Top 10 Gardening Myths of 2019

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Robert Pavlis

To celebrate the new year, lets look back at the top gardening myths of 2019. These myths were selected based on a number of criteria.

  • Importance to the gardener
  • Popularity based on the number of comments
  • Personal preferences

Coffee Grounds in the Garden – Are They Safe to Use?

Coffee Grounds in the Garden - Are They Safe to Use? These are beans and not grounds, but I love the picture!

Is it safe to use coffee grounds in the garden? Coffee grounds are routinely recommended for the garden but in the last couple of years I’ve seen several articles about the possible harm coffee grounds do to plants and soil. Just because it is free organic material does not mean it is something you should be using.

In this post I will look at several of the claims made agaisnt using coffee grounds in the garden and determine their validity. Read the full story


Willow Water Rooting Hormone – Does It Work?

Willow Water Rooting Hormone - Does It Work?

Willow water rooting hormone is a simple DIY way to get some cheap rooting hormone. Lots of people use it for all kinds of cuttings and many claim that it works. In this post I will have a close look at the realities of willow water for rooting.

Food Science for Gardeners, by Robert Pavlis

If you are not familiar with rooting hormones, have a look at this: Rooting Hormones – What Are They. Read the full story


When Common Sense Clashes with Science

When Common Sense Clashes with Science

What happens when common sense clashes with science?

A lot of gardening information is based on information provided by others. This mostly comes from past experience and common sense. But past experience is largely based on previous common sense. Great, great granddad thought double digging made sense, he tried it, it worked – whatever that means – and it has been passed down through the ages.

What happens when new science provides facts that disagrees with common sense? What do we do? Read the full story


Sheet Mulching (Lasagna Gardening) – Does It Harm Soil?

Sheet Mulching (lasagna gardening) , Photo credit The Real Dirt Blog

Sheet mulching, also called lasagna method or lasagna gardening, is a popular technique for creating a new garden. Some people even use it as an annual mulching system to keep weeds down.

Lots of people claim success with the technique because it does kill grass and weed plants. Others claim that sheet mulching reduces the oxygen levels in the soil, thereby harming the biology in the soil. Which side of the argument is correct? Should you be using sheet mulching in the garden? Read the full story


What is the Best Watering Schedule for Your Garden

What is the Best Watering Schedule for Your Garden?, photo by Dan Hughes

How often should I water? This is one of the most common questions new gardeners ask. It sounds like a good question, and on social media, lots of people will supply an answer.

Microbe Science for Gardeners Book, by Robert Pavlis

They are all wrong.

Read the full story


Plants Do Not Need to Be Fed – Stop Fertilizing!

Which rose fertilizer has the correct NPK?

Everybody tells you that plants need to be fed. Thousands of gardening books and blogs confirm the fact. Fertilizer companies certainly continue to make you feel as if you are letting your plants down if you don’t fertilize. And most nurseries try to push their products at checkout.

I have good news for you. In most garden situations, you do NOT need to fertilize.

The idea that ornamental gardens need fertilizer is a big myth. Read the full story


Are Dandelions Really Important to Bees?

Are Dandelions Really Important to Bees?

I am sure you have seen the memes on social media; Dandelions are the first food for bees. “Don’t pick dandelions and save the honey bee”. How important are these dandelions to bees, and which bees are we talking about? Is it their first food? Do bees actually use the pollen and nectar from dandelions?

Just because social media says its true, does not mean it is. Lets uncover the truth behind this new craze to save the dandelions. Read the full story


Biochar – Does it Really Work in the Garden?

biochar UC DavisBiochar is a special kind of charcoal that seems to have many benefits as a soil amendment. It holds water, acts like a fertilizer and grows bigger plants. While doing all this it is also eco-friendly and sequesters carbon in the soil for many thousands of years. Sounds like a win-win-win.

What is biochar? Are the claimed benefits real? Should gardeners be using this product to amend their soil? Let’s check it out. Read the full story


Potato Towers – Do They Really Produce High Yields?

Potato towers are a hot topic, probably because a lot of people have smaller backyards and they want to produce as much food as they can. The ads are very seductive; “grow 100 pounds of potatoes in a 4 x 4 ft tower. ” And then there are the pictures of someone opening a small container and having dozens of large potatoes falling out. I never knew gardening was so easy.

There are two approaches to finding out if potato towers actually work. One is to look for actual studies that compare potato towers to other forms of growing potatoes and the other is to try and understand how potatoes grow. After all, humans have been growing them for hundreds of years so we do know something about them. I’ll take both approaches in this post. Read the full story


Heirloom Seed Myths – Are They Worth Buying?

heirloom seedsWhat is so special about heirloom seeds? I see a lot of online questions from people looking to source heirloom seeds. Are these seeds really that much better, or is this just another new craze or fad?

People grow their own food mostly to be healthier and they believe heirloom seeds are better for you. Is this true? Do they produce better tasting food, or produce a better yield? What is the real value in heirlooms?

Maybe the attraction to heirloom has more to do with tradition as suggested by this comment; “To the gardeners who love them (heirlooms), it matters that ‘Mortgage Lifter’ tomato came from a man who bred his own tomato plants, selling enough of them to pay off his mortgage”. Read the full story


Photo Credits:

  1. Sheet Mulching (lasagna gardening) , Photo credit The Real Dirt Blog
  2. What is the Best Watering Schedule for Your Garden?, photo by Dan Hughes
  3. Different samples of Biochar, photo from UC Davis Biochar Database
  4. Potato towers made from wood, built by 
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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!

4 thoughts on “Top 10 Gardening Myths of 2019”

  1. Great stuff. There is so much nonsense around about gardening which has no scientific foundation it is great to find a web page that can be trusted for a sound basis for advice. As a retired scientist with experience in both physics and more recently 30+ years in plant physiology ( doctorate degrees in both) I get very frustrates with so much fake ‘information’ being passed around.

  2. Hi Robert: Thank you for the clear headed insights you add to the gardening scene.
    I have a question for you. My son, who works at a gardening centre, told me that gypsum, dug into clay, will improve the tilth of the soil. I garden on sand, so this is not something with which I have had experience, but, have never heard of using gypsum for anything other than pH adjustment. My advice, when questioned about clay soil is, after the initial dig to loosen the deep soil and add amendments, to add organic materials to the surface as a mulch.
    I would appreciate your opinion. Best wishes for the New Year! B.Jackson.

    • Contrary to popular belief, Gypsum does not break up clay soil, except in a special case. In sodic soil, the calcium in gypsum will replace the sodium in clay, which does lead to the clay structure to break apart.

      I agree – get organic matter in clay and it makes a very good soil.

  3. Robert –

    Thank you for your columns – and for your books. I’ve found them entertaining and informative. I tried my first garden this summer (vegetable garden) since I’m now retired and have time to actually be here to take care of a garden. So that I wasn’t entirely innocent when I started, I took a class on gardening. Your columns and books were enjoyed by all – we had a good time discussing “garden myths” in the class. We all ended up more informed and probably better gardeners – although there were some who were going to “test your assumptions” – which was a good sign.
    All in all, your column and books made gardening for several of us more fact based than “oral tradition” based. And easier to understand, and, ultimately, more enjoyable. Proof-validated cause and effect are wonderfully reassuring to a novice gardener.


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