Gardening Myths and Truths
Mulch volcanoes! Mulch volcanoes are a very common mulching technique
where tree mulch is piled high against a tree trunk, giving the
impression of the tree emerging from a mulch cone. This technique
is one of a number of gardening myths that have been fostered by
wives tales, lack of experience, the landscape industry, and misinformation.
Though there are specific reasons for changing each of these myths,
vital plant health, effective gardening effort, and a judicious
use of your time and resources are all good general reasons to de-bunk
these common gardening misconceptions.
Mulching early – Mulching too early and too much is
often done, like the mulch volcanoes described above, because of
misinformation and lack of experience. Mulch is an insulator and
will keep cold soil cool if applied too soon in the spring. Prudent
timing and volume of any mulch after the ground has thoroughly thawed
will ultimately benefit plant roots and the plant itself.
When it comes to soil amendments and chemicals, more is better
– Adding soil amendments, herbicides, and pesticides is striking
a balance between effective benefits and harmful effects. Soil nutrients,
beneficial insects, and other biological factors can be negatively
affected by heavy applications. Optimum plant and soil health will
be gained by following the instructions on any soil additive or
Watering in the daytime – Watering during the day
won't burn leaves, as is commonly thought. However, water applied
during the heat of the day will evaporate significantly. Watering
in the evening or very early morning is most effective as it allows
optimum water retention. Many newer hose nozzles offer a "shower"
mode, which is perfect for this purpose. High-pressure or high-volume
watering will result in substantial water run-off and erode mulch
Staking newly planted trees – Staking a newly planted
tree can help stabilize it in its new planting hole especially on
windy sites, therefore allowing new roots to gain an easier foothold.
However, staking a young tree will also inhibit it from developing
a stronger trunk, which it would normally do moving with the wind.
If you do stake a tree, remove all of the staking material after
the first growing season. Leaving the tree staked much longer will
cause bark injury, prohibit growth, and detract from your tree's
appearance. Remove the trunk wrap from your new tree right after
you plant it as it is only there to protect the trunk during transport;
leaving it on is a moisture and insect trap.
Plant your tree or shrub with the burlap and steel cage
– Planting a new tree or shrub with the burlap and steel cage
is a simple and convenient planting method, especially if you are
planting many trees. Some planters will argue that this method also
keeps the roots intact. However, the burlap material will not permit
easy root expansion, will not integrate the container soil with
the native soil, will hide root problems, and will keep debris in
the planting hole. Consult a co-op extension or arborist society
web page for proper planting methods.
The soil under evergreens is too acidic for other plants
- Evergreens, rhododendrons, and blueberries, to name some plants,
do prefer acidic soil. Dropped evergreen needles can affect soil
acidity, however, it is highly unlikely that it substantially changes
it. There are other sub-surface factors which do effect soil quality,
like rocks and organic material, so test your soil to get a true
reading of its mineral and nutrient content. Then, install plants
that will thrive in those particular soil conditions.
Moss in the lawn requires adding lime – Moss in the
lawn could mean adding lime, but it also could be a symptom of too
much shade, inadequate drainage, or generally poor soil nutrient
levels. Assess these and other possible site factors along with
testing your soil nutrients prior to amending it.
Peat moss is the best soil additive – Peat moss is
a convenient soil amendment and moisture retainer. However, it requires
centuries to produce, is harvested unsustainably and is transported
great distances. Locally produced and properly applied compost,
bark mulch, and fertilizer equal or surpass the benefits of peat
Foliar fertilizer spraying is equally or more effective than
root applications – Spraying fertilizers onto plant leaves
is certainly a convenient method of applying fertilizer. Generally,
the effect is limited compared to applying fertilizer close to the
roots, which will allow more direct nutrient absorption to the plant
via the root system.
The variables that effect a garden location are infinite. Exploring
and being aware of both the immediate and wider range consequences
of your gardening practices will lead to sensible and effective
horticultural methods. Follow gardening practices that provide sustained
optimum plant and soil health.
Grounds by Design – Fine Landscapes is locally owned by Matt
Giroux, who is available for design, gardening, consulting, and
photography on your landscape project. Contact Matt
at 371-7093 with your gardening and landscape questions.