Just as with any other hobby when you take up gardening, everyone will give you their very best advice. Even so, it’s important to understand that not all of the advice you get will be valuable or worthwhile.
In fact some can be incredibly damaging. In this article, we will examine some common gardening myths and give you the information you need to sort truth from myth. Read on to learn more.
Myth #1 – You Can Trust Organic Pesticides To Be Safe
Everybody knows that chemical pesticides are dangerous, so it only stands to reason that organic pesticides must be safe.
The fact is, organic pesticides derived from poisonous plants such as the castor bean plant are quite dangerous indeed.
For example, the organic pesticide Rotenone is extracted from the roots of a poisonous tropical bean plant.
It is extremely potent and is actually six times more toxic to living creatures than the chemical pesticide, Sevin. This is why Rotenone is banned in a number of countries.
Other organic pesticides that are actually quite hazardous include:
- Bacillus Thuringiensis
- Alpha-Beta Proteins
- Neem Spray Oil Pesticide – although we have not discovered why
All of these substances are natural, but they are not necessarily entirely safe. We all know that nicotine is highly toxic for all living beings. Some organic pesticides contain bacteria such as Botulinum toxins, which can be deadly.
Some other substances work by disrupting natural functions in insects and/or triggering accelerated development of defense mechanisms in crops. All of these actions have the potential to be hazardous.
Even with all of these potential negatives, it is still preferable to use organic pesticides rather than chemical pesticides. Simply do so wisely by using the pesticide sparingly and following directions carefully.
Myth #2 – Pruning Cuts Should Be Painted
The common belief is that when you prune a tree you should seal off exposed areas with a sort of “wound dressing” such as asphalt compounds, petroleum compounds, shellac or latex. This is old-fashioned thinking!
Now we know that it is far more natural and beneficial to allow the tree to self heal. Left alone, it will form a callus or scar tissue at the injury site. This natural seal will keep out pathogens that can cause infection. There was even research on wound dressings.
When you paint over the wound, you prevent the formation of a callus. This interferes with the natural healing of the tree. Additionally, artificial sealants seal in microorganisms and spores that can cause decay.
The best thing you can do when pruning is to use the sharpest instrument possible, sterilize your blades and make a very clean slanted cut close to the branch collar.
Myth #3 – New Houseplants Need To Be Repotted
Many visitors to the local nursery or garden center come home with one or several new houseplants. For some reason they “believe” they need to repot the plant right away into a larger pot.
Most plants DO NOT arrive at the garden center or nursery – root bound. They have plenty of “room” in the soil to survive and do very well for a long time.
In fact, most houseplants will do very well for over a year without the need for repotting. Read this article – Should You Repot Houseplants? – before you repot!
You’re better off getting an attractive decorative container and putting the houseplant in the pot.
Myth #4 – You Should Plant Fruit Trees in Twos
It was once believed that if you bought two fruit trees, you could count on them pollinating one another effectively. This is not always true, though.
For one thing, you cannot always be sure that you will get one male tree and one female tree when you buy two.
For another, many trees are self-pollinating and may have both male parts and female parts within the same flowers or male and female flowers on the same tree.
On the other hand, some types of trees such as sweet cherry, pear, apple and plum are self-sterile. These types of trees need pollen from other kinds of trees for fertilization. Because of this, buying two of them will do you no good at all!
For this reason, rather than simply buying two of each tree and hoping for the best you should research the type of tree you want and determine whether or not you need to purchase a companion tree for successful pollination.
Alternately, you might want to look for trees that have been grafted to ensure that you have both male and female components on the same tree.
Myth #5 – Trees Should Be Planted in Very Deep Holes for Stability
It has always been thought that planting a tree in a deep hole would help it to establish stable roots so that it would not be susceptible to being blown over in high winds.
Now we understand that is more important to dig a wide hole than a deep hole.
A hole that is twice as wide as the diameter of the root ball gives the tree plenty of room to spread its roots. This wide base is more stable than a deep, narrow base.
Myth #6 – Planting Holes Should Be Filled With Fertilizer And Compost
When you give a plant a rich start with fertilizer and compost, you inadvertently cause it to restrict the growth of its roots because the roots have no need to stretch out seeking nourishment.
