The 7 greatest gardening myths, debunked by science

The 7 greatest gardening myths, debunked by science

It has taken me 40 years to find the enjoyment of gardening. Not since sowing a handful of cress seeds right into a compost-filled plastic cup on the age of six had I felt the joys of seeing completely fashioned inexperienced life emerge from brown grime.

Like so many others, the COVID lockdowns turned a possibility to rediscover the wonders of nature simply outdoors the again door. Gardening is the right antidote to doom-scrolling by in the present day’s information – it reconnects us with the perpetual cycle of life, loss of life, and renewal of which we’re all an element. And but for one thing as fantastically easy as sowing, planting, and watering, we people have made gardening terribly sophisticated.

Educated as a medical physician, I do know solely too effectively the right way to bamboozle others with technical phrases – and now as a gardener, I’m befuddled by a forest of gobbledygook and unusual rituals. What’s a perennial? What on earth is mulching? Our grownup egos make us embarrassed to ask.

Previous hand or rookie, I’m prepared to wager you’ve been confused by Latin names, a mysterious time period, or maybe puzzled whether or not you actually do must put ‘crocks’ within the backside of plant pots. Right here I clarify the misunderstandings and pseudoscience that sprout up in gardening quicker than clover.

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1. Utilizing a spade will not assist your soil – it may break it

Soil is probably the most treasured factor in your backyard, but for years it has been mistreated. Digging, we’re informed, will take away weeds, scale back ‘compaction’ by including air or bettering drainage, and enhance soil fertility. Analysis now exhibits that the reverse is definitely true. Farmers world wide are catching on, and much more are ditching their ploughs to modify to extra environment friendly ‘no until’ practices.

The 200g of soil which you can simply maintain in your palms comprises 100 billion micro organism, 5,000 bugs, arachnids, worms, molluscs, and minute fungal filaments that might stretch 100km if laid end-to-end. This mind-blowingly complicated interconnected system of life is what makes soil wholesome and can nourish and shield any plant that units down roots inside it.

Wholesome soil additionally has a spongey construction that crumbles and could be pressed again collectively simply. Air and water freely move by soil’s huge community of microscopic tunnels, sustaining every part that lives inside it. Nevertheless, this structure is left in ruins after work with a spade.

Every slice with a spade severs numerous fungal threads, by which crops obtain vitamins and water, collapses the various tunnels solid by earthworms, and finds sleeping plant-digesting microbes, stimulating them to feed after which launch plumes of greenhouse gases into the air. Soil that has been dug up truly finally ends up extra dense, compressed, and airless (‘compacted’). So be sure that to maintain the spade within the shed, except it’s for planting and transferring crops, or maybe shovelling compost.

As a substitute, shield the soil’s construction and feed its treasured unseen ecosystem (known as the soil ‘meals net’) whereas suppressing weeds and decreasing the necessity for watering by merely ‘mulching’ with natural matter, ideally backyard compost.

‘Mulching’ merely means to put one thing on the floor of the soil. ‘Natural matter’ means any lifeless, decaying or decomposed materials that has come from a dwelling organism (i.e. plant or animal), and may embrace leaves, grass clippings, bark or wooden chippings.

On the boundary between mulch and soil, bugs, tiny bugs, earthworms, and microscopic organisms work to digest this natural materials, which is built-in into soil – there actually is not any must ‘dig in’ something.

2. Pebbles in a plant pot will not alter humidity ranges

Plant pot with pebbles in

© Getty Pictures

Many a home plant struggles with the dry air of a centrally heated residence. Inserting a pot plant in a dish of pebbles and water might look fairly, however does nothing to alter the humidity within the air round their foliage. Neither does spraying a tremendous mist over their leaves, which evaporates in seconds. Put humid-loving tropical crops in a toilet as an alternative.

3. Compost is definitely straightforward to make – and will save the planet

Compost is a surprise meals for soil that supercharges plant progress when laid on its floor. It’s straightforward to make from bizarre backyard and kitchen waste, and by doing so, additionally, you will be doing all of your bit for the planet. Discarded meals ranks excessive within the league desk of local weather crimes. Each kilogram of meals waste you lob into the trash, the equal of about 2kg of carbon dioxide ascends heavenwards from a landfill – the identical as burning a litre of petrol.

Everyone knows that apple cores, vegetable peelings, and bread offcuts all rot down into brown mush. Nevertheless, within the vile poisonous cauldron that may be a landfill website, the air-breathing microscopic creatures that might usually decompose lifeless stuff are suffocated beneath a mountain of paper, plastic, tins, and damaged tv screens. Of their place, subterranean bacterial nasties go to work.

