Tall tales from years of old are a common phenomenon in our society. These are perpetuated by some inkling of truth, or, just made out of “whole cloth.” The hobby or passion of gardening isn’t immune from these old wive’s tales. We hear them, and because of the claim itself, discount practically any notion of illegitimacy. After all, since these seeming helpful hints survive, there must be something to them or they’d disappear.
All of this might be otherwise logical, but at some point, experience tells us something quite different. In a few instances, it’s common sense which prevails, in many others, it’s scientific testing that uncovers and exposes practices which might be counterproductive, benign, or downright harmful.
Take for instance burying banana peels to promote growth, particularly in roses. Now, it is true that banana peels contain high amounts of potassium. What’s more, it is true that roses do thrive and bloom from potassium, it’s also true that chemical reactions in the soil occur simultaneously. While microorganisms break down the banana peels, an excess amount of nitrogen must be contributed to cause said breakdown. When nitrogen is taken away, so is the very nutrient that’s needed to promote growth in all plants. Hence, banana peels buried into the soil do more damage than good. In this case, it’s best to compost banana peels rather than bury them.
Why Gardening Myths are Perpetuated
We all love products that deliver results. Some have become so synonymous with consumers, we call them by their brand names rather than the actual product. We know these products intimately and use them quite often. The reason we as consumers call these products by their brand names is because the advertising has worked. In some instances, it’s because the first generation of a product was rolled out under a brand name, so, it sticks. While in other instances, it’s the high water mark for the best quality.
Many consumers assume that products on the store shelf must have been tested to prove their claims. Certainly, fertilizers have to meet nutrient content requirements, and pesticides are rigorously tested for safety before EPA registration. For some other garden products, however, no such testing is required before sale to the public. –Robert Cox, Horticulture Agent, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension
Gardening myths aren’t really any different. We buy certain products because of the claims. For the majority of these, results are real. However, that doesn’t mean another manufacturer doesn’t produce as high of a quality product. As the nearby quote points out, manufacturer claims aren’t held to scrutiny. That puts the power of consumer choice in our hands. Aside from manufacturer claims, there are just some myths that simply don’t go unchallenged.
Most Common Gardening Myths Exposed
Let’s take a look at some of the most common and biggest gardening and landscaping myths out there. Some of these might surprise you, while others might be something you’ve always thought not to be true. In no particular order, here are some of the biggest gardening myths:
- If a tree is dying, it’s not being properly fertilized. Okay, so organic lifeforms need to be fed. That’s unarguably true, but, it doesn’t mean that more fertilizer, which is to say food, is the only answer. You can’t put a tree on a heeling track if you’re not treating the right symptoms. Perhaps, it’s a disease, or pests, it could also be true that’s it’s suffered some type of mechanical damage. Or, it’s simply at the end of its life.
- Damaged trees need dressing treatment. Sticking with tree myths, one is still very prevalent, though completely untrue. For what seems like ages, homeowners and arborists dressed wounded trees with tar and other substances after damage was inflicted. Though Dr. Alex Shigo of the U.S. Forest Service disproved this practice as not only unnecessary but harmful in the 1980’s, it stays with us.
- All planting must be done in the spring. Now, when it’s spelled out to read, this probably strikes you as untrue. Surely there can be plants which can be planted and grown at other seasons. For instance, fall is a great time to plant trees. Though it is the case that summer planting is one time that’s most challenging for growth. Because of the sheer magnitude of sunlight, plants can burn, especially in places like here in Sarasota.
- Routine watering is absolutely necessary. While watering is necessary, the amount differs, and, for different plants. Too much water will drown just about anything. This isn’t to say that you need to cut down on watering, just adjust the schedule. Water for more time but with less frequency. That will do a lot more good for you landscape.
- Adding vitamin B-1 prevents transplant shock. Though this might sound like good science, it’s actually been disproved by scientists. Thiamine, or Vitamin B1, does absolutely nothing to prevent transplant shock. Fertilizer will, and, it’s less expensive.