Each spring, the Upper Arlington resident buries a dead rabbit or other small animal (a chipmunk this year) in a foot-deep hole. "Rabbit feed," Goettemoeller replied. "You mean Rapid Feed?" the friend said, thinking it was a brand-name product. No, he meant rabbit as feed.
Gazing up at Bob Goettemoeller’s 12-foot-tall tomato plant, a friend once asked him what he used for fertilizer.
“Rabbit feed,” Goettemoeller replied.
“You mean Rapid Feed?” the friend said, thinking it was a brand-name product.
No, he meant rabbit as feed.
Each spring, the Upper Arlington resident buries a dead rabbit or other small animal (a chipmunk this year) in a foot-deep hole.
Then he buys a 12- or 18-inch grape tomato plant and positions it atop the decaying animal.
“My mother-in-law once asked me where I got that idea,” Goettemoeller said. “I told her, ‘The Indians did it.’? ”
Indeed, members of the Wampanoag tribe helped the Pilgrims survive in part by sharing their growing technique: Bury a fish alongside corn, bean and squash plants.
“That’s not a method we would recommend,” said Gary Gao, an Ohio State University Extension specialist. “You don’t know what kind of diseases you can get from those things (dead animals)."
Still, Gao acknowledged that a decomposing animal would provide a rich source of nitrogen and organic matter, which plants love.
For Goettemoeller, 74, the results speak for themselves: His 2013 plant has already yielded more than 750 grape tomatoes.
So fruitful is the plant, in fact, that the friend who learned of his peculiar fertilization method suggested: “Bob, have you ever considered using half a rabbit?”
Goettemoeller and his wife, Bernice, once had an extensive garden on their 1-acre property elsewhere in Upper Arlington. Five years ago, they moved to a condominium with limited yard space.To compensate, Mr. Goettemoeller grows just one tomato plant — vertically.
Early in the year, he protects his young plant on cold nights by placing clear plastic around it and a light bulb inside for warmth. He also surrounds it with a 10-foot-tall cylinder of concrete mesh, giving the plant a place to climb.
Otherwise, all it takes is regular waterings.
This year marks the third that his plant has reached about 12 feet. In each of the past two years, he said, the plant provided more than 4,000 tomatoes.
He gives most of them away, but plenty stay at home.
“We eat a lot just as snacks,” he said. “We’ll have a bowl on the counter and eat a few every time we walk by.”