Planting Hole Recipe

MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZSeptember 8, 2012

On another forum someone posted the following:

This is my second time planting using the instructions from some fellow in Scottsdale, where you dig a deep hole and add a fish head, an eggshell, a couple of aspirin and a handful of bonemeal. My plants were going great guns last year using this method until the frost nipped the tips off, so I have high hopes again for this year.

I've also used low sodium water-packed canned sardines as a cheap substitute with good results. The fish provides nutrients as it breaks down, the egg shells provide calcium to help with blossom end rot, and the bone meal of course is also for added nutrients. As for the aspirin, plants produce salycilic acid as a defense against disease, so I'm guessing it's intended to help keep the plants healthy.

She posted this article about salycilic acid but my eyes glaze over after just a paragraph or two.

Anyone have comments about what we are calling the Fish Head Tomato Planting Technique (FHTPT)?

hmmmm, no URL box in to post the link - copy and paste to your browser box I guess...

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

The box for posting the link is on the preview page. Comes up when you preview your post before submitting.

Interesting article but the Fish Head Tomato Planting Technique (FHTPT) is a crock that reflects a lack of knowledge about how all those additives work, and don't work.


Here is a link that might be useful: Your link

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 9:45AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'd love to know why it is a "crock." And lack of knowledge is why people post questions on her. I had an old high school coach that grew the most astounding tomato plants I have ever seen. He also loved to fish and gutted his fish in his garden. He planted fish with every plant. It seems like there would be something useful in a fish head or entrails that would benefit a plant. Doesn't it amount to another form of soil amendment? Just like we are told to save kitchen scraps and other things to add to the compost pile.

Please educate us. I don't want to bury a fish in my garden if it is harmful in some way or otherwise a waste of time. Otherwise I'm going fishing next Spring and trying Coach's method.


    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 12:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I'd love to know why it is a "crock."

For starters, there are many detailed discussions here (and on the web) about the fact that a) egg shells, TUMS, milk, ASA, and the many other concoctions folks have come up with have no benefits in cases of BER because they take months to decompose, don't provide a usable form of calcium anyway and lack of soil calcium isn't the cause of BER to begin with.

About how b) how raw fish only attracts varmints (and soil parasites) who dig up the plants and how the nitrogen available in the fish can only be converted to plant use by a well established and active soil bacterial web.

And c) how bone meal not only takes well over a year to break down in the soil but also requires an active soil food web to be of benefits to plants.

Soil amendment using compost - well-decomposed organic matter that is actively populated with beneficial bacteria is one thing and quite benficial. Dumping non-decomposed materials in a hole in the garden and expecting immediate benefits from them and no side-effects is something else entirely.

But if it makes the gardener feel better to dump all sorts of random items into a planting hole - where the roots don't remain anyway - rather than focusing on proven methods of high quality soil improvement, go for it.


    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 1:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

Bret, thanks for your note, I had the same reaction when I read Dave's comment - a little more substance please.

And Dave, I appreciate your comments but find the acerbic tone distracting. You've made some good points but, similar to when someone is yelling at me, I find it hard to focus on what you are saying because of your tone.

All that said, I just returned home from a "Soil Building" class put on by a local nursery. The speaker is an organic farmer and market grower of primarily tomatoes and herbs.

Someone else asked about fish guts and Gregory's response was much like what Dave is saying: build the general health of your soil and you don't need to amend the individual planting hole. Although Gregory did differ with Dave and says it *does* work, but why not use a fertilizer that has fish product already in it, in dry form? That makes sense. With the class fee we received garden sulphur and fertilizer (with fish parts) enough for 100 sq ft.

He also talked about egg shells, BER and calcuim. He put the situation into more understandable terms for me: the sulphur does not add calcium but when the sulphur breaks down it creates itself into a form that is able to COMBINE WITH [something else .... I couldn't write fast enough] and be absorbed as calcuium. At least I think that's it. If not, maybe Dave or someone can fix what I got mixed up.

Ditto the egg shells, they take too long to really be of much immediate benefit, and our soil here in the southwestern desert is too alkaline already and adding egg shells will only exacerbate the issue.

Finally, for some reason the link boxes did not appear in my first post so thanks Dave for adding the link for me. I post in GW alot so am used to seeing them. Some cyber glitch this morning I guess.

Peace and happy gardening to all!

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 3:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

No acerbic tone intended Mary. It is just that this, adding all sorts of things to the planting holes and the attached claims that they "cure" or "prevent" BER and all sorts of other things, is a very common discussion here. It comes up several times each season and in truth, a fish head, an eggshell, a couple of aspirin and a handful of bonemeal are some of the lesser unusual things some claim as hole-additive cures.

