Sunday, July 25, 2021


gardeners corner Garden Wisdom or Tom Foolery?

Gardening information is just about anywhere. In addition to the internet, there are radio shows, books, TV shows and classes. Remember anyone can write a book or have a class. Even many gardening catalogs include educational tidbits but are they right for our area.

But how do you know whether you can trust the information you’re seeing? We should know to take information from an unknown source on the internet with a grain of salt.

The same is true for information from Master Gardener programs. Master Gardeners provide science-based gardening information. But are you looking at a Master Gardener site in Iowa? It is accurate for Iowa but maybe not here. Remember that the term “Master Gardener” is not a trademarked term. Anyone can use the term “Master Gardener”.

Before acting on information that you’re hearing or reading, make sure it’s relevant to our climate. If you’re wondering whether you can rely on a particular piece of advice you’ve found, you can always check with your local Master Gardeners program. We can let you know if what you’re considering is sound.

Some gardening myths are well established and have been around for ages. A recommendation may be very precise and sound scientific, but that doesn’t mean it’s correct. Here are some common myths.

Use egg shells to add calcium to your soil. True, but our soils have plenty of calcium. If you have a calcium deficiency you will need more calcium than egg shells provide.

Human hair or human urine will get rid of gophers. False, absolutely no truth to this myth.

To get sweeter tomatoes, add sugar to the planting hole. False, tomatoes cannot absorb sugar in this way.

Another tomato myth, use Epsom salts to make tomatoes sweeter. False, Magnesium sulfate is a salt and can cause fertilizer burn.

On the subject of tomatoes, use calcium sprays for blossom end rot. False, blossom end rot is not a lack of calcium. It is a lack of availability of calcium because of inconsistent irrigation.

Plant peas and potatoes on St. Patrick’s day. For our area this is false. It is too late; the spring/early summer heat will kill them.

Use coffee grounds to acidify your soil. False, coffee grounds are actually neutral. There are many other good reasons to use coffee grounds in the garden such as a mulch or in your compost.

Add a handful of bone meal to planting holes before planting trees and shrubs. False, bone meal supplies high levels of phosphorus and calcium, elements that are rarely limited in non-agricultural soil. Phosphorus is a mineral, not a growth stimulator.

Put a layer of rocks in the bottom of your container for drainage. False, rocks will actually make the soil soggy. It has to do with water cohesion. You can put one rock over the hole in a container.

Plant pennies to add coper to your soil. False, pennies are not made from copper and our soils have plenty of copper.

We can rely on gardening wisdom from the past. However, that doesn’t mean that old ways are always better than modern methods. Be open to old gardening wisdom but keep your thinking cap on. Does that handed-down advice make scientific sense? ♣

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