Garden Products You Should NOT Buy

There are virtually no regulations on gardening products. Manufacturers can say just about anything about their products even if the claims are not true. They don’t need to back up their claims with scientific evidence. As a result of this, there are useless products on the market. Some don’t work at all, and some are just bad ideas.

Over the years I have written about many such products. This post is a list of all of those products, making it easy for you to find them. For more information on any item, just click on the title link.

Bone meal organic fertilizer
Bone meal organic fertilizer

Bone Meal Organic Fertilizer

Bone meal is a organic fertilizer that is routinely recommended for gardens and especially for planting bulbs. It is a good source of phosphorus but most gardens have enough phosphorus. Most gardeners should not be adding phosphorus.




Jiffy pellets do not decompose
Jiffy pellets do not decompose

Jiffy Peat Pellets

Jiffy peat pellets, also called Jiffy pellets and Jiffy-7, are a convenient way to start seeds. Just add water to the small pellets and they expand, ready for us. This all sounds like a good idea, but how well do plants grow? Are the pellets bio-degradable in the garden?




vitamin b1 for plants
Vitamin B1 for plants

Vitamin B1 for Plants

Vitamin B1 is that miracle drug that makes all plants grow bigger especially after transplanting. It is added to several different kinds of fertilizer and plant additives. Guess what – it doesn’t work.




landscape fabric - weed barrier
Landscape fabric – weed barrier

Landscape Fabric – Weed Barrier Cloth

Landscape fabric, weed barrier and weed barrier fabric are names for the same product. They are advertised to keep weeds out of the garden, but they don’t work. They also prevent water from reaching your plant roots.




square foot gardening
Square foot gardening box

Square Foot Gardening Box

The idea of square foot gardening has become popular over the last few years and some of the underlying concepts of the this gardening technique make sense. Buying a plastic box to do this kind of gardening makes NO sense at all.




fish fertilizer
Fish fertilizer

Fish Fertilizer – Is it Worth Buying?

Fish fertilizer is reported to offer special benefits due to the proteins and oils, but your plants can’t use these until they are converted to nutrients in the soil–lust like any other organic fertilizer. On a $/lb nitrogen basis, fish fertilizer is a ridiculous price. Unless you have cheap access to fish, other organic fertilizers are a much better buy and offer the same benefits.



anvil secateurs (pruners)
Anvil secateurs (pruners)

Anvil or Bypass Secateurs

There are two types of secateurs, also called pruners; bypass and anvil. If you are using an anvil pruner for most of your pruning needs – you are using the wrong tool.




electronic soil pH meter
Soil pH meter

Soil pH Testers

Soil pH testers that are sold for garden use do not have enough accuracy to be of much help.




mycorrhizae fungi
Mycorrhizae fungi

Mycorrhizal Fungi Inoculant Products

There is no doubt that mycorrhizae play an important role in plant growth. They grow naturally in your soil and you don’t need to buy them for your garden.




Hand garden cultivator
Hand garden cultivator

Hand Garden Cultivator

This garden tool is designed for weeding and loosening the surface of your soil. You see them everywhere and I always wondered why people buy them??? I’ve never found any use for them.




Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria)
Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria)

Invasive Plants

This is a list of invasive plants you should never, never, never add to your garden–unless you want them everywhere.





Blossom end rot in tomatoes
blossom end rot in tomatoes

Blossom End Rot Sprays

Blossom End Rot is not caused by a calcium deficiency, as believed by most people. Consequently Blossom End Rot sprays that apply calcium can not work. See the post on the real cause of Blossom End Rot for details.




Hummingbird Nectar Concentrate Perky-pet
Hummingbird Nectar Concentrate Perky-Pet

Hummingbird Nectar Food

Hummingbird nectar food is easy and cheap to make and you don’t need the red colored dye. There is no point in buying a commercial product.





Miracle-Gro orchid media
Miracle-Gro orchid media

Orchid Media in White Plastic Bags

This orchid product has the consistency of soil, and is far too fine for growing orchids, which need a very airy chunky media. If you can’t see inside the bag don’t buy it.




Sunlight calculator
Sunlight calculator

Sunlight Calculator

The sunlight calculator is a fancy electronic way to look at the shady areas in your garden. You can easily do the same thing with paper and pencil – I’ll show you how.




Dog Rocks
Dog Rocks

Dog Rocks

Dog Rocks are sold to reduce the nitrates in drinking water, thereby reducing burnt lawn spots from your dog. They do not work!




Miracle-Gro Orchid Plant Food Mist
Miracle-Gro Orchid Plant Food Mist

Miracle-Gro Orchid Plant Food Mist

Miracle-Gro Orchid Plant Food Mist is a foliar spray for orchids. Foliar sprays do not work well on orchids and this is an extremely expensive way to buy fertilizer. I’ll show you how to save $2,440.

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59 thoughts on “Garden Products You Should NOT Buy”

  1. I’ve been hearing quite a bit about the benefits of Insect Frass lately, and how it “protects your plants” by triggering their immune response etc etc.

    Good sir, is this a gardening product to buy or not?

