Gardening Myths: Debunked!

Gardening is such a wonderful, rewarding activity. It may be physically exhausting at times, and no one handles bug bites very well, but all of your hard work feels inherently worth it when you survey the delights of your garden. There’s nothing quite like beautiful floral displays, lush green shrubbery, and a perfectly mowed lawn to bring a smile to your face.

However, gardening is a skill that has to be learned-- it’s not an ability that we’re born with. Wherever there is learning to be done, there is room for myths, misconceptions, and “common knowledge” -- that is actually anything but -- to creep in. If you follow these myths, unaware that they are not based in fact, you might find that your garden suffers as a result.

So, let’s try and bust some of the most common myths, so that you can be sure that your hard work will always pay off with a beautiful garden display.

Myth #1 - Water is always a good thing

When it’s raining heavily, it’s not unusual to hear someone say: “at least it’s good for the plants”. Many people associate plants with high water requirements, and thus the idea of water having the potential to harm plants seems outright strange.

In reality, just like us humans, plants can suffer from water overdose. Too much water can cause real damage, especially to developing plants, and prevent the proper formation of fruit and flowers.

Unless you experience record amounts of rainfall, you don’t need to worry too much about over-watering your plants. If you do experience record amounts of rain, it might be worth sheltering your more delicate plants if possible. During drier spells, when you have to provide water to keep the plants healthy, be careful with the amount you use. Remember: watering should make the soil around the roots damp to the touch, but not soaking wet.

If you’re concerned you may be too heavy-handed, switching to a home sprinkler can take the guesswork out of the process and ensure your plants are always getting exactly what they need-- and not a drop more.

Myth #2 - Compost tea cures all

This myth has found a huge following on the internet, with many people insisting that compost tea can help reduce plant diseases and infections, as well as giving plants the perfect boost they need for incredible growth.

It’s easy to see why this myth is so popular; it sounds so simple. Rather than investing in pesticide, fungal, and fertilizer treatments, you can just make compost tea, and your plants will thrive throughout the year.

The reality is… murkier. The evidence that compost tea can help suppress diseases in plants is rather untrustworthy. In fact, the latest research suggests that compost tea is actually inferior to fertilizers; you can read the research here, though be aware that link goes to a PDF file.

So should you abandon compost tea altogether? Not necessarily; it might still be beneficial, but perhaps just not quite as beneficial as modern myths would have you believe.

Myth #3 - Newly planted trees must be staked

Trees not only enhance the way that your garden looks, but they can even provide a defense against floods, so they’re definitely an item you’re going to want in your garden.

If you have to plant trees from scratch, you’ll find yourself constantly being told that trees need to be staked. There’s an example of one method of staking in the image above, but other methods -- such as simply tying the stake to the young tree with some twine -- are also recommended. The idea behind staking is that it encourages the tree to grow straight and true, which is beneficial from an aesthetic point of view.

For the most part, you can completely disregard staking for young trees-- it’s just not necessary, and may even inhibit growth. Unless you are planting in a particularly wind-prone area, staking is not necessary, so skip it and give your young tree the best chance to thrive.

Myth #4 - You should use fertilizer when planting new trees and shrubs

The theory behind this one sounds legitimate. If you’re digging a hole to insert a new plant into, surely it makes sense you’re going to want that plant to have its best start in life? It therefore seems sensible to dig your hole, then add a generous layer of fertilizer or plant food to the bottom of the hole. That will help the roots establish, and the plant will flourish in its new home in no time at all. What could possibly be wrong with that?

The reality, it turns out,  isn’t quite so pleasant. Exposed roots, especially those from a relatively young plant, are incredibly delicate. The roots need room to breathe and simple conditions to bed into, especially as the plant recovers from the shock of being moved. Furthermore, if you use too much fertilizer or plant food, then there’s a very real risk of burning the young roots of the plant-- and that’s damage that the plant is unlikely to recover from.

Your best bet is simply to dig the new hole, add a little water, and then gently place the plant into the earth. Cover the roots and fill the hole, add a small amount of water, and then leave well alone. The plant should establish just fine by itself, given the appropriate time and conditions to do so.

It is advisable to wait at least six weeks before fertilizing or feeding a plant that has recently been moved. This allows time for the roots to develop and strengthen, ensuring that the plant is healthy enough to handle fertilizer in due course.

In conclusion

Gardening is a confusing business at times, and the issue is compounded by the myths and misconceptions that surround the practice. Having read through the above, you can be sure that you’re more informed than most-- and your garden will absolutely thank you for it.

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