“Make the Plants Happy”

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Tom Cousins examines his carefully tended compost area from which he feeds his crop of vegetables, especially his corn crop.

By Sue Moore

Seventy years old and forever young, Tom Cousins knows the ins and outs of gardening, having learned them at an early age when he was hired at 35 cents an hour by Bernice Clark. His first job was digging holes for her new plantings of rose bushes. “Make them happy,” she urged, as he was instructed to dig deeper and wider for each one.

The Cousins’ family lived down the road from the Clark family, so by age nine or ten, Tom had already learned to plant radishes with a little salt in the dirt mixture to keep the worms from eating the radishes first. He got so good at helping Clark that she signed him up for 4-H gardening instructions, where he promptly won his first blue ribbon when he was eleven. “I liked to eat, so the veggies I raised kept me going back for more,” Cousins joked.

“What does a plant want? I like to ask myself. A little urea (nitrogen) makes them ‘happy,’ along with the sheep compost and water I give them. You gotta keep the weeds away, so I rototill and pull a few weeds by hand most every time I go out to the garden.”

Cousins grows a lot of sweet corn, which he generously shares with friends and family. He has become an expert at gardening, working daily, along with helping his wife, Janet, with her extensive flower gardens. Building a place for Janet to have shade when she was gardening, was an important step in the expansion of their outdoor home. Since there was no flat area next to the house he built on 31st Street near Vicksburg, he dug out an area, filled it with sand, and leveled it off. Soon there was a shady place with a three-foot wall around it for seating, room for tables and chairs, and lots of area outside for flowers. The siding on the small pavilion features an elliptical arch that gives the whole area a special touch.

Cousins and his son Tom, Jr., are a well-known building and remodeling duo in the Vicksburg area. Tom’s father, Rene, preceded him in the business; together, three generations of Cousins’ carpenters have served this area for nearly 80 years!

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