Margaret Lauterbach

You might not get a 17-foot tomato plant, but this Zamzows product can be fruit’s best friend

If you’ve gardened in the same bed for a year or more, you’ve undoubtedly noticed a soil difference in different parts of the bed or a difference from one bed’s soil in your yard to another. I garden in raised beds because of mobility problems, and I’ve noticed differences from one bed to another. Some beds support more vigorous plants than others, and some seem more stubborn about germinating seeds than others.

Now my vegetable garden consists of 11 raised beds, some beds suitable for anything, others suitable only for above-ground crops. Invasion of the dread quackgrass punches black holes through potatoes and carrots. Wouldn’t it be great if you could treat each bed differently so that you didn’t have to worry about planting peppers in bed No. 4, for instance? This year you’ll be able to do just that. Think Chicken Soup For The Soil.

Just saw the first advertisement for Dr. JimZ’s new product, Chicken Soup for the Soil, so it’s time to write about that. “Dr. JimZ” is Jim Zamzow, owner of the Zamzows garden and pet stores – a Treasure Valley native who’s a very knowledgeable gardener and scientist, especially interested in what animals and plants need to consume for their best health.

I had the opportunity to try Zamzow’s “Chicken Soup For The Soil” last summer. My garden plants were mature when I received it, so it was difficult to determine the effectiveness of this treatment. The whole idea and manner of use of this soil product is as brilliant as the name, and I’m looking forward to using it early in the growing season this year, on seedlings. I don’t think it would be helpful to put it on soil before you’ve sowed seeds or transplanted seedlings, for some of the product may leach beyond the root zones that are all-important for plant health.

Most commercial fertilizers consist of only nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the primary needs of plants. Some of these versions of fertilizers may be guilty of “burning out” soil, which means burning up the soil’s carbon that the microscopic creatures depend on. But plants and the microherd have other hungers, too, needing calcium, boron, iron, magnesium and many other “minor” or “trace” elements. To get down to basics, the microherd in the soil (fungi, bacteria, etc.) actually “feed” the plants, but we feed the microherd when we say we’re feeding our plants. What do the microscopic creatures need? It’s not easy to tell, but this unique product feeds the microherd everything they could want or use.

Chicken Soup For The Soil contains all of the elements in the periodic table and “is structured in such a way that makes it easy for microbes to absorb nutrients, create new life, and fuel plants with everything they need to meet their maximum potential, have more color, taste better, have less disease and bug infestations, have a longer shelf life and are nutritious to eat,” according to its marketing material.

Best of all, it’s tailored to your garden soil, or the soil you want to treat. Here’s how you use it: Mix one part Chicken Soup For The Soil to 10 parts water in a bucket, add one cup of topsoil from your garden, stir, and leave in the sun, uncovered. Stir every time you think about it, and three days later, mix one cup of this new compost tea per gallon of water and apply to the general area you extracted the topsoil from. You can have more than one batch “working” at a time to improve a large bed or several raised beds.

I think I’ll use a dark crayon to ID which bed a bucket is brewing for, because that could be wiped clean for use on another bed after I’ve finished that amount of tea. One thing my experience did teach me was that you’ll want to vigorously stir or shake the bucket before removing any for application, so you can get some of the soil and the heavy elements into each treatment. This is where the rose (sprinkler head) on a watering can really comes in handy, watering a portion of your garden bed with the finished Chicken Soup For The Soil tea.

Last year Jim Zamzow grew an Early Girl tomato plant using Chicken Soup For The Soil that grew to 17 feet in height and produced 200 pounds of fruit. He had to harvest some while standing on a ladder. Early Girl is an indeterminate tomato, usually growing to 4 or 5 feet, and normally when a tomato grows like that, its vigor goes only to foliage, not to fruit. But 200 pounds of fruit from one plant is truly impressive. He also used it in his fruit orchard, and saw fewer destructive insects attacking his fruit.

Send garden questions to or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.