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GARDENING : AS FAMILY OUTING, HOME CROP WORTH ITS WEIGHT IN GOLD.

Byline: Joshua Siskin

The other night, I had a dream that on some distant planet, in another galaxy far, far away, human life had existed for millennia in a form quite similar to ours, despite the absence of plants. Only recently, through the manipulations of biotechnology, had plants finally been invented.

But the efficiency experts on this faraway planet took a dim view of these newly constructed green critters. Their report read as follows: ``Highly inefficient organisms; 90 percent of water taken up by roots is lost through leaves into the atmosphere; most of plant's energy is used for producing flowers, which have no practical value; fruits, roots or leaves of certain plants may be eaten, although minerals and vitamins contained within may be found in capsules sold over the counter in any drugstore; subject to sudden disfigurement or death due to many different kinds of insects and diseases; extremely sensitive to, and sometimes killed by, ordinary bad weather; not suitable for further development and research due to enormous risk and cost of growing.''

Of course, back here on Earth, no one could could imagine life without plants. Plants provide the necessities of life: oxygen to breathe, food to eat, clothes to wear and fossil fuels to keep our cars running.

One can only speculate as to what will happen to the human soul as the memories of living off the land fade. The traditions associated with this life, to say nothing of the knowledge gained from growing crops, also will disappear.

The knowledge of the farmer is more expansive than some might think, and, it could be argued, more encompassing than anyone else's. A farmer not only knows how to make things grow, but understands light, water, temperature, soil, seeds, flowers, insects and birds, and the relationship between them. Most significantly, a farmer knows that, in the twinkling of an eye, his crops can be ruined.

A reader has complained that the idea of home-grown vegetables and fruits is not cost efficient. Although I'm not at all sure of this, let's assume, for a moment, that it costs more to grow vegetables at home than it does to buy them at the supermarket. Think, though, of the benefits derived from growing vegetables yourself. You will discover the magnificent tomato hornworm and the parasitic wasps that lay their eggs on its back. You will sharpen your eyes by learning to discern when your plants need water or fertilizer, and when they need to be left alone. You will come to appreciate the cycle of the seasons, the changing length of days and the vagaries of weather.

Think also of planting with your children and then harvesting with them; that's an experience worth its weight in gold.

Sun Valley resident Mark Jones writes the following: ``I'd like you to warn your readers about the blue dawn flower or perennial morning glory (lpomoea acuminata). I thought I could cover my side fence with it. I did and it did, but it kept going, covering many of my shrubs with its flowers. I liked the overgrown jungle look, and I figured (since the `Sunset Western Garden Book' stated that it won't spread by runners), that I'd be able to clear the vines, but I found that morning glory seedlings had grown up all over the yard. Please warn people not to plant it near any other landscaping, unless they enjoy pulling weeds constantly.''

Pat Moore of Woodland Hills asks: ``Where can I get a product containing hormones that will build the root systems of my plants?''

One product that many nurseries carry is Superthrive, which contains naphthyl acetic acid, a synthetic auxin. Another product that is rather widely distributed is Green Light Root Stimulator and Starter Solution, which contains indole butyric acid, also an auxin. Auxin is a growth hormone produced in new leaves, from where it is transported to roots and results in stimulation of their growth.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 3, 1997
Words:655
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