James “Black Jack” Hamilton’s gardening hobby could have taken a hit if he would have allowed the hot dry weather this summer to take its toll.

Hamilton does not have a large garden, it is only about 40 feet by 12 feet, but it has a variety of vegetables and has been prolific this year.

The three wide rows are broken up with tomato plants, beans, okra, bell pepper, new potatoes, and purple hull peas. On the south side he has one of his two arbors of purple muscadines.

“I’m trying something new right now,” Hamilton said. He is referring to upside down tomato plants that first came into being on one of the “buy on TV” spots. “I have a friend who grew strawberries with one of those and you should have seen the strawberries he grew with it. They grew out of every space on the sides.”

Hamilton planted his potatoes inside of a metal ring that is about 14 inches deep. He added a layer of barnyard fertilizer to the bottom, then tilled in leaf mold and dirt. He planted the potatoes in a “lazy bed” manner, just laying the potato bud and covering them loosely with the mold-dirt mixture. “I got a good bunch of potatoes from these two rings, said Hamilton.”

The three rows are widely spaced with a shallow trough between each row. To fight the heat he used two types of watering. There is a barrel that catches runoff water from the storage building roof. Since it has been dry, he has occasionally filled it with the water hose. On the bottom of the barrel is an attached hose. Hamilton simply opens the valve and lets the water run through the hose to the garden by gravity. The other method is to simply use a hose and city water.

“My water bill has been above normal this year. I water every other day. I either water very early in the morning or very late in the afternoon. The trough between the rows holds the water and lets it get to the vegetables slowly and at the roots,” Hamilton said. “I found out how to keep the stink bugs off of my tomatoes. I planted marigolds. There is something about the marigolds that the bugs don’t like, after they matured, I did not see a stink bug.”

To fight off fire ants Hamilton uses another semi-homemade remedy. He found that a mixture of five pounds of white corn meal, three ounces of strawberry Kool-Aide, a cup of sugar and two ounces of Ortho Fire Ant Killer mixed and applied to the ant hills will kill the ants.

“We did pretty well with the summer garden. Susan, my wife, put up peas and beans, and we got several pints of muscadines jelly. I have just planted some lettuce and am putting in collard greens and mustard greens. I’ve planted some more tomatoes and think that I will do all right with my winter stuff,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton’s back yard garden shows that it does not take a large plot to be successful with a garden. It just takes some planning and to be consistent with the watering and weeding.

The Pikeville, TN native is trying to plan a trip to visit his Tennessee family. “I really want to go, but I have to find someone to water my garden so I don’t lose everything while I’m gone,” Hamilton said.