine grapes I will be planting in the spring. Men who know, grow muscadines.
re: coined phrases. Is “tender mercies” still making the rounds? What’s the shelf-life (or half-life) of a phrase coined at GC?
#1 & #8: Thanks for filling in gaps for folks, Bookslinger. I’m not saving seeds yet (except for my Anasazi beans–increased my seed stock from 12 to 150+ this year), mostly still experimenting with heirloom varieties to decide which ones I want to make the effort with. The Brandywines are a sure thing. Last spring, after I already planted my seedlings, I ran across a strain of Brandies sold through the Seed Savers Exchange http://www.seedsavers.org . I’m thinking I’m going to plant these next year, and if I like the strain — find it works well in my garden, like the look of the plant, taste of fruit, etc., I think I’ll save seeds from those. Then I’ll look for another strain I like.
# 12: re: “tender mercies.” Not coined — borrowed, because it’s such a lovely, irresistable phrase. From various Psalms, incl. 119:17, 156; I Ne. 8:8, 37; Luke 1:78, among others. This one’s been around for a long time, gaining celebrity status with the making of pretty interesting movie with this phrase as the title (starred Robert Duvall). Be interesting to know what the original phrase was that was translated “tender mercies.”
#2 Adam: What’s with the grunting? Or are we witnessing the birth of a haiku?
# 3, Julie: “We had a cold snap, too: the high was only 86 today. It is hard not to hate.”
Yikes! Never imagined a cold snap that required the application of sunscreen.
I’m a sun person, but I know from living in Tucson a while that my body expects and needs fall and winter in order to feel at ease. That is, it needs a fall and winter with lots of light. The Utah Valley winters had begun to bring me down and make me feel old. The San Juan winters, with light intense enough it still bleaches out my hair, are just what the eternal youth doc ordered.
# 5, Seth R. “Any idea whatâ€™s going on here?”
Yeah, I do have an idea what’s going on. I’ve thought about that problem for a long time and am still experimenting.
In September, the difference between daytime and nighttime temps begins to widen. I think the expansion and contraction of tomato juices combine with ambient air temps to stress the tomatoes, causing them to crack the way a lot of things crack or stress with warm-to-cold-to-warm-again cycles. If I remember, when I lived in Payson UT and could cover the tomatoes at night with my little mini-green house (made with a sheet of transparent plastic and clothespinned to the tomato cages), I experienced less cracking because the “greenhouse” kept in the warmer ground temps and reduced the temperature range. Also, during the summer, I water my tomatoes at night to conserve water, but when the temperature spread starts to increase, I water during the a.m. hours. Watering at night loads the tomatoes with yet more fluid to expand and contract. Watering in the a.m. avoids allows for a little warming and evaporation before the temps plunge in the evening.
Here in San Juan County, the wind lives a really full life. I love that, but clothespinning plastic to tomato cages to make a shelter whose ends I can roll up during the day and drop and anchor during the night just isn’t going to work. I have to come up with a more secure (but cheap) system. If anybody has any ideas, I’d love to hear them.
Oh, cracking can occur also if you water really unevenly during the summer.
Tomatoes are awesome. If I could marry them, I would. (But I would still eat them.)
# 6, Jim Cobabe: If you grew your plants like commercial production, I suspect they would probably taste about the same.
Sorry, Jim C., but I’m with Jim F., # 9, on this. I grew all hybrids for some years before I made the leap into heirlooms. Like Jim F. says, hybrids grown in the garden and picked ripe off the vine taste better than grocery store cardboard cut-outs, but I can’t see heirlooms being commercially grown in the first place, because they lack the staying power of those commercial clones and don’t transport well when ripe. And my experience has been that when picked green and ripened inside, heirlooms still produce a higher flavor than hybrids and other commercials, though the sweet lights of summer having faded, that time of peak conversion sunlight-to-plant has passed.
I see no reason to believe that select hybrid plants sing or dance any different than randomly pollinated varieties.
