Giving her tomato plants more space has made them healthier specimens

Lowther: Keeping up the with the Oopses

One would think that mankind would have learned all there is to know about growing

One would think that mankind would have learned all there is to know about growing food since Ali Oop’s smarter cousin Albert Oop first thought of burying seed in the ground.

When a few Oops generations wore out the land, they simply moved to greener pastures and their descendants kept moving to virgin land as they used up the old.

When I began to garden 34 years ago, I thought that the intervening years between Oop’s time and mine had brought everything we needed to know about agriculture and that organic methods produced excellent crops.

But the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s report in 2000 proved otherwise; organically-grown food had decreased in nutritional value by 25 per cent since 1963 and more since pioneer days.

Soil analyses showed that reasons behind this loss included a lack of minerals and stable humus. Compost, the mainstay of organic gardens, disappears quickly in soils as plants use it and irrigation and rain wash them out, but humus can remain in the soil, available to plants, for up to 100 years.

Adding clay to the compost heap produces this stable humus and adding rock amendments to the soil with the compost gradually returns the soil to its previous nutritional levels, producing nutrient-dense crops. Recent cutting edge research concentrates on various kinds of foliar sprays and root feeding applications on growing plants. I’ve begun implementing these methods this year and if good taste and robust plant health indicate higher nutritional value, then they work.

I’m also reassessing recommendations for intensive gardening where plants are spaced closely together because my tomatoes, spaced three feet apart, get watered half as much yet produce more than in previous years when they were spaced one foot apart. Next year I plan to give other crops more room than usual and see what happens.

Now I’m going to dust off Laurel’s great recipe for tomato sauce as I foresee much canning in the near future.