Drought tolerant doesn’t mean don’t water
Steven Fry claims that 50% of facts today turn out to be untrue after a few years. He might be right, or that might be proved to be wrong soon too.
It wasn’t that long ago that it was thought fact that the continents were static. Recent enough for my brother to be wrapped on the knuckles with a ruler at school for suggesting that they were probably joined up in the distant past - That is was healthy to smoke , alcohol is “cooked out of food” or that white chocolate is actually “chocolate”
I have found that myths have always been prevalent in the gardening world as well and there’s always someone advising us to do different things to the plants and soil. There have been a few myths following me around for years though and I thought it was about time to dispel them.
Adding rich compost when planting
The first think I want to look at is the myth about tree and shrub planting. When planting a new tree or shrub we are told to replace the soil in the planting hole with organic material such as compost. The problem is when the new roots reach the edge of the planting hole and get to the native soil. They will actually turn and circle back into the organic material at great detriment to the plant. Moisture will also be drawn away from the added compost. So use the original soil removed to backfill after planting. Your trees and shrubs will do much better.
Organic material is always good
It depends where organic material comes from. The problem is that some compost can harbour pesticide residue or heavy metals. These contaminates are also sometimes found in some manures from chickens and cattle. If compost contaminated with these products were to be used in a vegetable garden the harvested veggies could contain the chemicals. If you compost your garden waste, use only chemical free materials. Do not compost grass clippings that have been chemically treated.
“Add Epsom salts to the soil for healthier plants.” I don’t think so! Research shows it is only warranted in large-scale farming operations where the soil has a proven magnesium deficiency. Home garden use of Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) can be seen as irresponsible when the actual soil condition hasn’t been tested.
Sugar or Baking Soda for Sweeter Tomatoes
The sweetness of a tomato is determined primarily by the type of tomato and photosynthesis. They cannot acquire sweetness from soil. Save your baking soda for cleaning the house and the sugar for baking.
Egg Shells for Calcium
Egg shells are great for enriching compost but take a long time to break down. Crush them into bits to help speed up the process, but don’t expect them to transform a plant in a single season, it’ll take years.
Egg Shells for Discouraging Slugs
No they don’t! I’ve seen many a slug and snail crawl over a pile of crushed shells. Save them for the compost bin to slowly break down and add calcium to the soil (It’ll take years but it’s a better use of them, after all would you want to put shells around every plant in the garden)
Coins or Copper for Discouraging Slugs
If this did work the slugs would just move to another plant, the same goes for beer traps and grapefruit, these will attract the slugs but chances are you will need to go out there and finish the job. Bucket of water at the ready if you don’t have hens.
This is one of the few popular myths where we could actually find some evidence to substantiate it. Yes, coffee grounds are good for the garden but all the talk of changing the pH of the soil (it’s a complex topic and requires proper analysis) and miraculous growth spurts is really overstating it. Coffee grounds provide beneficial nitrogen, but you need a variety of things for healthy compost and soil. Add your coffee grounds to the compost pile and keep it balanced with a mixture of other green and brown items.
And just before I finish this week , here are a few more to think about, but remember if what Stephen Fry says is true, most of these will be proved wrong in 10 years time!
- Knock the tops of onions over to make larger bulbs.-This actually stops the bulbs forming.
- Plant peas and potatoes on St. Patrick’s day.-There are no specific calendar dates suited to all gardening zones: the best timing depends on your growing zone and soil warmth.
- Pinch blooms off annuals before planting. - I don’t think so. All you get then is time to wait for new blooms to form.
- If a plant is under stress, it should be fed. -Fertilizer is not the answer for many plant stresses (compacted roots, poor drainage, overwatering, and so on). Determine the cause of the problem and then resolve it. Poor nutrition is often not the cause.
- Add sand to loosen heavy, clay soil. - It actually causes more problems. So does double digging. Been there, double dug that.
- Drought-tolerant plants don’t need to be watered.- They’re tolerant, not dead. Yes, they need water.