I see no real reason to believe differently either, though I never saw my hybrids dance. Might just be a matter of never looking at the right moment, though. Or maybe they were like that frog in the old cartoon that only sang and danced when nobody was looking.
The emerging dance of cotyledon leaves is generally too slow to track. How magical to get to watch an instance where the movement was so dramatic!
Yes, and amazing how that magic stays with us. Sometimes we witness things happen among other forms of life (or even within our own) that turns our heads, elevates our consciousness, makes us reconsider our own position. That’s what seeing this dance did for my family. My daughter especially esteems plants now and is a good garden helper. She probably would have anyway, but seeing that green dance helped her make important connections.
I know you have some tree mojo. You can say a lot to people about trees. I’m just learning on that front. Put in my first trees — two Elberta peach trees — last spring. Probably they’ll never amount to much more than beautiful, crescent-leaved shade trees because while our winter here is long [ed. note: this should read “short,” not “long”] and the light great, the frosts are sporadic. We had a beautiful crop of blossoms and covered the tree repeatedly, but our winds stripped away our covers and we lost all the blossoms. But I love the peach trees anyway. Where I am, shade is a valuable tree product in itself.
Patricia, I’ll ever be a skeptic about such subjective matters.
Proponents of “hybrid conspiracy” theories are talking way over my head. I learned everything I know about such things at the university, in genetics and plant breeding courses. Very little practical experience — what comes of leading such a sheltered life, I guess. ;->
And of course my own tomatoes always taste better to me — though others cannot taste the difference. :-)
“Tender mercies” is from 1 Nephi 1:20.
I’m no hybrid conspiracy proponent. I think there are very good reasons for hybrids. Besides heirloom tomatoes, I grow Early Girls every year precisely because they’ve been hybridized to fruit early, and I like to get fresh tomatoes as soon as I can. And I grow Romas because, with much less seed and thicker walls, there’s less juice to get rid of when making tomato sauce. However, a more important reason for wanting hybrids is that not everyone has the luxury of growing tomatoes in the back yard, and as Patricia says the heirloom varieties don’t transport well. Neither do they peel well, but I and many others need our store bought, canned tomatoes. (A world of nothing but locally-grown produce would be a world in which those of us who live in Utah would have much blander diets and more in the world would suffer starvation or malnutrition.)
However, though I doubt that any of us is likely to take up the project, surely the question isn’t merely subjective. Couldn’t we do a double-blind, blind-folded (would that make it triple-blind?) taste test of various tomatoes and discover, objectively, whether there are preferences for various types of tomatoes grown in various conditions? Taste is incredibly complicated, tying together history, culture, personal and family experience, as well as physiology, but the subjective element appears to be, in most cases, relatively small.
My wife dearly loves the end of tomato frosts because she knows that they mean a long streak of fried green tomatoes at breakfast. (Not that she doesn’t enjoy the garden fresh tomatoes when fully ripe as well …)
Post-harvest fruit physiology…
Most tomatoes sold in retail stores have been harvested before prime, held in controlled atmosphere and subjected to ethylene gas treatment when the store is ready for them to be “ripe”.
Lacking the vine-ripened levels of acid and soluble sugars, the artificially manipulated fruits tend to taste rather bland by comparison. But they look just beautiful, so people keep buying them anyway.
If you’re willing to gamble on (yet) another peach, Instead of Elberts, try Reliance. They do remarkably well here in Denver. I got a half-bushel crop off a three year old tree this summer, following a winter that ran to -20, together with a hard frost as late as mid-April.
Tomatoes? Brandywines taste the best, but around here, even with home-grown seedlings, it’s nearly impossible to get a ripe tomato off a vine before September. That’s about six weeks’ less bearing time than other varieties.
Knowing? I’m not wildly impressed with the state of knowledge I have. I am, however, quite happy looking.
# 12, Dan E. — Cool planters! I’d never seen those before, but I can see they have a lot to recommend themselves. If I need more info, can I come to you?
