Wacky Garden Myths
Dogma and assumption are the building blocks of a garden myth. I know a Midwesterner who believes that whacking the trunk of a tree with a newspaper every night increases its diameter. This whacking has long been proven useless, but I'll bet this wacky gardener is still whacking away.
Here are three widely-held gardening assumptions.
• Vitamin B1 is essential to healthy transplanting.
The sun set on this persistent myth many years ago. Sunset Magazine reported in 1984 of studies which disproved the value of a vitamin B1 drench at transplant. Yet this horticultural “snake oil” still clutters many retail nursery shelves.
• A bare root tree should have its top cut to equal the root pruning.
In 1979, Carl Whitcomb at Oklahoma State University found that removing tip buds provided little benefit to ornamental trees, and that trees pruned by more than 15% exhibited “reduced visual quality” when grown. Want to learn more about roots? Check out my book on Roots at a special price right now!
• The more amendments, the better.
In the early 1970s, Carl Whitcomb disproved this oft-repeated advice. In controlled studies using percentages of different amendments (up to 40%), roots of trees and shrubs were consistently larger in unamended soils, and the textural difference between the amended and natural soil seemed to actually limit roots to the area of their planting holes.
The trick to a lifetime of good effective gardening is to stay flexible. Remember, if you don’t keep growing, you really won’t be growing.