Soil pH Testers-Are They Accurate?

Every gardening book and web site recommends that you get your soil tested and one of the main tests is for pH. You can get a professional lab to do the test, or you could use one of the convenient soil pH test kits made for gardeners.  How useful and accurate are the results of such tests? It is more complicated than you think. Let’s have a close look.

soil pH tester
soil pH test kit – colored dyes, source: BBC Gardening Blog

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Myths About Using Fall Leaves in the Garden

Fall leaves are a great resource for the garden but there are some problems in the way they are used. Should they be left on the lawn? Should you compost infected leaves like maples with black spots. Will too many leaves kill your plants? Do leaves rob soil of nitrogen? Let’s have a look at these and other myths.

Two kids jumping into a pile of leaves
Fall leaves are a great addition to the garden, source: lecates

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Winter Tasks for the Gardener

Its cold and the snow is blowing. All you want to do is get out in the garden, play in the soil and smell some flowers. Even weeding would be a pleasure this time of year. I have good news for you. This blog is chocked full of winter gardening activities you can enjoy right now.

Don’t wait until spring – start gardening now and chase those winter doldrums away.

Clematis Betty Corning, by Robert Pavlis
Clematis Betty Corning, by Robert Pavlis

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Will Electroculture Grow Better Plants?

Electroculture is one of the hottest new gardening techniques, or at least that is what social media wants you to believe when they say things like, “Electroculture gardening is a cutting-edge and fascinating method of plant cultivation”. It has actually been around for a long time and that should be a clue. If it works so well why is agriculture not using the technique? Maybe it is too difficult to implement on a large scale and is best suited to smaller back yards? Let’s have a closer look.

Will Electroculture Grow Better Plants?
Will Electroculture Grow Better Plants?

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Korean Natural Farming (KNF) – What is it? Does it work?

I have been aware of Korean Natural Farming (KNF) for some time but never had a close look at it. KNF is not very popular in North America but apparently it and other forms of Natural Farming are popular in Asia. It is time to have a close look at KNF. What is it and does it work?

Korean Natural Farming (KNF) - What is it? Does it work?
Korean Natural Farming (KNF) – What is it? Does it work?

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The Myth of Clay Pot Heaters – Do They Work?

Homeowners and DIYers call them clay pot heaters while commercial outlets make them sound fancy using terms like Tea Light Oven, Ceramic Radiators or Terracotta Candle Heaters. Fancy ones on Etsy will run you $300 US? DIY options can be made for $15.

This idea may have started on TickToc a number of years ago and it is still being promoted to heat rooms, trailer homes and greenhouses. If you need to heat a space at a low cost, clay pot heaters might fit the bill – but do they work?

The Myth of Candle Clay Pot Heaters - Do They Work?
The Myth of Candle Clay Pot Heaters – Do They Work?

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Growing Orchids in Water Culture – Is It A Good Idea?

I first came across water culture for orchids about 5 years ago. My immediate reaction was horror. I’ve been growing orchids for over 30 years and the thing that kills more orchids than anything else is overwatering. Now people suggest submersing the roots in water full time – that’s crazy – or is it?

Some people seem to be able to grow them well in water. The picture below is a large glass vessel containing several phalaenopsis orchids in water culture and they seem to be doing well. I am also part of a Facebook group dedicated to orchid water culture and I have personally tried both full and semi-water culture. In this post I will review the pros and cons of the technique and give you my impressions. I will answer the question, is this a good technique for growing orchids?

Growing Orchids in Water Culture - Is it A Good Idea?
Growing Orchids in Water Culture – Is it A Good Idea?

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Fabric Pots (Grow Bags) vs Plastic Pots – Which is Better?

Fabric pots (aka grow bags) are becoming very popular in home gardens as some gardeners are moving away from plastic pots. Manufacturers of fabric pots claim a number of benefits like better root growth, and cooler conditions for roots, but are these claims valid? The plants you buy at nurseries are still being sold in plastic pots and that industry is always looking for ways to grow plants faster. If fabric was better for plants would the industry not use them?

Will your plants grow better in grow bags? Should you stick with plastic or move on to fabric?

Fabric Pots vs Plastic Pots - Which is Better?
Fabric Pots vs Plastic Pots – Which is Better?, credit: Gardenuity

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Best Way to Fix Root Bound Plants, Before Planting

Many plants purchased from nurseries are root bound, also called pot bound, and the internet provides a variety of suggestions for dealing with this problem. Slice the sides, cut the bottom off, butterfly them or don’t do anything at all. Which method is best?

Is the best fix for this problem different for different kinds of plants? Should trees be treated the same perennials or annuals?

Let’s see what the science says.

Best Way to Fix Root Bound Plants, Before Planting
Best Way to Fix Root Bound Plants, Before Planting

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Should You Prune Suckers on Tomatoes?

To prune or not to prune suckers on tomatoes – the age old debate continues – until now!

There are two distinct camps here. Some people prune suckers on tomatoes so that they end up with a single stem and they claim that is best. Others don’t prune suckers at all and they claim their method is best. And then there are the ones that sit on fence and sucker to two or three stems. In this blog I’ll tell you the best way to prune tomatoes.

Should You Prune Suckers on Tomatoes?
Should You Prune Suckers on Tomatoes?, source: Sixteen Acres

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Plant Partners: Science-Based Companion Planting – Book Review

I have written about companion planting several times and have concluded that most recommended companions, either don’t work, or there is no scientific support for them. When the book, “Plant Partners: Science-Based Companion Planting Strategies for the Vegetable Garden” was released I was definitely intrigued because all prior books on the subject are mostly myths and definitely not based on science.

Jessica Walliser, the author, was kind enough to provide a copy for review. Does this book finally provide a sound set of recommendations for companion planting?

Plant Partners: Science-Based Companion Planting - Book Review
Plant Partners: Science-Based Companion Planting – Book Review

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Does Gravel in Pots and Containers Increase Drainage?

Plant roots don’t do well sitting in wet soil, so drainage is key to healthy plants. Many books and web sites recommend the addition of stones, pebbles, or pot chards in the bottom of pots to increase drainage. This makes so much common sense that many gardeners believe it.

It is a myth. Adding stones or other bulky material in the bottom of a pot does NOT increase drainage. Scientists have known this for 100 years or more.

In this post I will explain why this does not work, I’ll discuss some other common myths related to drainage and I’ll show you how to increase drainage in ways that work.

Does Gravel in Pots and Containers Increase Drainage?
Does Gravel in Pots and Containers Increase Drainage? source: North Dakota State University

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