Garden Myths - Learn the truth about gardening

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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Sunscald on Trees – Prevention

It might surprise you to learn that trees do get sunscald or sunburn and the remedy is not an SPF 30 lotion. Sunscald on trees usually happens on the south or south-west exposed bark. The bark is damaged and in severe cases can result in the death of the tree.

Historically, sunscald has been prevented by wrapping or painting the trunk of the tree. Do these preventative methods work? Are they still recommended? Time to have a closer look at the problem.

sunscald on sugar maple tree, prevention, by Robert Pavlis

Sunscald on a sugar maple tree, by Robert Pavlis

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GMO Myths – Understand the Truth About GMO Plants

GMOs are very controversial. It is one reason I have stayed away from the topic in this blog. Instead of discussing the topic in detail, I will present a number of GMO myths and if the reader is interested in more detail they can look at the references. Consider this to be a summary of facts.

If you have formed an opinion on GMOs based what you have read on popular web sites and in newspapers, you have probably reached the wrong conclusion. The anti-GMO movement is strong and based almost entirely on emotion and fear. Science does not back up most of their claims.

GMO Myths - Understand the Truth About GMO Plants

GMO Myths – Understand the Truth About GMO Plants

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Beneficial Pond Bacteria – A Waste of Money

I was reading some gardening Facebook posts and a lady said she buys beneficial pond bacteria for her pond and adds them weekly. WOW! That was news to me. I’ve had a man-made pond for over 8 years that works just fine without added bacteria. I must be missing something important?

Truth be told – I smelled another gardening myth. Let’s have a look.

Beneficial pond bacteria for ponds - koi

Beneficial pond bacteria for ponds – koi

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