Last week we reached the 15 million visitor mark on this blog and I want to thank all of you for supporting this site.
The very first post was called, What Does Organic Mean, and it was posted on September 6, 2012. I was getting fed up with all the myths I was seeing in gardening literature and online and thought that I might be able to change a few minds. At the time, I figured I had enough material for about 100 myths. I have now posted 382 articles (not including the Garden Fundamentals blog) and have another 157 drafts started. I won’t run out of material any time soon!
I’d like to thank you for reading my posts and I want to ask for your help. Go to your favorite social media outlet and post a link to this post. Let others know how much you like this site. Let’s get to 20 million soon.
To celebrate I thought I would go back in time and review some of the most important articles.
Most Influential – Plants Don’t Clean the Air in Your Home
When I first wrote about this I couldn’t find a single article online that disputed the fact that plants clean the air in our home. I didn’t believe it was true so I looked up the original NASA study that everyone used to validate the claim. I analyzed it thoroughly and concluded that it didn’t support the idea, nor did it even make such a claim. The thousands of other authors that claimed plants clean the air had never read the original study they were referencing – surprise!
Over the years, I have looked at every study I could find about this topic and even communicated with some of the researchers. The scientific community does not believe plants clean the air in our homes or offices.
The satisfying part of this story is that now you can easily find articles saying exactly what I claimed years ago and some even link to my original post, which is still one of my most popular posts. Unfortunately, many other authors just repeat the myth because it gets online clicks.
Most Obvious – Planting by the Moon Works
For most posts I research through scientific studies and try to understand what science says, but in this case the logic is so obvious that you don’t have to do any science. Planting by the moon makes zero sense once you understand the whole world gets a full moon on the same day and clearly we should not all plant beans at the same time.
What I found most interesting is that many of the comments come from people who strongly believe this works. There are even books printed annually to give you specific dates for following the cycles of the moon. It really demonstrates how strong beliefs can be even in the face of zero supporting science and zero logic.
I have looked for scientific proof, but there isn’t any.
Most Popular – Citronella Mosquito Plants
This was one of my earliest posts and it has led to several other posts about mosquito control. It was also the most popular one for quite some time, always at the #1 position.
A simple Google search tells you right away that the so-called citronella mosquito plant being sold by many nurseries is not the citronella plant. They look nothing like each other. I wonder, are nurseries unable to use Google, or do they not care about selling the wrong plant?
The eucalyptus tree is the only plant grown in North America that keeps mosquitoes away and to be effective, you need a grove of them.
A key point here is that a plant is very much different than extracted oils from the plant. The later may work in some cases, the former does not.
Most Controversial – Compost Tea
I have written several articles about compost tea and they always get some comments from angry people who think I’m an idiot – calling me names in the comments gets you deleted. Others just disagree with me and relate some anecdotal evidence they have that does not prove anything. Others post links to actual studies, most of which prove that compost tea grows better plants than water alone – big deal! We know that compost tea contains nutrients and that nutrients make plants grow.
There are two ways to make compost tea; aerobic and anaerobic. What I find amusing is that the people who do it aerobically make the claim that anaerobic tea is made wrong, and the ones doing it anaerobically say their way is the only correct way. The truth is that you can do it either way and neither way has very good science to support its use.
The group that is most antagonistic are followers of Dr. Ingham who is a strong promoter of compost tea. They tell me she has done all kinds of studies to prove it works – so I ask for the studies. I have yet to see even one of her studies on compost tea. Main stream science does not support the use of compost tea except in some special cases.
My response to anyone who thinks my conclusions are wrong is to ask for a scientific study that shows compost tea works better than just using compost. It has been several years now and I am still waiting for the proof.
Most Surprising – Companion Planting
I know some of my readers think I dream things up and then look for proof of my beliefs. Nothing is further from the truth. I do have an opinion when I start a blog post, but I do look at the science I find and let it guide the post.
I’ve read about companion planting for 30 years and it always made perfect sense to me, at least in a general sense. Growing some plants next to a crop should benefit that crop. I didn’t really buy into the long list of combinations found in popular gardening literature, but surely some of them must work? A couple of years ago I did a deep dive into the subject.
I came to the conclusion that any claim about companion planting as a general method is useless. You have to look at each combination individually. I have not looked at most combinations – there are thousands of them, but almost all of the ones I have researched either don’t work, or they have no science to support them. Garlic is an exception and it does keep some pests away.
