Bunkum! Balderdash! Bilge and baloney! There are gardening myths almost everywhere you turn, waiting to trip the unwary gardener up and over into the flowerbed. You hear the same old untruths trotted out time and again. But why? Who knows? Never mind! Here are seven of them you can happily ignore!
Myth 1: Add Sand to Improve Clay Soil
You hear it time and again: To improve a heavy, poorly draining clay soil, just add sand. It appears to make sense – after all sandy soil drains really well right? But, in fact, adding sand to clay has the effect of turning soil incredibly hard and the amended area into little more than a sump, creating sodden conditions and rotting roots. Instead, to improve soil structure add plenty of organic matter such as garden-made compost whenever you have the opportunity. Or grow vegetables in raised beds for improved drainage.
Myth 2: Water Droplets Burn Leaves
Don’t water on sunny days, we’re told, because the water droplets act like miniature magnifying lenses, concentrating the sun’s rays and burning the leaves. Well, this is, quite frankly, nonsense or else you’d see a lot of burned foliage! In reality water droplets evaporate before they can cause any harm. It’s still a good idea to aim water at the base of the plant where it’s needed, and to avoid watering during the heat of the day, when water quickly evaporates. If you can, water in the morning or later in the afternoon.
Myth 3: Pine Needles Acidify Soil
It’s a commonly held belief that pine needles help to acidify soil. As such they are often recommended for use around acid-loving plants like blueberries, rhododendrons and azaleas. But while fresh pine needles, taken straight from the tree, are indeed ever-so-slightly acidic, once they’re shed, they soon lose that acidity. That means that the pine straw found beneath a pine tree – those old dried-out needles – are in fact not at all acidic and will have no effect whatsoever on soil pH.
Myth 4: Dress Tree Wounds and Cuts
Pruning is a big job, especially over winter. The advice goes that fresh tree cuts should be painted with a special pruning paint, tar or sealant to protect the wound from disease and decay. But save yourself the money! All this does is interfere with the tree’s own natural healing process – a process it is perfectly capable of, all on its own! In time a natural callus will form over the cut, protecting it from bugs and disease. So just leave the tree be.
Myth 5: Sugared Soil Gives Sweet Tomatoes
Come on… really? Yes, adding sugar to the soil is sometimes suggested as a great way to impart tomatoes with extra sweetness. But look, it’s nonsense okay. There’s simply no correlation between a sweet soil and the sweetness of the fruits. Instead, choose varieties known for their sweet taste. Proper feeding, regular watering and ample sunlight should help to develop the tomato’s fullest flavour.
Myth 6: Planting in Rows is Best
If straight rows are your thing, fair enough. But planting in regimented rows or blocks isn’t essential and can even encourage problems with pests and diseases. Instead, mix crops up to confuse pests and slow down the spread of disease. Interplanting compatible crops, using companion planting principles, will help plants to thrive while improving their resilience. Clever stuff!
Myth 7: Tea Makes a Great Fertiliser
Tea leaves contain nutrients, so why shouldn’t you splosh leftover tea onto your pot plants? Okay, so while the leaves contain plenty of nitrogen and other nutrients, these nutrients aren’t necessarily in an accessible form, while other elements found in tea, such as aluminium and fluorine, may actually hinder growth. Stick to using a proper liquid feed for your pot plants.
Sorting the myths from the reality can be liberating it has to be said. And there’s plenty more nonsense out there, believe me! Let’s get the debate going…drop me a comment below and tell me of any gardening myths you’ve come across. Let’s ditch the dross and seek the truth!