Garden Myths

Let’s talk a little about garden “myths” or misconceptions. I always wind up addressing at least one of these when I lecture, no matter what the topic. It’s stuff we all grew up with and a lot of it is hard to shake.

Several new books have recently come out on just this topic because these myths are so pervasive. A University of Minnesota professor, Jeff Gillman, has been writing a series called The Truth About… for the last several years. He’s got books about Garden Remedies, Organic Garden Remedies, and Gardening Advice–all written from a scientific rather than a folksy sort of background. Despite that, they are very readable and very eye-opening, particularly the one about organic remedies.

A Massachusetts garden writer and speaker, C.L. Fornari, has also recently come out with a book called Coffee for Roses and 70 Other Misleading Myths about Backyard Gardening. The book claims it will save the backyard gardener a lot of time and work by debunking the urban myths that have been passed down–and most of which have now been found to be just plain wrong.

Fornari says word of mouth is great when you are looking for garden products but in the case of gardening advice, in a lot of instances it’s just plain wrong! She’s absolutely right about this–I don’t know how many of you remember the home-made concoctions from the 70s that we were advised to spray on our plants and our lawns.

Many folks still do use home-made remedies for things. That’s one of the things I talk about in most of my lectures. There’s a reason there are so many remedies at the garden center and it’s not just to enrich the owners. Oil, soap and hot peppers may make a perfectly fine insect repellent but it may also do damage to sensitive plants. “Soap”–because it’s not true soap but actually detergent–has the ability to strip plant leaves of their protective coatings. Then the oil gets into the pores (technically called stoma) and clogs them and all sorts of bad things start to happen. You may wind up damaging the plant worse than the insect you are trying to repel.

So it never hurts to be aware of some of these “myths” and the way they can affect the garden. I’ll talk about some more in weeks to come.

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