Anaerobic (‘with out oxygen’) demons of the darkish ferment our buried meals into acids, alcohols, and methane fuel, which billows up into the environment. Composting your peelings mimics nature’s recycling course of and could be extremely easy: simply accumulate your meals waste (together with eggshells and occasional grounds) – ideally chopped up good and small – in a big, sealed container and blend with roughly equal quantities of dry, natural matter, similar to shredded paper, brown fallen leaves and/or cardboard.

High it up as you go along with a 50-50 combine and provides it a stir every now and then so that every one the microbes can breathe some air and in just a few months’ time you’ll find yourself with brown crumbly stuff on the backside that not resembles something you set in. Add it to your backyard by both laying it on prime of naked soil or to spice up the well being of every part that grows there. Alternatively, give it to somebody with a backyard and you should have a brand new greatest buddy.

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4. The commonest slug and snail traps do little or no

A snail on a beer bottle

© Getty Pictures

Solid apart notions that eggshells, copper wires or beer traps cease will stop your hostas from being ravaged by slugs, or your lettuces being hoovered up and snails. These molluscs’ thick slimy bellies slide over obstacles with ease and, whereas slugs are tempted by the heady aroma of beer, solely a handful of unfortunate souls find yourself drowning within the drink.

5. Not all soil is appropriate for all crops

In the event you’re going to develop in pots, you’re going to wish one thing to plant your seeds into. Backyard soil gained’t do in small pots as a result of it quickly turns into dense and airless when divorced from the dwelling, respiratory soil ecosystem. So onto the e-shopping record goes a potting combine, that are confusingly known as ‘composts’. However which to purchase? Count on to be perplexed.

Seed compost, loam-based, ericaceous or peat-free? Gardening magazines and web sites inform you to purchase a compost for sowing seeds, one for ‘potting on’ or ‘potting up’, and a compost for mature crops, though analysis typically exhibits there’s often no profit to purchasing these composts – high quality multi-purpose compost is simply as efficient.

For crops which advanced in acidic soils (rhododendrons, camellias and pieris, and many others) it’s sensible to go for an acidic ‘ericaceous’ compost – so named after a household of acid-loving crops known as the ‘Ericaceae’. Take care to keep away from composts containing peat, nevertheless, which actually should be consigned to historical past.

Prized for its spongy, water-absorbent qualities, peat (the ‘forgotten fossil gas’) is jet-black earth sliced out from bogs and peatlands. Uncommon habitats are laid waste by the peat business and for each dice extracted, carbon dioxide from prehistoric rain forests that has been locked away for millennia is launched – it’s like burning coal to maintain your petunias fairly.

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6. Don’t be concerned about watering crops within the Solar

Fret not about watering outside crops below the blazing summer time Solar inflicting leaves to scorch. The so-called ‘lens impact’, whereby droplets apparently focus photo voltaic rays onto leaves, by no means truly occurs, not least as a result of droplets evaporate away far too shortly. If crops are thirsty, give them a drink.

Neglect the watering reminder apps for indoor crops and as an alternative water them in response to their altering wants by the seasons. Overwatering is the primary explanation for loss of life of indoor crops.

Bits of damaged terracotta (‘crocks’) or gravel within the backside of a pot are stated to scale back waterlogging and keep away from fungal root rots. In reality, science exhibits that crops in containers with crocks fare no higher than these with out. Worse, their addition may very well stop good drainage, inflicting water to pool greater up contained in the pot.

7. Ignore the city beehive buzz

Nicely-meaning typically urbanites arrange beehives to attempt to assist our beloved pollinators, that are dwindling within the face of local weather change, habitat destruction and air pollution, however these hives do extra hurt than good. Slightly, a brand new beehive introduces a ravenous colony of honeybees (which aren’t endangered) to gobble up all of the close by nectar and pollen, leaving the native pollinators, together with bumblebees, solitary bees, hoverflies, and butterflies to starve.

Worse nonetheless, as a result of there isn’t sufficient meals to go spherical, these beehives hardly ever produce crop of honey and are sometimes deserted after the harm has been completed.

The Science of Gardening: Uncover How Your Backyard Actually Grows by Dr Stuart Farrimond (£20.00, DK) is out now and is obtainable from these shops and Amazon UK. 

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Cover of book The Science of Gardening