    • I have not looked at it in detail. If someone makes such claims – ask them to present a link to the scientific study that confirms the fact.

      my guess – it is probably a good organic source of nutrients, and not much more.

  2. Hey Robert,
    My name is Jim Loar and I am the creator of Oregon Forestry Laboratory Christmas Tree Preserver. I just watched you on UTUBE regarding Christmas tree care. Actually several years ago the National Christmas Tree Association gave a grant to a northwest university to test tree preservers vs water. 5 trees were used for each product and for water alone. The test ran 28 days. At the end of the test the 5 trees in water alone lost 33.2% of their needles. The 5 trees in our preserver only lost 10.5% and had the top score in the test. Also, our trees were judged best for overall quality, beating water again. A consumer group was brought in to judge the trees and they gave our trees an even higher rating. It’s a good preserver, Robert, and I would like to send you a dozen packets for you and your friends to test. It should be an interesting test for you. I have tweaked the formula a couple of times and it’s better. Let your followers know the test showed a tree will soak up 65% of all the water it uses the very first week. One of the ingredients in my formula is polymer beads which will soak up to 400 times their size and that will protect the tree stand from going dry which is a huge problem in the industry.

    Happy New Year Robert,

    • You did send me those results.

      1) “our preserver only lost 10.5% and had the top score” – that is not correct – statistically two preservers had he lowest number – that is what the “c” indicates.
      2) After 21 days the tree preservers were not any better than water.
      3) how would I do that test? I would need to set up at least a dozen Christmas trees and have 6 controls and 6 treated. Then I would need to redo the test with other species.
      4) You sent me the results of that study. What you sent me is a photocopy of a piece of paper with no heading and no indication as to who produced the information. A second piece of paper says “Not for publication”. We don’t know the details of the study, who did it, or what the results were. No conclusions from the researchers. Without this being published, at the very least on proper letterhead by the researches it provides no value.
      5) Polymer beads do soak up water very well – but then they tend to hold on to that water and not make it available to the plant.
      6) Polymer beads eventually degrade to for polyacrylamide which is a strong carcinogen and we still don’t know how damaging it is to the environment.

      If you want to use that study as evidence get the authors to publish it a scientific journal, or at least in a National Christmas Tree Association publication.

      If you provide the names of the researchers I can contact them to get the information.

  3. When you say “Fish Fertilizer” are you talking about products like Alaska Fish Fertilizer which has a NPK rating of 5-1-1? What is a cheaper alternative?

  4. Can you start a FB page for a “Gardening Mythbusters” if there isn’t one already? Better yet, want to do a TV/Youtube show? I can be your co-host. 🙂

  5. I might add to the list garden hoses with zinc end fittings. A great many manufacturers are producing hoses with zinc fittings that have a “gold” flashing to make them appear to be made of brass. They are not made of brass and when such zinc comes in contact with other types of metals and water intervenes the result is the rapid corrosion of the zinc fitting and after a very brief time you will have junk.

  6. No use for garden cultivator?
    I agree that it’s probably not the best tool for weeding.
    Try mixing potting soil or mixing small volumes of concrete with a garden cultivator. It works for breaking up a root ball too. It can work well for digging small holes in both soft and hard soils.
    Weeding? Not so great. I often use a butcher knife.

  7. There is a new product called Organic Pro GRG or some such thing promoted by LESCO, which apparently has 50 percent composted pog manure and some organic stuff and soil beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizae, pattelised for ease of application. Recommended rate is 5-10 pound per 100 square ft of lawn, repeated monthly. Wonder if you have any comment on this! thank you!

    • The organic material is always good, they microbes a waste of money, and the less processing the better for the environment.

  8. I’m fine with the concept of biosolids, but I read that the overabundance of microplastics is now compromising their usefulness. “Fields of plastic glistening in the sun” is a phrase that sticks in the mind!

  9. I just read your article on Mycorrhizal Fungi and i know a lot of people who swear by it in many communities. Ive had people say if there are few things they would use in their garden it would be MYCOs and Avos

      • Ask the company why they no longer guarantee your trees planted with it for 5 yrs. I worked at a garden centre when they first introduced mycorrhiza. We got the spiel and had to push a box with every tree sold. They just wanted to hook us.

  10. I use the hand cultivator to remove pebbles from my soil. Just because you don’t have a use for it doesn’t mean that other people don’t.

      • It’s great for dealing with the worm farm (lifting the top bedding) and pulling out bindweed by the roots. I use it hard to reach, small places for pulling weeds or spreading compost.

  11. The article on DEET fails to mention that it’s a carcinogen and neurotoxin. So the somewhat smug-sounding statement “do you want to catch Zika” should perhaps be asking “do you want to have cancer”?

    I live right next to an 18,000 acre salt marsh and I’ve had excellent results with sprays made from essential oils like cedar and others. No, they don’t last as long as DEET – you have to reapply frequently. But you won’t get some terrible disease years later.

    Before dismissing these fears as irrational, consider that the United States is in the midst of a massive cancer epidemic as we speak. We have more cancer per capita than any other place on this Earth. I am living with chronic health issues from contracting cancer at age 20 and my sister got it at age 40 and no one back to our great-grandparents in the family ever had cancer before.


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