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Georgia man uses a new 'mater method

‘Doc’ Skelton changes strategy, grows more tomatoes this year

POSTED: August 1, 2014 1:00 a.m.
Bonny Harper/Times regional staff

Dr. C.B. Skelton, or "Doc," is in his third consecutive year of tomato-growing, but this year he tried a new method. Now, his plants are thriving better than previous years. His great-granddaughter, Ashton Locke, made a sign for his garden.

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A handmade sign on the metal fence surrounding Dr. C.B. Skelton’s tomato plants reads “Doc ‘n’ Fran’s ‘Mater Farm.” Ashton Locke made the sign for her great-grandfather.

Skelton, or “Doc,” as most know him, is in his third consecutive year of tomato-growing, but this year he’s doing things a little differently. Because of it, his plants have never thrived this much.

Doc said last year was a “sorry year” for tomatoes. None of his grew until late July and August, and then about six to eight tomatoes were on each plant.

This year, Doc said he started getting tomatoes three weeks ago. As many as 16 tomatoes each are growing on each plant and they are still blooming.

Doc said his trick this year is a tip he found online about growing tomatoes: Each plant must have no more than three branches growing from the root stem, and the grower should cut off all but the top three or four leaves on each branch.

Doc cuts off the excess leaves every week, he said, believing that’s what’s been making his tomatoes flourish this season.

Something else Doc has done all three seasons is use creek water or rainwater on the plants, rather than city water. He doesn’t like to use city water because of the “chemicals and cost.”

Last year Doc used a creek close by to water his plants. This year he changed his plants’ locations, making the creek not as readily accessible. To solve the problem, he fixed a gutter to the roof of his shed. When it rains, the gutter carries the water into a large bucket. Doc then attached a hose to use the rainwater on his tomatoes.

“And if the good Lord doesn’t send enough water, I use a pump to get it from the creek,” he said, noting tomatoes need to be watered three or four times a week.

Doc said he pumps the water from a creek 3 or 4 miles away and hauls it back in a truck.

Doc, 88, and his wife, Frances “Fran” Lynch Skelton, have been married less than a year, which Doc described as not “romantic,” but rather, “rheumatic.”

Fran has some tomato plants of her own, but she did not start off the season cutting off the excess leaves as Doc did. She said her plants have not been as fruitful as his.

“They started out tall, but they don’t have as many tomatoes on them,” she said. “And one plant doesn’t have any on it.”

Doc said he started growing tomatoes three years ago because his daughter is a caterer, so he gives her tomatoes. In addition, his great-grandchildren love them, to the extent one would eat a tomato if given the choice between the fruit and ice cream.

Doc’s son-in-law has nicknamed the tomatoes “Granddaddy Homegrowns,” said Doc, who doesn’t sell his tomatoes.

“There’s none left to sell after all the family gets theirs,” Fran said, laughing.


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