Garden Myths - Learn the truth about gardening

Sunlight Calculator – Another Product You Don’t Need

Someone on a social site asked if anyone knew of a light meter that would measure the amount of light in their garden. I burst out in laughter thinking this was a great joke. Then someone posted a link to just such a product; the Sunlight Calculator. I cried. Are people really dumb enough to buy such a product?

Sunlight Calculator, a product you don't need

Sunlight Calculator, a product you don’t need

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10 Top Gardening Myths of 2016

2016 was a banner year for Garden Myths. We had over 1 million visitors this year, attracted by 34 new posts,  covering a wide range of topics. To celebrate the new year I have selected the 10 most important posts of the year and present them again for your viewing pleasure.

10 top garden myths of 2016

10 top garden myths of 2016

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Sand and Clay Don’t Make Concrete

What happens when you add sand to clay soil? Many people claim that this will make concrete and others say that it results in soil that is easier to dig. How can there be such large discrepancies about something that is so easy to test?

Why is this a problem? Gardeners with heavy clay find it difficult to dig, so they want to loosen it up. Sand is very easy to dig and it makes a lot of common sense to add it, to create a looser soil.

Soil texture triangle - sand and clay soil

Soil texture triangle – sand and clay soil

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Compost Tea – Does it Work?

Compost tea is all the rage but does it really work? Research studies so far have produced mixed results. A 2007 meta data review on compost tea by Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott concluded that “Clearly, the science is not strong for aerated tea use on crop plants, much less on lawns, shrubs, and trees”.

There seems to be a lot of work done in this area but much of it is not published in peer reviewed journals and most of it has been done in labs and greenhouses, not in the field. Until the work is repeated in the field we can’t conclude it works in gardens.

The other problem is that controls have been poorly selected. For example, in one study (ref 3) they compared ACT compost tea to water, using lettuce that had been under-fertilized. Guess what, compost tea improved growth. This only proves that adding nutrients, when they are deficient, will improve growth. The study never compared compost tea to adding nutrients in other ways.

In this post I will review one study that compared the use of compost to compost tea.

Effects of compost tea on the growth of trees, by Garden Myths (data from reference 2)

Effects of compost tea on the growth of trees, by Garden Myths (data from reference 2)

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Mulch – How Does It Affect Soil?

Mulching the garden is a very common recommendation. Mulch will reduce the number of weeds and it will hold moisture in the soil but how does mulch affect the quality of soil?

There are lots of claims that mulch improves soil but have you ever seen numbers to validate them? I haven’t either. How exactly does mulch improve soil? It should add organic matter, but how much? It should increase the number of microbes, but is this really true? Unfortunately, almost nobody studies landscapes and gardens because no one will fund the work.

Luckily I was able to find one very good research paper that looked at this exact problem.

Effect of fertilizer and mulch on soil, by Garden Myths (based on reference 1)

Effect of fertilizer and mulch on soil, by Garden Myths (based on reference 1)

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