BINGHAM COUNTY– Competition is fierce at the East Idaho State Fair. There are the standard sports happening at the fair, like arm wrestling, barrel racing and the Lil' Cowpoke Rodeo, they will be touched on in upcoming articles but right now this article about the not-so-standard sports. Sports by definition is, "an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment." Today we delve into the world of competitive gardening. Horticulture obsession can be powerful, dangerous, and downright cutthroat in some instances. Competing gardeners have been known to go so far as to salting the flowerbeds of their rivals right here in Idaho. In some instances lives have been irrevocably changed by competitive gardening, just ask Steve Jones, the current president of the American Rose Society, who lost a marriage to his love of roses and his garden. That is the extreme of the sport but, "there are more jealous gardeners in America than Soccer hooligans in Europe", says Robert Licata a local extreme gardener.

Most people think of gardening as being relaxing but what is so relaxing about someone's face dripping with sweat, hands tired and covered in dirt. Back aching from bending over for hours at a time pruning, weeding, feeding and manicuring the garden. It is work and hard work at that. Things can get technical too, when soil testing and UV dispersion gets involved. Then there are the chemical properties of the soil, maintaining the proper nutrients and inorganic ions dispersed in the soil solution and that is if you are using dirt to grow at all. With the advent of hydroponics things take a walk on the wild side. Here it seems like a degree in biochemistry is needed to grow a tomato. Granted the tomato will be the size of a full-grown adults head.

Generally speaking, plants need very little to grow. They can subsist on a simple blend of water, sunlight carbon dioxide and mineral nutrients from the soil. Plants are able to transform light energy into chemical energy to form sugars that allow them to grow and sustain themselves. Thus, plants convert carbon dioxide, water and light into sugars and oxygen through a process called photosynthesis. The photosynthesis process requires that the plant has access to certain minerals, especially nitrogen phosphorus and potassium. These nutrients can be naturally occurring in soil and are found in most commercial fertilizers. Notice that the soil itself is not required for plant growth, the plant simply needs the minerals from the soil. This is the basic premise behind hydroponics, all the elements required for plant growth are the same as with traditional soil-based gardening. Hydroponics simply takes away the soil requirements. There are several different types of hydroponic systems, though each is based on the same initial concepts.

This year there are several competitions at the East Idaho State Fair. In previous articles the paper has covered how to register to be a participant in the competitions now its up-to everyone with a green thumb to take part in the festivities. If people are planning on entering contact The Morning News, the sports reporter would love to get a picture of them in their garden and get an interview with them for the paper. Wishing all the "Wyrtweard" out there good luck and lots of sunshine.

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