Myths About Straw And Hay In The Garden

What is the difference between straw and hay? I am always surprised at all of the misinformation that is spread whenever discussions start about using straw or hay in the garden. Which one has more weeds? Do they improve soil? Are lingering herbicides a problem? Should either be used in the garden?

The answers to these questions are quite simple if you first eliminate the myths and that is what I’m going to do in this post.

Myths About Straw And Hay In The Garden
Myths About Straw And Hay In The Garden, source: Bob Dluzen

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What is Bagged Garden Soil?

As part of my research on soil products I became aware of the fact that most garden soil is not garden soil. If it is not soil what is it?

What is in bagged soil - is it really soil?
What is in bagged soil – is it really soil?

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Does Clay Improve Sandy Soil?

Sandy soil can be a difficult place to garden. It dries out quickly. It lacks nutrients. The amount of microbial life is very low. But it is easy to dig. It is claimed that clay can be added to sandy soil to improve it’s qualities but does this really work?

Adding clay to sand is a popular technique in some places like Australia and China, but it is not used very much in North America. Why is that?

There are many different kinds of clay – which one is best?

Does Clay Improve Sandy Soil?
Does Clay Improve Sandy Soil?

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Till vs No-Till – Which Is Better For Your Garden

I started gardening a long time ago and at that time tilling was standard practice. Most gardeners did not have a tiller so they did it by hand with a shovel. In some circles the idea of not tilling started to make waves. My first introduction was Ruth Stout’s no-till garden. Just cover everything with straw. Better for the soil and a whole lot less work. No-till became more popular in agriculture in the mid 1990 but few gardeners followed suit. Even today, many gardeners have never heard of the technique and continue the practice of spring tilling.

No-till is claimed to be better for soil and the environment since it releases less carbon dioxide into the air.

I have been promoting this idea in gardening circles for 15 years or more and slowly the idea is catching on with gardeners, but it might be time to take a step back and have a close look at the claimed benefits of no-till because science now has a lot more data on this.

Till vs No-till - Which Is Better For Your Garden
Till vs No-till – Which Is Better For Your Garden

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Are Jumping Worms and Giant Worms Real & Other Earthworm Myths

Gardeners talk about earthworms as if they are all one species but there are over 3,000 earthworms on earth. Some burrow, some small, some jump or at least we call them jumping worms. There are also stories of giant three foot worms, but do they really exist?

We think they are good for our garden because they build better soil but the same earthworms are also very destructive to natural places.

And then there is the age old story about cutting worms in half to get two worms – is that true?

Giant Gippsland earthworm, Megascolides australis, credit: u/zZBluewalrusZz
Giant Gippsland earthworm, Megascolides australis, credit: u/zZBluewalrusZz

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Perlite vs Vermiculite – Which Soil Additive is Better?

Perlite and Vermiculite are both used as soil additives and they seem to do the same thing. They make soil lighter, hold water and nutrients, and increase drainage. If they are so similar, why do we need both? In this post I will compare the two products and make it clear when and why you should use these soil amendments.

Perlite vs Vermiculite - Which Soil Additive is Better?
Perlite vs Vermiculite – Which Soil Additive is Better?

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Perlite Myths – Should It Be Used in Gardens and Potted Plants?

Perlite is used a lot in horticulture and can be found in many soilless mixes. There are concerns about fluoride and aluminum toxicity which can be harmful to plants, but how big of a problem is this?

Lots of people recommend the use of perlite in gardens, especially for raised beds. Is that a good idea?

This post will look at the truth about perlite.

Perlite Myths - Should it be Used in Gardens and Potted Plants?
Perlite Myths – Should it be Used in Gardens and Potted Plants?, Credit: Grower Experts

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Buying Soil Probiotics (Microbes) – Are They Beneficial, Effective or Nonsense?

The market is being flooded by new products offering all kinds of soil microbes. Many companies call them “beneficial” and others call them “effective”. Specialty products like mycorrhizal fungi, probiotics and bacteria for degrading lawn thatch are now available. There are even probiotics to speed up your compost pile.

The market is still sorting out the terminology for these products but I see the name probiotics used more. If they are good for your gut, why would they not also be good for your soil?

What do these products really do in the garden and are they worth buying?

Buying Soil Probiotic Microbes - Are They Beneficial, Effective or Nonsense?
Buying Soil Probiotic Microbes – Are They Beneficial, Effective or Nonsense?, credit Youth & Earth

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Soil Moisture Meters – Do They Work – Should You Use Them?

I see soil moisture meters for sale all over the place and now there are numerous brands listed on Amazon. A lot of people must be buying them, but do they work? Are they accurate enough? Should you use soil moisture meters to determine when to water your plants?

Let’s have a close look at this garden device.

Soil Moisture Meters - Do They Work - Should You Use Them?
Soil Moisture Meters – Do They Work – Should You Use Them?

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Effective Microorganisms vs Beneficial Microorganisms – Should You Use Them in the Garden?

There is a lot of talk these days about Effective Microorganisms and Beneficial Microorganisms and at times the terms are interchanged. In this post I want to sort out the difference between them and also look at how they can be used in the garden.

Are these microbes something gardeners should be adding to their garden and potted plants?

Effective Microorganisms vs Beneficial Microorganisms - Should You Use Them in the Garden?
Effective Microorganisms vs Beneficial Microorganisms – Should You Use Them in the Garden?, credit: Byju’s

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Selecting the Best Potting Soil and Potting Mix

While creating some videos about potting soil (links below) I reviewed a lot of commercial products, looking at both ingredients and marketing claims. What a mess out there! It’s no wonder gardeners are confused when they go out an buy a potting mix. I created this post to try and bring some clarity to the situation.

I will go through a process of selecting a good product while pointing out the important issues and showing you what marketing gibberish you can ignore. This discussion applies to potting soil for houseplants, outdoor containers and starting seeds.

Selecting the Best Potting Soil and Potting Mix, credit: Pistils Nursery
Selecting the Best Potting Soil and Potting Mix, credit: Pistils Nursery

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Is Soil an Antidepressant – Does it Make You Feel Good?

The meme pictured below has been making the rounds on social media and it gets quick acceptance by readers. As gardeners we all know that being in the garden or going for a walk in nature makes us feel good. Finally science agrees with us and has even found the root cause for these feelings of euphoria: serotonin.

People agree with the meme quickly because it supports their exiting beliefs but they have no basis for their existing beliefs.

But let’s face it – a meme is not scientific proof. What does the science really say?

Is Soil an Antidepressant - Does it Make You Feel Good?
Is Soil an Antidepressant – Does it Make You Feel Good?

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