#18, J.D. Payne: Tomatoes are awesome. If I could marry them, I would. (But I would still eat them.)
#20, Jim C.: Patricia, Iâ€™ll ever be a skeptic about such subjective matters.
How very subjective of you!
Actually, your skepticism is welcome here, if you’re willing to let me believe everything.
Proponents of â€œhybrid conspiracyâ€ theories are talking way over my head. I learned everything I know about such things at the university, in genetics and plant breeding courses. Very little practical experience â€” what comes of leading such a sheltered life, I guess. ;->
I’ve picked up on your university training from your writing at Snail Hollow. “Sheltered life” — haha! I guess people who live in fortresses can claim that they live sheltered lives! ;>)
What tomatoes did you attempt to grow in your elevated greenhouse? There are fast-setting, short season heirloom and hybrid varieties you might try, if you’re willing to experiment and grow from seeds.
# 24: But they look just beautiful, so people keep buying them anyway.
Now you really are waxing subjective. IMO grocery store tomatoes look anaemic. I don’t buy them unless my craving for salsa during winter months drives me to it.
Check out these photos:
The second photo looks a lot like what I get from my garden.
# 22, Jim F: I think there are very good reasons for hybrids. Besides heirloom tomatoes, I grow Early Girls every year precisely because theyâ€™ve been hybridized to fruit early, and I like to get fresh tomatoes as soon as I can. And I grow Romas because, with much less seed and thicker walls, thereâ€™s less juice to get rid of when making tomato sauce.
As an experiment, I grew a paste/Roma heirloom called Italian Sausage this summer. The things are meaty, practically seed- and juiceless, and Mark, who knows what he likes, enjoyed them a lot. I thought that they turned out well enough I’ll put more attention into them next year and see if I can coax them to be more productive.
Right now, all my heirlooms are long season varieties. But I know there are short-season early fruiting kinds out there — ah, so many tomatoes, so little time! I wish I’d known what a gardener you were when I lived in Utah Valley. I’d have happily adopted out some of my plants to you and swapped garden lore.
Couldnâ€™t we do a double-blind, blind-folded (would that make it triple-blind?) taste test of various tomatoes and discover, objectively, whether there are preferences for various types of tomatoes grown in various conditions? Taste is incredibly complicated, tying together history, culture, personal and family experience, as well as physiology, but the subjective element appears to be, in most cases, relatively small.
But don’t you think every gardener’s palette is established upon a certain je ne sais quois?
# 25, greenfrog. Thanks for the advice on Reliance peaches! I’ll do that.
Knowing? Iâ€™m not wildly impressed with the state of knowledge I have. I am, however, quite happy looking.
… â€œWhat is your desire?â€ he asks.
Itâ€™s a simple question, but
She doesnâ€™t answer.
Why must a body know
When knowing ends it
And she never wants it to end …
I envy your long, warm growing season in Southern Utah. I have exactly 12 square feet of grow boxes in my back yard that are normally sunny enough with all the cedar and fir trees to grow tomatoes. Grocery store commercial tomatoes are tasteless, and have the texture of apples. When we lived in Utah, we loved growing tomatoes. We’re lucky enough here to get a long enough growing season and sunlight to plant three or four plants, and get a few dozen tomatoes. I’d have to start seed tomatoes indoors in February to get them far enough along to transplant in May, and harvest in September. Usually here in Western Washington, we have a nice, warm October to finish off the season, but not this year. Mostly gray and cool, and more rain than usual. October is normally pretty dry here, but average daytime temperatures in the 60’s. Not ideal tomato weather. Fun post.
thanks for the link. good metaphors.
In L.A., I always plant on Easter day, to give my tomatoes that extra edge. My first official pick is the 4th of July.
Seth, dig a 4 inch by 4 inch by 4 feet deep hole, 4 feet from your tomatoes, drop in 4 pennies, and wait 4 months, and the splits will be gone.
