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The Myths Your Mother Taught You

In the summer 2010 issue of Seeds for Thought, Cheryl Potts, Solano County Master Gardener, debunks common garden myths. Click here to read the full article.
Myth 1: Organic pesticides/fertilizers are better for the environment because they are non-toxic.     

 Using organic pesticides and fertilizers does have its benefits, including minimal disturbances to animals, people and the environment, but many organic products are poisonous to people and pets if ingested. For example, cocoa mulch is becoming more and more popular but cocoa can kill dogs once ingested, and pyrethrum, used as an insecticide, is toxic to people and pets when used incorrectly.*  

*In an earlier post, Common Summer Vegetable Problems Solved!!, we suggested using pyrethrum sprays for squash bugs, so if you plan on using this please carefully read the labels, closely follow the instructions and always store properly!     

Myth 2: Nothing will grow under a spruce tree because the ground becomes too acidic due to the fallen needles.     

The soil under a spruce tree is the same as the soil in any other part of your yard. The reason nothing grows under the trees is because of the tree’s thick canopy which blocks any sunlight or water from getting to the ground directly below.     

Myth 3: Watering on a sunny day will burn the plant leaves, as the sun reflecting through the water acts like a magnifying glass.     

Leaves can dry out if there is a high amount of salt in the water and hot temperatures, but the burning does not actually have anything to do with the the water droplets themselves. The reason it is recommended to water in the morning is simply because higher sun causes more evaporation.      

Myth 4: Gravel at the bottom of a pot is necessary for drainage.     

Gravel is not necessary, nor is it a good idea, because it takes up room needed for soil and root growth and adds extra weight to the pot. Instead try placing a small piece of broken crockery over the drainage hole which will help hold the soil in but still allow for necessary drainage.     

Example of a beer trap for slugs


Myth 5 : Placing broken egg shells on top of the soil will prevent slugs from getting to your plants.     

Egg shells are unfortunately no match for slugs, as they can crawl right through them. Instead use a safe store-bought pellet or try the “beer method.” Slugs are attracted to the sweet scent of beer so bury a small wide jar (with the top off) full of beer in the edge of your garden. The slugs will inch toward this and eventually fall in and drown. See the photo to the left for an example of how to make a beer trap.     

Myth 6: Drought tolerant plants do not need water.     

Plants labeled “drought tolerant” are not actually drought tolerant during their first year and need just as much water and mulching as the next plant. It is only after the first year that the plant will start to fend for itself but a monthly watering should still be included.     

Myth 7: Drought tolerant and drought resistant are the same thing.     

Not quite. Drought tolerant plants can go for limited periods of time without any water, whereas drought resistant plants are naturally able to live and survive long periods without irrigation.     

Myth 8: You must stake a newly planted tree to ensure a strong trunk.     

Trees build their strength by flexing, so giving them artificial support does not give them a chance to strengthen on their own. Also the strapping can interrupt the sap flow which will cause problems.     



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