Ten Gardening Myths…..Busted!
One of many beauties of life is when tips and tricks get passed down from generation to generation. The problem is that—like the game Telephone—so much information gets misconstrued and it ends up hurting whatever is you're trying to do.
Some tips and tricks may stand the test of time, but these ten tips are myths that you should avoid if you want a bountiful garden!
This is an easy-to-understand myth because of the name, “drought-tolerant,” however these plants need watered often until they are established. Although, if they are watered too much, the roots can rot. After you have adequately watered the plants upon first getting them into the ground, you can water every other day after the first week. Unless the weather is extremely hot and dry, week three and onward should see a decrease in watering to two or three times per week until rainfall. When the plants are into years two and three, you should water deeply once or twice per week. The key with this is to know your soil and its texture. After year three, drought-tolerant plants should be well established and only need to be watered only once or twice a month in dry weather.
2. Adding sand to clay soil improves drainage
Water easily flows through sand so it’s often believed that adding sand to clay soil will naturally improve the drainage. Adding sand to clay soils creates a cement-like substance which makes water virtually impenetrable. The key to improving clay soil is to add compost or good organic fertilizer with ample organic matter. The compost or organic fertilizer may take a few years to break down directly into your soil, but it’s only going to improve your soil and quality of your plants. Don’t waste time trying to change your soil property, instead spend time improving your soil structure.
Not knowing your soil is a basic, yet very overlooked issue with gardeners and farmers. Therefore we always suggest getting your soil tested so you know exactly what you are working with and how to manage its exact needs.
3. Gravel in the bottom of containers improves drainage
What this does is allows the sitting water to sit higher up in the pot, causing a great potential for root rot. Planting pots need to have actual drainage holes for root aeration. The best thing is to make sure your plant is living in soil that allows for great drainage. It’s worth it to spend more money on better quality soil...especially if you want your plants to thrive.
4. Giving any plant fertilizer at any time will help it grow
Typically flower beds and vegetable gardens are fertilized right before planting. However, fertilizing isn’t always necessary. Through the years, people have been taught that plants must be fertilized because the soil does not provide the essential nutrients required for optimum growth. This is unfortunate because it is more than likely training your plants to only survive in fertilized soil. What really should take place is creating a healthy soil that will no longer need additional fertilizer. Your soil should get to a point in its life where it is biologically maintaining itself.
If you do add fertilizer, it’s best to follow the application process that is on the package and always use a good organic fertilizer. Also, don’t assume every plant/garden you have needs fertilizer. It’s best to rule out other factors on a dying plant before disturbing its home with additional amendments.
5. Sunshine focused through water droplets will burn leaves
For decades people have been told not to water their plants in the heat of the day because the sun will burn through the water, thus burning your plants. This is a myth that’s been debunked by scientists; they found that water droplets on a leaf surface were not able to focus the sun's energy sufficiently to damage the leaves before the water evaporated. If you do have damage to your plants/leaves, then it’s best to look at other causes (acid rain, salt water, chlorinated tap water, or disease).
6. When it comes to fertilizers and pesticides, if a little is good, twice is better
It’s easy to assume that if fertilizer helps a plant, giving it, more will make it thrive, but this is a great way to kill off the plants in your garden. We recommend testing your soil before adding fertilizer, this way you’ll know exactly what your soil is lacking. Once you’ve figured out what your soil needs then you can add fertilizer and only the specified amounts needed. Following the directions on your fertilizer is crucial to your plants’ health. Too much fertilizer can cause problems with your plants, including browning or yellowing edges on your leaves, and even more detrimental is the alteration to your soil’s pH level. Always find a premium pH balanced fertilizer with LOW salt content; we suggest using organic fertilizers that add value to your soil and not harm it!
7. When planting a tree or shrub, dig the hole twice as wide and twice as deep as the root-ball
Only part of this is a myth...digging your hole twice as wide is good advice, but the hole does not need to be twice as deep. Why? A wide hole will encourage plant roots to grow out and stabilize the plant. If you plant too deep, you set your plant up for failure such as compaction and/or not allowing your roots to get enough oxygen.
8. Compost is a safe, chemical-free source of nutrients for gardens
People have been composting almost forever, but the current organic-fad has brought it back to popularity. Unfortunately, with the upswing in this old-school, organic-gardening method people are throwing nearly anything and everything into their compost pile and then tossing it into their gardens. The issue with this is that, like soil, if your compost isn’t tested it's very likely that the nutrient and chemical levels are imbalanced including the pH and carbon to nitrogen ratios. We highly encourage those interested in composting to research the proper way it should be done. Homemade compost—when not carefully managed—can become too acidic or alkaline, may not be sterilized or composted properly, and potential pathogens may exist in the final compost with visible original ingredients.
9. Water new plants every day
The first rule of thumb when watering is to know your plants. Every plant is different, and some require more or less water. The key isn’t necessarily watering your plants every day, instead, it’s to keep them well-watered! Roots stretch and grow as they are searching for water—if you keep the soil too wet, the plant never really has a chance to thrive. Allow drying cycles so plants’ roots will stretch and reach for water. The easiest way to see if a plant needs a good watering is to feel the weight of the container just after watering and when the plant's soil is drying. As the plant container becomes light it is time to give your plant a drink!
10. Wood chips deplete nitrogen
Using wood chips or other forms of mulch is good practice when it comes to planting. Some people believe covering the soil and surrounding their plants with wood chips will steal the nitrogen from the plants or tree that they’re trying to grow. The truth is, as the organisms in your soil do their thing, including breaking down the wood chips, they will release nitrogen into the soil. Also, it’s good practice to always have a 3-inch layer of mulch, meaning you don’t necessarily need to re-mulch every year.
On a side note, if you mix wood chips directly into your soil as an amendment, they will steal or deplete nitrogen from your plants. The carbon to nitrogen ratio will be altered and a nitrogen deficiency will develop.
Gardening is exciting! It’s rewarding to watch your hard work pay off, but don’t believe everything you hear. Always do your own research and know your sources before following your grandma’s neighbor’s son’s best friend’s gardening tips.
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