15 Million Visits to Garden Myths – Time to Celebrate

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Robert Pavlis

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.

15 Million Visits to Garden Myths - Time to Celebrate
15 Million Visits to Garden Myths – Time to Celebrate

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!

Plant Science for Gardeners by Robert Pavlis

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.

A Garden Myth is Born – Plants Don’t Purify Air

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.

Does Planting By The Moon Work?

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?

Building Natural Ponds book, by Robert Pavlis

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.

Citronella Plant – Does it Really Keep Mosquitoes Away?

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.

Compost Tea – Does It Work?

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.

Marigolds don’t stop root knot nematodes except in very special cases. Marigolds don’t keep pests out of the garden. The Three Sisters Method doesn’t actually work as claimed.

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.

Companion Planting: Truth or Myth?

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.

Sand and Clay Don’t Make Concrete

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.

The Truth About Roundup and Glyphosate – That Every Gardener Should Know

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.

YouTube video

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.

Secrets to Natural Ponds

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.

Peat and Peat Moss – The True Environmental Story

Is Coir an Eco-friendly Substitute for Peat Moss?

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.

Dish Soap Can Damage Your Plants

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.

10 Fertilizer Myths That Will Save You Money

YouTube video

 

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Robert Pavlis

I have been gardening my whole life and have a science background. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes--I am a plantaholic!

25 thoughts on “15 Million Visits to Garden Myths – Time to Celebrate”

  1. Congratulations on your wonderful work…since doing several bio-blitzes I discovered that the most biodiverse spot on my property was actually not my property, but the often massively disturbed ditches where there is a sharp “dry to wet” gradient. After most of the tadpoles died as a result of recent ditch work, I moved some to a temporary pond and discovered I had moved and saved a whole ecology…like Kandor in the bottle of the old superman comics. So to celebrate, I went and bought your book…because I believe vernal ponds are super important food sources and habitat for many creatures! Thanks so much!

    Reply
  2. Lets start with the premise EVERYTHING wants to live & I mean EVERYTHING, no matter what the conditions, which may range from appalling to ideal.

    Surely Dr Ingram’s COMPOST TEA is little different from spreading compost on the ground & watering it in, after all compost tea is made from compost & water??? So there is probably little difference in the final result.???

    Having said that whatever you plant will want try to live, work with the soil you have got, & grow what likes those conditions, is my mantra at the end of the day

    Reply
    • Compost tea contains less than 1% of the organic matter in a layer of home made mulch.
      It’s homeopathy for plants & any sane person knows homeopathy is next to quackery.

      Reply
  3. I came across your site searching for information about egg sheets in the garden and I have continued to search your site when any other queries need clarification. I felt better when I found out that I am not the only one whose eggshells remain unchanged in my soil.

    Reply
    • The fragments gradually get smaller & smaller but how long it’ll take for mine to be broken down to the point where plants can access the calcium etc is an unknown. Certainly more than 7 years.
      I still put my shells in the compost though (14 shells a week @4g per shell is pretty much 3kg of something added annually which helps in a small way to break up my heavy soil).

      Reply
      • I will continue to dig mine into the soil with my other fruit and vegetable scraps. I know it won’t be doing much, but more importantly there is no harm in it either.

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  4. You are absolutely right about Dr Ingram’s lack of documentation, however, she showed a grass root system that was subjected to her cultural practices. Call me crazy but getting a 3 – 4 ft root system is impressive. I’ve also seen transformations of golf courses and a landscape in Los Vegas that she managed that were quite impressive. So do you say there’s nothing to improving bacteria and fungal communities?
    Again the absence of peer reviewed papers does not minimize the results I’ve seen people accomplish with soil building versus conventional agricultural practices and the volume of actual soil science research is limited or agenda driven.
    Thank you for your reply and let me know when you get pulled to do a landscape restoration or tasked to build a farm out of a wasteland

    Reply
  5. Congrats on your success. I am always conflicted when I read your posts because I find it’s easiest to google search a topic versus doing actual research
    Both my wife and I have been involved in scientific studies where the final outcome has always bee driven toward a desired outcome or if the results were in total conflict with a desired outcome the study was killed. Unless you are reviewing multiple studies it is difficult to eliminate bias and for the most part soil science is limited in studies using non conventional methodology
    You seem to poo poo Dr Ingrham’s compost tea approach outright. I admit that the hassle of brewing an aerobic compost tea is beyond my patience but I have found anecdotally that shrubs and trees of mine that were suffering for various reasons responded very well to concoctions meant to feed the soil biology.
    Over the years I have found that feeding soil biology versus fertilizing has resulted in turf and ornamental beds responding better to drought and insect pressure. Can I prove that? Hell no. Yet according to you I am an outlier without validity
    Since you run something of an arboretum I’m sure you have to do cultural assessments. Do you tend to try to focus on improving soil or just feeding the plant standard synthetic fertilizers?
    My point being is although I cannot provide you with peer reviewed research, since we have changed our approach and opt for organic amendments and compost layering my soil has drastically improved.
    I personally hate turf but last year I was forced to improve various parts of my lawn. Just by using organic amendments in conjunction with spraying humic and kelp, the lawn dominated the block and the turf type tall fescue remained green throughout the winter and is amazingly green in March 2022. In fact, people have stopped me on the street to ask my secret and after the rain last week the neighbor said he’s never seen so many earthworms.
    I applaud people who are trying to work with least impact to the soil and with the least reliance on big pharmaceuticals. For the most part, these people do not have the means to publish data. It’s about qualitative results which you totally dismiss. The bigger question for you is if YOU personally were responsible for disputing their procedures how would you do so? I think simply hiding behind the absence of studies is a cop out. If you were doing research to refute compost teas, organic amendments, etc then I would be totally in your camp
    I remember being told by peer reviewed scientific studies that the only thing you need to grow a plant was NPK. Then that was expanded to maybe 14 macros. Last year my brother’s county extension agent said they have probably determined the need of 42 elements essential for plant health. Nobody will ever understand soil science. And even Arsenic in very small amounts is important to plant and human health.
    So while I do find your site useful I think unless you yourself are showing me validated data that you have done, I’ll have to take it as lip service in the same vein as Dr. Ingraham’s compost tea.

    Reply
    • The difference between my approach and Dr. Ingham’s is that I provide you with references that show compost tea does not work. Dr. Ingham does not provide any that show it works.

      I see no reason why I need to have done the studies, in order to report on them. All scientific papers report on past research done by others – that does not invalidate the validity of the research.

      Reply
    • Robert has never said using organic matter to feed the soil is either odd or ineffective, in fact he advocates adding organic matter.
      He has stated on multiple occasions that you aren’t feeding the plants but increasing, replenishing the nutrients within the soil & that it doesn’t matter whether those nutrients come from Monsanto or a muck heap.
      IIRC he’s quite on board with the part mycorrhizal fungi play in making nutrients available to plant roots & thus the need for a healthy proportion of organic matter in the soil.
      I agree with him 100% that “compost teas” are a pointless method when spreading an inch of compost mulch on the surface will introduce significantly more benefit to the growing environment.

      Reply

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