Lawn & Garden Time

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Weed out gardening myths from facts

Gardening is an age-old activity that was once a necessity but has transformed into a hobby for thousands of people.  While gardening still serves practical purposes, many gardeners still consider it a hobby first and foremost.

Time-tested gardening techniques have prevailed, but there remain certain myths about gardening that are best dispelled. The following are some of the more common myths associated with gardening.

* MYTH: Compost tea is more effective than traditional compost. All over North America and the United Kingdom, gardeners have jumped on board the compost tea bandwagon. Compost tea is a fertilizer created by steeping compost in water mixed with sugar in brewing kits. The mixture is allowed to sit and aerate to encourage beneficial organism growth before it is sprayed on plants. According to supporters, compost tea suppresses disease and boosts plant yields. However, there is no evidence to suggest that compost tea works any better than adding compost in its normal state to the soil. In fact, leaving buckets of the "tea" around to ferment could actually create a breeding ground for E coli and other bacteria.

* MYTH: Plants under stress should be fertilized. This is not the case. Horticulturists advise that fertilizing plants that are not deficient in nutrients can actually add to existing stress levels for plants. Plants are not often stressed by a lack of food, but rather heat, faulty planting or space constraints. A fed plant will use the energy to absorb the nutrients instead of defending against a blight or establishing better root systems.

* MYTH: Young trees need stakes. It may be tempting to stake that little sapling to protect it against the weather and strong winds, but doing so may actually work against the foundling tree. Staking trees to inhibit swaying may not stimulate the tree to grow thicker, lower trunks that will help the tree in the long run. The Royal Horticultural Society recommends that saplings be staked for around one year and then have the stakes removed to encourage the tree to be strong and stable on its own.

* MYTH: Water droplets and sunshine lead to burnt leaves. Gardeners have been told to resist watering their plants during the hottest times of the day. Many assume it's because water droplets lying on leaves will magnify the sun's rays and burn the leaves. According to Dr. Gabor Horvath at the Eoetvoes University in Budapest, water droplets will rarely damage plants because the drops are too close to the leaves to cause burning before they evaporate. Watering during the hottest points of the day is not advised because water evaporates and gets wasted.

* MYTH: Sand added to clay soil makes it looser and better for plants. Clay soil is a deterrent to gardening because it can be so hard to dig and difficult to cultivate, but some feel it's best to add sand to the clay to make it a better soil mixture. You would need a great deal of sand to do this in the right manner, but many gardeners simply dig a hole, add sand and hope for the best. However, water runoff will pool in the sand and not be absorbed by the clay, potentially causing the plants to drown.

* MYTH: Adding compost or potting soil to the planting hole for a tree or shrub is beneficial. Gardeners frequently add compost or potting soil to the hole where the root ball of a tree or shrub will be placed. But this encourages the roots to grow only in this nutrient-rich area, rather than spreading throughout the landscape to form a stronger and more durable root system. If you are going to amend the soil, do so evenly across the landscape.

* MYTH: Use gravel or rocks in the bottom of planting containers to improve drainage. Rocks and gravel can actually impede the growth of plants and take away space for roots to grow. The drainage may be affected as well, as water will sit above the gravel or stones and saturate the roots. Stick with plain soil for better drainage results.

A variety of gardening myths still prevail. Over time, behaviors can be changed if gardeners learn to separate myths from facts.