So with just a bit of a search and a skimmed reading of the forum discussions one would find all sorts of answers to why such additives are considered a crock and how they reflect a basic lack of understanding about how the tomato plant grows, what its nutrient needs are and are not, and the true causes of the problems all these cures are directed towards.

Think of it from the commercial growers point of view. Would they add all these items to each planting hole? Of course not. Yet they are eminently successful at growing tomatoes as their whole lively hood depends on being successful.

Can a fish head or even a whole fish add nitrogen to the soil? As it decomposes, yes, but how long does it take for it to decompose? Does it stink while doing so? Most definitely. Can the tomato plant take up that nitrogen in its raw form? No. But if the soil has a very well developed and active soil food web then that nitrogen is converted to a form usable by the plant. For young seedlings it can even burn the roots it is so nitrogen rich. Is that desirable? Of course not. And if you put enough fish in the hole you can eventually end up with a giant green leafy plant with no tomatoes on it because of excess nitrogen. Does a tomato plant know what to do with an aspirin? Can its roots absorb acetylsalicylic acid from a dissolved aspirin if it even wanted to?

Bottom line - nature works and it can benefit from natural supplements provided by the gardener and from good soil care. Throw all those things into the compost pile instead (except the ASA) and in 90-120 days you have a good soil amendment that your plants will love without all the unwanted side-effects.


    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 3:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

My apologies to the group. You are right Dave, I should have searched first. I think maybe I was being lazy and/or just looking for conversation.

I can see now that I actually perpetrated something that annoys me too....a newbie asking the same question the group has gone over and over and over. In my most frequent forum it's: "What shade tree can I plant in my yard that will grow [almost overnight], not drop leaves and not need much water."

Sorry group. I'll do a bit more searching in future. And Dave, in case my point got lost in all this, I agree that feeding the soil and building a good soil base is best practice.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 6:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
birdgardner(NJ/ 6b)

If your soil already has a good population of composting bacteria, they will speed up the breakdown of what you put in a planting hole. My great-uncle had a wonderful vegetable garden and he always buried kitchen scraps - minus meat - directly in the garden.

My tomatoes have done well with crushed eggshell, chopped banana peels and shrimp shells in the planting hole - stirred up and about six inches down from the roots. Not a controlled experiment of course. Also I've had good luck with fish emulsion.

Never had critters dig up my plants though they sure went after the compost pile when I put food scraps in it.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 9:25AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I do know this much in having worm bins and collecting the castings as a supplement for my plants. By chopping up banana peels and fruit leaving very fine or running them thru a food processor the worms will eat the bacteria which forms and breaks this down. The worms in turn leave the castings which will be a humus mixed in the soil and over time will make the soil better.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2014 at 4:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I don't know anything about "fish head" or fish filet for that matter. BUT I know one thing for sure about EGG SHELL. It takes months if not years before it decomposes into a form (Ca++) to be available to plants. Not all calcium in different compositions is digestible by plants. It has to be in an IONIC form (like in CaCO3 = Ca++ ...). same goes with N,P,K, Mg, Fe, etc.

Then adding to "HOLE" is another subject. It assumes that tomato will grow roots just in downward direction; which is not true. Just scratch the soil around the stem of any tomato plant. You will encounter roots.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 10:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

As for some references if one looking to learn about soil and how stuff works, Dr Elaine Ingham Soil is good reference.
Also am reading book by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis " Teaming with microbes", highly recommend.
Some nice reading here as well

Here is a link that might be useful: soil food web

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 9:44PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Fourth of July ....
Fourth of July is my favorite day. How about a tomato...
Seysonn_ 7b-WA/HZ1
Love San Marzano Redorta
There have been a lot of questions about what is the...
What is wrong with this leaf?
This Pink Brandywine has one bottom leaf that is dry...
Sweet 100 Cherry Tomato
Yeah - we have blossoms on our cherry tomatoes in Zone...
Plant Out Plans For--2015 Season
Who is getting ready for the big event : i.e, PLANT...
Seysonn_ 7b-WA/HZ1
Sponsored Products
Artificial Bonsai Tree (16 in.)
White Antiqued Flower Fiber-Optic Solar Stake
$19.99 | zulily
Exaco Modena Urn - FM-0071-324 MODENA URN RUST
$32.99 | Hayneedle
Flower Sophie Rug
$29.99 | zulily
Safavieh Indoor/Outdoor Area Rug: Safavieh Rugs Bohemian Beige/Multi 9 ft. x 12
Home Depot
Jaipur Maroc Rafi Flat Weave Geometric Pattern Wool Handmade Rug - RRC001010-016
$58.00 | Hayneedle
Gold Medal Hanging Planter
$129.99 | Dot & Bo
Safavieh Paradise Oval Light Blue Ceramic Garden Stool
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™