I finally had to unsubscribe from our local gardening Facebook group. It was just too painful. While there was much group wisdom (especially when it comes to identifying mystery plants), a significant portion of the advice being handed out by various self-proclaimed experts was just plain wrong. I got tired of cringing, and I didn’t want to be THAT person who acted as if they knew it all. I don’t, but I’m learning.
There has been a sudden flurry of articles and ads all promoting molasses as a valuable garden fertilizer/weed killer/pesticide. I find the latter use particularly humorous. Molasses is sweet. Won’t that attract critters? I bet our resident bunnies would adore molasses-coated shrubs.
I have two bits of advice about using molasses in the garden. My first recommendation is to invest in Grandma’s Molasses stock. If my Pinterest feed is any indication, molasses should sell well in the near future.
New gardening books seem to pop up as regularly as springtime dandelions. Most simply rehash what has been said before—perhaps with a new twist or better photos. But How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do (Science for Gardeners) isn’t your typical treatise on how to grow what. Instead, the author, Linda Chalker-Scott, explains the “why” behind the “how.”
An extension urban horticulturist and associate professor at Puyallup Research and Extension Center, Washington State University, Chalker-Scott knows what she’s talking about. This is her third book on horticulture, but there is a lot more. She’s written a series of articles on “Horticultural Myths” that I strongly urge you to read. Then, learn more at “The Informed Gardener,” a series of podcasts, or the informative Garden Professors website. She’s also a driving force behind the Gardening Professors Facebook blog (an extremely helpful research-based Q&A site).
Here are three more cases where the standard gardening advice won’t do your plants any favors. (If you missed my previous posts on this topic, try typing “garden advice” into the search box at the top right of this page.)
Vitamin B1 stimulates root growth. No, it doesn’t. A study done in the 1930s showed that when disembodied pea roots were placed in a petri dish saturated with vitamin B1 (thiamine), they grew. From this, they concluded that pouring a vitamin B1 solution over newly transplanted plants would help them get established. However, the plants in your garden are not detached pea roots, and they’re not growing in a petri dish. Further research has shown that adding B1 does nothing to help reduce transplant shock, but it will have an effect on your wallet. If you want to encourage roots, look for a product containing a rooting hormone instead.
How do you plant a new tree? Most people know to dig a hole “twice as wide and deep as the root ball” (according to the label I found hanging from the branches), then stick in the tree, making sure the roots are well buried. Amend the backfill with plenty of compost, pile it over the roots and tamp it down firmly. Finally, securely stake the thin trunk so it won’t wiggle in the wind. Right?
This advice was being questioned as far back as 1980, but it is still widely practiced, much to the detriment of the poor plants.
I’ve been on a road trip the past week, driving from our snow-covered yard in Colorado west to a land of broad-leafed evergreens and warm sunshine. Wyoming was cold and windy, as expected. The I-80 corridor is desolate at any season. The slopes around Alta were crowded with skiers, Salt Lake City was smogged in, and Lake Bonneville had an inch of water in it, much to my surprise. Next morning, as I crossed Nevada, I encountered fog in the intermountain lowlands that had left hoar frost on every surface of the ubiquitous sagebrush. It was a desert fairyland. I wanted to grab some photos but there are few places to stop on the interstate, and besides, the car thermometer hovered at 3 degrees!
In my recent web-browsing, I’ve come across some garden advice that made me stop, blink, and yell loudly at my screen, “No, you idiot, that’s not true!” Since I didn’t want to be the only one yelling at my computer screen, I thought I’d share some of this sage advice with you, along with what I think about it. Besides, we’re all idiots until we learn better!
Don’t throw your eggshells away. They are great for the garden in so many ways! And they’re a cheap way to make diatomaceous earth. (Bugs don’t like it)
My, how times change. I remember sitting in my 7th grade health class, watching a film strip (you’re as old as I am if you remember those!) about hygiene. It recommended washing your hair at least every two weeks! An old magazine I recently unearthed advised housewives to put on a dress and make-up to greet their hard-working husbands at the door. And, the book that accompanied PBS’s Crockett’s Victory Garden (copyright 1977) offers a recipe for disaster with their diagram on how to plant a Christmas tree. Don’t blame Crockett, however—his directions followed what was then standard procedure. Yes, we’re always learning something new, even about gardening.
Need some know-how on how to prune your lilacs? Want to cultivate the best-tasting carrots? Looking for a way to garden from your yard-less apartment? No matter what your gardening question might be, the National Gardening Association (NGA) has answers.
I first learned about this amazing nonprofit organization back in the early ’80s. My savvy husband subscribed me to their garden magazine, Gardens for All. It came on folded up, printed on thin, oversized paper… clearly a low-budget operation. But the information was first-rate.
The ad promised that this new gardening book would show me how to “chase those darned moles out from under my prize tomatoes … make … azaleas bloom like crazy … and [use] eggshells [to] barricade slugs from the hostas, cabbage, and lettuce.”
Sounds wonderful, right? The problem is, while those “garden cheats” (as the ad called them) may work in much of the country, particularly in the east, not one of those will work here in Colorado.