Most Inconclusive – Adding Sand to Clay
Does adding sand to clay soil cause concrete? It can’t cause concrete because there is no cement, but when people say this they mean “hard soil”. Some people claim they tried it and it made hard soil. Lots of people have tried it and it helped loosen up the soil. It is commonly used in Europe, especially the UK, in the Eastern US and I have used it in 3 different gardens. Each time it made digging clay easier.
The anti-camp claim there is a study showing it forms hard soil, but in 20 years of asking for a reference to that study not a single person has found it. If you find it, let me know.
There is some theory that says equally distributed sand and clay results in more compacted soil, but that is not what happens in practice since the sand is not even distributed. Instead it coats clumps of clay and keeps them from re-forming larger clumps.
I have yet to find a single study that looked at this and measured the harness of the resulting soil.
Most Unbelieved – The Truth About Roundup
The misinformation about Roundup (glyphosate) is fantastic. The majority of the general public and many governments have been conned into believing this is the devil. It must be the most hated chemical on earth but the truth is that it is one of the safest ones we have ever created.
When I write about Roundup truths, I’m called a Monsanto shrill. I guess these people have no knowledge about the subject matter and can’t say anything intelligent so they resort to name calling!
I have been following this controversy for many years and the tide is slowly shifting. Most governments, including the EU, have now acknowledged that glyphosate does not cause cancer. Scientists are in agreement that this is a safe chemical, but the general public is still unconvinced. Unfortunately, governments do what the voters want and not what is best for society, so in Canada at least it will probably remain banned for home use. It may also remain banned in Europe for farmers who have returned to using old technology chemicals that are much more toxic. Society is happy with this move because they don’t care about facts. They would rather hate Monsanto than use a safer product.
Most Tested – Cure for Slugs
I have tested half a dozen preventative methods for slugs and reported on several others. Home remedies just don’t work and that includes egg shells, diatomaceous earth, coffee grounds, ammonia, corn meal and copper. Beer works a bit, but it mostly results in drunk slugs that party all over your plants.
Commercial baits do work and are safe when used properly.
Most Impactful – Natural Ponds Work
Fifteen years ago I wanted to build a natural pond that used a liner, but without pumps, filters or chemicals. Everyone I asked said it would not work, but they could not explain why. So I built it anyway. It works great. No work and almost no algae.
This led to the writing of my first book Building Natural Ponds and the creation of a Facebook Group using the same name. Over the years both have been important drivers in a movement that embraces natural ponds. Millions of happy frogs now live in backyard ponds that follow these methods.
Most Environmental – The Truth About Peat Moss
Harvesting peat moss harms bogs and the process is responsible for the loss of wetlands. I bought into this lie until I looked at the data and wrote this post. Canada supplies much of the North American market with peat moss and we harvest 0.05% of the new moss that grows every year. The reserves are increasing way faster than we are harvesting it. It is not being used up. Most of the lost peat is used for agriculture and forestry. Only 0.4% of the harvested peat is used in horticulture.
The UK is banning the use of peat in horticulture to “save the bogs”. Saving the remaining bogs is a worthwhile, however, these bogs are being lost because the land has been drained for several hundred years, starting with the Romans, to accommodate farmland and buildings. Finland has lots of peat to use for horticulture. Banning peat in horticulture in the UK is misguided and in much of the rest of the world it makes even less sense. Alternatives such as coir are just as bad for the environment.
As we enter an age of environmental awareness we need to learn to properly evaluate alternatives and not just jump based on gut feelings. Historically, society has shown it is unable to do this.
Most DIY – Dish Soap Harms Plants
Many gardeners uses dish soap in DIY mixtures without knowing that it is neither soap, nor is it safe for plants. This is currently one of the top posts and has been in the top 5 of several years. That usually means other blogs are linking to the article, which hopefully means the message is getting out.
If you buy concentrated insecticidal soap it is very cheap and much better than soap or detergent from the kitchen.
Most Valuable – 10 Fertilizer Myths
I have written many posts about the misuse of fertilizer-type products and I recently put the most important ones into one blog post. This post will save you a ton of money.
The most misused product is Epsom salts. In most cases it does nothing for you in the garden, and if it does add magnesium or sulfur to deficient soil, it is an expensive way to add these nutrients. High phosphate products like bloom boosters, bone meal and transplant fertilizers claim to grow more flowers and more roots. That is not true unless you have a phosphate deficiency, which you probably don’t have.