Additionally, compost is a very loose soil that does not allow the plant to establish itself well. Furthermore, the water you provide to compost rich soil drains through very rapidly, so you inadvertently start your new plant of water.
It is also important to realize that very rich soil has the potential to burn the roots of young plants.
For all these reasons, it is best to simply fill the planting hole with the soil that you took out of it.
Water thoroughly and give the plant a chance to establish itself and spread its roots before you begin adding compost and/or fertilizer.
Once your plant is off to a good start, apply some fertilizer and compost to the surface of the soil as a mulch.
Myth #7 – Plants Live Forever!
Sorry… just like pets we get attached to our plants. However, over time they may hit their natural life span. This can be due to many possibilities. The location, new pests, environmental changes, physical damage.
Sometimes the best option is to replace the sick plant then drive yourself nuts trying to keep the plant n life support. Remove the plant and start new!
Note: Sometimes the old plant is a great way to learn something new by possibly trying to propagate it.
Myth #8 – Clay Soil Should Be Amended With Sand
It would seem to make sense to add sand to clay soil to improve its drainage, but the fact is adding sand to clay causes it to pack even harder and makes the drainage even worse. It becomes like mortar or cement.
To amend clay soil, you should add leaf mold and compost. These are light materials that give the soil a more airy structure and the ability to resist compacting. This makes for much better drainage.
Myth #9 – Sick Plants Should Be Fed
If you find that one of your plants is failing to thrive, you may think that you should feed it to revive it. Although fertilizing may help if your plant is suffering from a mineral deficiency, this is not always the problem.
Before you start dosing your plant with fertilizer, check to make sure all its essential needs are being met.
Remember that plants create their own food through the process of photosynthesis, so a proper balance of air, sunlight and water is vital to their success.
If your plant has the right balance of essentials, consider whether or not some of these conditions may be causing its problems:
- Environmental Stress
- Too Much Fertilizer
- Too Much Water
- Adverse Weather
- Insect Attack
- Roof Damage
- Root Girding
- Lack of Water
- Poor Drainage
Clearly, without proper diagnosis your attempts to revive your droopy plant could go quite wrong. Be sure to take the time to determine the cause of the problem before you begin any kind of treatment.
Myth #10 – You Should Not Water Your Garden In The Middle Of The Day
It is a common belief that drops of water on leaves in the middle of the day will act like magnifying glasses and burn holes in your plants, but this is not true!
Rain happens at all times of the day and night, and the remaining drops do not burn holes in leaves.
The fact is a cooling spray during the heat of the day may be very welcome to your plants; although, excessive salinity in the water might cause burning.
Myth #11 – Xerisaping Doesn’t Need Any Water
There are lots of good reasons to xeriscape your yard. There is a great deal of aesthetic appeal to an attractively planted desert or prairie-style landscape, and it is true that drought tolerant plants don’t need much water once they are established.
Until they are established, (throughout the first growing season) drought resistant plants do need to be watered regularly.
In subsequent seasons, you should determine what the natural rain pattern would be in the areas where these plants are native and try to replicate it. Desert plants, prairie flowers and grasses, and even cacti do need to be watered from time-to-time.
Myth #12 – Baking Soda Or Sugar Added To The Soil Grows Sweet Tomatoes
Sugar will only make your tomatoes sweet if you put it on the tomato before you eat it. Baking soda will “sweeten” your soil temporarily by increasing its alkalinity. This will not necessarily result in sweet tomatoes.
For sweet tomatoes (we add Epsom salt), you should pay close attention to your choice of the variety of tomatoes. For successful tomato growth, be sure to keep your soil slightly acidic. A range of 6 to 6.8 pH is preferred by all tomatoes.
Verify Your Gardening Information!
Whenever you encounter new gardening information, it’s always a good idea to consider the source. Check to make sure that your advice giver is reputable and reliable. When getting information from an online source, check reviews, ratings and read their about page.
When an individual gives you advice, of course you will have to use your own best judgment and consider your own personal impression.
Additionally, it never hurts to ask around and get some idea of the person’s standing in the gardening community. Of course, the bottom line is how does that person’s garden look? All other considerations aside, the proof is in the pudding!