Garden myths listed
It is traditional at this time to look back over the previous year. Today I would like to review the nine myths in my series through the life of this Blog. It gives me an opportunity to blatantly advertise my wares and in addition clarify a few points that were previously blurred.
You might have noticed that many of my myths relate to the soil. No surprise there then, it is one of my former lecture topics. I do find in the popular gardening press that very little is written about the basic elements of soil management and when it is, it is frequently wrong. When I struggle to read some of my older posts it makes me realize why so little is written!
Gardening is a minefield of mythical magic. Some so-called ‘facts’ are totally wrong. Many more are half truths based on unverified personal experience, outdated techniques, wrong explanations of verified facts, simple recipes that have more exceptions than actual cases and at other times just pure opinion and much imagination.
I started my series with ‘debunk’ in the title. I soon realised that not only did this sound rather arrogant it did not cover most cases of factual dispute. I now prefer to attempt to ‘discuss’. Early on I failed to put the topic of the myth in the title. It makes it easier to use my search box now that I do. Except that for a couple of months now my search box has failed to work at all! What a headline it makes, Google fails to find!
Fear not I have provided links to each of my myths. I have recently been reminded that new readers do not always appreciate that to go to an old post you just click on the coloured highlight!
nb the very small search box at the very top of the blog finds and takes you to old posts - best if the search term is either a single word or a an exact phrase. The large box at the bottom does not work at all.
Another way to find old articles in blogs is to go to any search engine and insert the blog title followed by the subject. ‘Roger Brook myth’ will find all my relevant posts.
Whilst I am going on about blogging, I would like to point out that blog comments are much appreciated in ‘old posts’. Blog writers receive an e-mail for each new comment and will almost always respond. When I started blogging I thought stuff in the archive was like old magazines and never read. Nothing is further from the truth and as search engines find them, old posts take on a life of their own!
My first myth about water on leaves acting as a lens and sunshine scorching leaves is fairly uncontroversial and clearly untrue. Even with this myth, leaf scorch is a common phenomenon and sunshine can be involved when it causes desiccation in conditions of severe dehydration in drought.
The folly of using tree paint was also straightforward. I remember a former employer who had wounds on the trees in his arboretum expensively painted in a horrible blue. Above a cut on a beech tree I remember the biggest bracket fungus I have ever seen.
The common confusion between a (harmful) wireworm and a (beneficial) orange/yellow centipede was merely a matter of report.
The myth that it is better to water in the evening is common gardening lore. It seems so obvious to give plants a drink at night when surfaces will remain wet. Counterintuitively water on a wet surface does not sink in at night in some magical way. If you give so little water that increased evaporative loss in the day is significant you are not giving enough water.
I had a hard time with my assertion that ground cover plants do not conserve water. It seems so obvious that they do conserve water when leaves shade the ground! The crucial point fundamental to all irrigation practice is that the very same leaves transpire oodles of water that thirsty roots have sought out deep in the soil. Many gardeners overwater small plants, especially in containers, when they fail to recognise this simple fact.
Water conservation is in practice more complicated than this. Plants have wonderful adaptations to conserve water when subjected to drought. Conversely, and less well appreciated, the same plants have a wonderful facility to transpire at normal high rates when drought does not prevail!
|Cacti in Madeira botanic garden will also dehydrate the soil
I acknowledge there will be some circumstances where ground cover is subjected to drought (drought that it has itself helped to create!) or starts to go dormant, that its leaves will start to act as a mulch.
There was some dispute about this post - which I welcome - in my comment column. I (inadvertently) failed to reveal an argument contrary to my case, On hilly sites ground-cover has a significant role in reducing run-off in heavy rain.
A more exotic fact that illustrates nature’s wonderful diversity is that some desert plants are capable of absorbing sea mists and exuding water into the soil.
|Ground cover is beautiful, is horticulturally and ecologically beneficial but does not usually conserve water.
Gardeners are told to dig to aerate the soil. If there is any validity to this nonsense there has been something very wrong with their previous soil management!
The dust mulch theory is very plausible. Fortunately for someone like myself who believes excessive soil cultivation damages the soil, the dust mulch story is almost completely wrong.
Leaving aside the fact that many gardeners overuse fertilizers (and some fail to use fertilizers when they would be extremely beneficial) this post challenged the notion, dear to the heart of vendors, that every plant needs its own special potion. In a different post I discussed whether a special fertilizer was needed for the lawn.
Not all myths arise from ancient tradition as illustrated by this modern meme about rhododendrons
Some items of misinformation are discussed in posts not in my myth series. Many gardeners fail to understand the terms texture and structure when describing a soil. My recent post on mistletoe mentioned four different myths associated with this plant!