It’s about this time each year that I wonder why I ever plant a garden.
I love the outdoors, and I like gardening, but I don’t have a green thumb. In fact, I kill just about every plant and flower I plant (I’m also a notorious killer of aquarium fish, but I’ll save that for another column).
My biggest struggle over the last two years has been with something called tomato blight. They look terrible, splitting and rotting on the vine.
Around this time last summer, I turned to my friends and gardening experts on social media to ask why this was happening to my tomatoes. I posted pictures of the rotten fruit (yes, tomatoes are a fruit), the vines, the leaves and the entire garden.
The first response to my “Why is this happening ...” post was obvious:
“Because you didn’t buy them at Walmart.”
OK. Very funny, I know. I should have expected that kind of response from some of my so-called Facebook friends. I usually get some kind of cheeky response from old college friends and fraternity brothers when I post serious questions.
But what followed was actually quite useful.
Responses included support from people suffering the same garden conundrum. Suggestions ranged from performing tests for acidity levels to monitoring the dampness of the soil. Interesting posts included old-time remedies such as planting a copper penny in the soil near the base of the plant.
Some suggested new ways to grow tomato plants, including a garbage-can method complete with pictures, videos and instructions. Do a Google search for “garbage can tomatoes” to see what I mean.
One friend led me to useful Facebook groups and pages such as Backyard Gardener.
Others posted their favorite mobile apps for gardening. I still have some of these apps on my phone today, and I use them when I see something new or weird happening with my crop.
Good gardening mobile apps include:
Garden Manager. This app is like a diary for your garden. You can set alarms to remind you to water and care for certain plants, and do a quick search for local garden centers.
DIY Gardening Tips. It does just what the name suggests, offering numerous tips, such as uses for coffee grounds, eggshells and banana peels. When you find a cool tip, you can share it on social media.
This year, I tried some of these apps and methods, including checking the acidity and water levels. I even tried planting copper pennies, which, it turns out, have been made with very little copper since 1982.
Even with the monsoon-like rain season we experienced in June this year in Northeast Ohio, I’m happy to report my tomatoes are large, green, and hopefully on their way to being ripe and red without splits and rot.
In a way, social media saved my tomatoes, thanks to expert gardeners who were willing to connect with me to share advice, expertise and great gardening apps.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator newspaper on social media and society.