We’ve all heard them — those garden expressions that we take as reality. After all, if boxers have been stating something for years, then it must be true, correct? Not too fast. Though your grandparent or neighbor may mean well, there are a number of oft-repeated myths that need to be debunked. Do any of these sound familiar to you?
1. Every tree requires a mulch ring. I hear this one a great deal from my clients. They seem surprised when I do not create a ring around each tree, with mulch piled high around the base. Mulch rings are utilized to protect the tree from series trimmers when it’s young, as well as to maintain precious moisture around the tree roots — right? Well, that’s the historic reason.
Actually, mulch rings, even aside from being unattractive, can make more issues than they’re supposed to fix. The majority of the tree roots grow out well past the tree’s drip line, so piling mulch 2 feet around the back won’t do much to conserve water in which the tree actually needs it. And series trimmers? It’s not that difficult to carefully cut or mow around a tree, preventing damage to the tree. If you are the one mowing or trimming, simply be careful, and if you hire a yard crew, explain what you want and how you need it done.
2. Soil is soil. No, no! This is a really bad myth, and one that needs to be dispelled immediately. All soils aren’t created equal, and if you apply the wrong soil for the plants, you are going to create an inhospitable environment for them from the get-go.
The very first rule of thumb would be to never use soil dug up from the ground for your interior houseplants — that kind of soil won’t ever drain the correct way for inside plants. Next, if you have specialty plants, like orchids, cacti or palms, understand that each one of these requires a different kind of soil to thrive.
When purchasing plants, ask the garden centre staff what kind of soil that plant needs, and make certain to group plants with like requirements together on your own garden. Plants like cacti and succulents need well-drained loose soil; hostas and impatiens need soil that holds a little bit of water (not soggy, though); hydrangeas and azaleas prefer soil that’s on the acidic side.
3. I really don’t have a green thumb. All this means is that you probably don’t understand what a plant needs, starting with the soil. Generally, plants need a certain amount of sunlight per day and water each week, and the suitable soil.
Start with some easy-care plants in tiny amounts, and get to understand those plants’ needs well before adding to your own collection. Easy-care plants will provide you a sense of achievement, boosting your confidence to try more. For indoor plants start with pothos or sansevieria, and for outside plants, consider Knock Out roses, cacti or evergreens like boxwood.
4. You must stake trees. It is different, but generally speaking, no. If you are planting a young tree in a highly windy area or on a slope, go ahead and loosely stake the tree to keep it from falling over as it has established. Otherwise allow the tree go it alone. Light breezes create the tree sway slightly from side to side, letting the tree’s roots to grow deeper to stabilize it. If you need to stake it, don’t forget to remove the bets after the first growing season. It’s a bit tough love, however your tree will thank you later.
Jackson & Perkins
5. If a plant is wilted, it requires water. Not necessarily. On hot days think of a wilted plant much exactly the same as a panting dog. It’s the plant’s way of saying, “Whew, it’s hot out here.” If you become aware of a plant wilting one afternoon, check it the following morning. If it’s still wilted in the cooler morning hours, go ahead and water. And keep in mind, water more deeply and less frequently, directing the water down by the bottom of the plant instead of to the plant leaves. Deep watering will encourage deeper roots, causing a much healthier, more drought-tolerant plant.
Jocelyn H. Chilvers
6. If a small fertilizer is good, then a great deal of fertilizer is much better. Major mistake. Always read the package directions when using any fertilizer, as overapplying can lead to quite a few plant health issues. Some plants, like morning glories, will develop lush foliage but few flowers if overfertilized. Worse, too much fertilizer can increase salt from the soil to unhealthy levels, stunting development or draining the roots.
Use the recommended amount of fertilizer and then fertilize on the recommended program (once a week or two once a month, for instance).
Margie Grace – Grace Design Associates
7. Desert plants do not need water. A version of this is, “I need a no-maintenance garden.” Here is the truth: desert plants need water, and there is no such thing as a no-maintenance backyard. Plants are living things, and if a plant like an agave needs much less water than, say, impatiens, it requires water, especially in the very first weeks after planting or during an extended drought. Therefore, if you are a man or woman who doesn’t need to become a servant to your backyard, alter your thinking from “no maintenance” to “low maintenance.”
More: What to Do in Your Garden Now