Extreme Vegetable Gardening

Have you ever read something on the Internet and thought to yourself, “Cool. But way too much trouble. On the other hand, I wonder if it works…” That’s what I thought to myself when I first read about the Love Apple Farm tomato-planting method.

Click through for the details, but I can summarize with one word: “fishheads.” (That is one word, right?)

Fishheads from the Love Apple Farm website

Planting tomatoes with fishheads in the holes sounded pretty darn crazy to me the first time I read it. But I made the mistake of bookmarking the page, and during the dark, cold days of winter, I returned to it while fantasizing about fresh tomatoes. “How hard could it be,” I thought, “to snag some fishheads and give it a try?”

[That’s how Extreme Vegetable Gardening starts, you know. First you’re fantasizing about  fresh summer tomatoes, and the next thing you know, you end up with a garbage bag full of flounder bodies in the freezer. It’s a slippery slope.]

As it turned out, it was a lot harder to find fishheads than I originally imagined. The first place I looked was the local seafood shop. “Fishheads?” replied the perplexed clerk. “We get all our fish as fillets from Boston. No fishheads, sorry.”

Boston? They’re on the ocean in Westerly, RI and they’re getting their fish from Boston?

I then proceeded to make a nuisance of myself with the waitstaff of all my favorite local restaurants. I would ask, and they would all gamely traipse into the kitchen to ask the chef, and they would all came back shaking their heads sadly. I spent a fortune in tips that week.

Then I vaguely remembered that there are few fish wholesalers in Tiverton, and my brother lives there, so I asked him to ask around. That’s when I first heard the term “flounder racks.” This is apparently what is left of the flounders after they get through filleting them. My brother found a guy who would be willing to give me a mess of flounder racks. I sent off an email to the guy immediately. He never replied.

Finally, I remembered that there were a few local fishermen who set up at the Stonington Farmer’s Market, so one fine Saturday morning, off I went. That’s where I found Bob, Captain of the JennyLynn out of Stonington. We set up a date to meet at the dock later that week. Bob came through! I left the dock with a five-gallon bucket of flounder racks!

Of course, it was still two weeks from Memorial Day, the official tomato-planting date. So I spent a lovely hour piling individual flounder carcasses into a garbage bag, separated with sheets of waxed paper, and stuffing the whole stinky mess into the downstairs freezer. Yum.

But I did it. Last Saturday, I planted my tomatoes the Love-Apple Farm way, with a flounder rack in the bottom of the hole. (By the way, it’s darned hard to pry frozen flounder bodies apart, waxed paper or not. I ended up chiseling them apart with a screwdriver and a hammer. Extreme Vegetable Gardening indeed.) I will keep you all apprised.


About auntie beak

Hiker, blogger, lover-of-maps, Red Sox and Patriots fan
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14 Responses to Extreme Vegetable Gardening

  1. HerbDoc says:

    Interesting! We were told in school that Native Americans used fish in planting holes to fertilize corn, and it might make sense given the amount of fish here in the South County area. I’ve used fish emulsion
    over the years as a fertilizer for my veggies, but I’ve never tried
    “racks”. You’ll have to update us if there’s any problem with possum or raccoons diging in your garden!


    • auntie beak says:

      they’ve been in since last saturday, may 29, and no one has dug them up yet. they went in pretty deep, probably over a foot or so, and then were covered up with lots and lots of other goodies, including the eggshells i’d been saving since last winter. fingers crossed!


  2. HerbDoc says:

    Sounds like a plan! Now that I think about it, Earth Care Farm is only a minute from my house, and he makes huge mountains of compost. A large component of that beautiful black gold is fish heads and innards from Galilee. There is never an odor from his place because everything is immediately covered. The seagulls sometimes visit when the trucks arrive, but he doesn’t have any animal problems!


  3. PlantLover says:

    Yes I too remember learning about the Native Americans showing the pilgrims how to use fish while planting.

    About October, I catch about 12 trout and throw them whole right intot eh garden, then turn it over for the winter. They are gone by the next spring. I cover it with chicken wire and when I turn it the next spring, i never find the fish. My garden jams!

    Go Fish! Go Worm Poop! Go Mother Nature!!!!


  4. kris says:

    planting tomatoes with fish heads..!
    never heard of this before..
    i should try this sometimes..
    coz theres a fish market near my place..
    and they’ve tons of waste fish head..


  5. homeyhelper says:

    Ahhh yes, extreme gardening is a slippery slope. What started for me as “just planting a few ears of corn” this year evolved into tearing up my backyard and putting a nearly full fledged cornfield in.
    Anyways, I’ve actually heard of planting tomatoes with fish before, but never tried it. I hope you get a great crop for all your efforts, be sure to post your results!


    • dirtynailz says:

      Hey thanks! We’ll be sure to let everyone know how the fish head thing works out.
      Do you ever have problems with raccoons eating your corn?


  6. Layanee says:

    I love that ‘extreme vegetable gardening’! Can’t wait for the update.


  7. Merry Bliss says:

    A version of the fishheads: Sharpshinned hawk Three years ago in the winter, the local sharpshinned hawk was checking out the populace at my feeder, hung in a tree about five feet from my kitchen window. As he swooped in for dinner, he misjudged the house and smacked into it full force. Dazed ,he picked himself up, and flew very low and slowly another 20 ft., cleared the vegetable garden fence and landed face down, wings outspread, where he remained for the rest of the winter. Since he was already ontop of my rhubarb, I simply put soil over his remains and planted the rest of the garden. Great rhubarb! It’s about time for another bird.


  8. very interesting. I have never heard of this before. I would try this out with my tomatoes. Thanks


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