You guys over think this: I buy a bag of manure, put in four slits, stick in the tomato plants, cut a small hole for my hose, fill the bag with water once a week, and share the harvest with my neighbors!
# 32 & 33: There you go, Seth. My method requires more thought; Bob’s is gonna run ya some dough. ;-)
The nice thing about that tomato planter (comment #12) is, I can also grow hanging pepper plants out of the holes underneath, and on top, we have these crazy basil plants to help with the tomato sauces we make. There are all kinds of different brands of hanging tomato growers; just google “hanging tomato grower.” It’s a fun way to do it, especially if space is limited. I bought the planter in DC, where we had no space, but when we moved to Charlottesville, all of a sudden we had acreage to plant on, so I’m trying to learn as much of this stuff as possible. Thank heavens for posts like these…
I am still not certain I understand the concerns about hybrid tomatoes. Where would ketchup manufacturers be without them?
Of course, the lastest project of commerical growers hopes to produce hybrid tomatoes with a natural bar-code.
No real concerns, J.C. I enjoyed hybrids for years before I discovered heirlooms. I might grow a few hybrids along with heirlooms again.
Commercial hybrids with natural bar-codes, hm? Maybe that will add some flavor to the pitiful things.
Jim Cobabe: I can’t speak for others, but for me the concerns about hybrids number only two: (1) I think that generally the “heirloom” tomatoes taste better (with more variety, both in flavor and color, which is fun) and (2) one can’t save seed from the hybrids. Of course the second one is, for me, a concern only in principle since I don’t save the seeds. I always plan to. Then I don’t.
A little musing on terminal hybrids: “Will a Jew Plow with a Mule.” The tomato issue escaped my notice at the time.
Above: Clearly, you people don’t understand. It is the Tomato that is in charge! You are doing the Tomato’s bidding The Tomato is using man to progress to a higher order. Much like the apple used man (because it has no legs), to move across America, or the flower uses the Bee.
See: The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan…..for needed enlightenment.
Actually, Bob, I do understand, even without reading The Botany of Desire.
The tomato and I are progressing together. It’s a good fit.
Now that certain tomato varieties have wooed and won me, it’s on to saving their seeds and bio-intimations of immortal diversity.
BTW, the Anasazi bean and I are now sizing each other up. Gorgeous, black and purple or pink seeds, and the hummingbirds love the scarlet blossoms — very important to me, because hummingbirds and I are also engaged in some kind of mutually beneficial behavior.
#41: I like Michael Pollan as a Nature writer, but he can get the mind spinning. To him, Man is not the Master, just another of Nature’s tools for getting it’s things done, like wind and water and fire
You will have to write on the Anasazi beans. I know nothing about them. Did they grow them on corn stalks like in Mexico?
Further research reveals that the beans I’m growing are actually scarlet runners, originally from South America. My neighbor gave me my seed stock. Not sure where she got them, but she identified them as Anasazi beans.
Picture of scarlet runner seeds:
I lag behind the curve on growing corn. Clayey soil, haven’t been able to improve it yet to the corn’s satisfaction. Any inexpensive suggestions?
I love eating corn though I’m somewhat allergic to it, which makes the relationship seem somewhat pathetic, especially given corn’s complete dependence upon people.
Since we lack corn of any stature, my daughter lashed together a six-foot-tall pyramid out of dead Navajo Willow branches. She taste-tests many garden goodies at almost every stage and reported that the pods are sweet when they’re green (she eats the whole thing). Indeed, as I look through scarlet runner info on the web, I find they’re best eaten when pods are young, before the lumps of the seeds begin to form, something along the lines of Fava beans. Apparently the dried bean is passably edible, but the pod is the thing.
Oh, and the hummingbird-flower visual and psychological effect? Excellent.
#23: “Any inexpensive suggestions?” I know a way you can get prefect corn for 4 pennies! Otherwise…buy it. I use Gypsum for my clay soil.
Sorry, forgot about your thoughts’ worth of pennies. Won’t do that again!