There are many gardening myths, misconceptions or just misinformation that’s passed around a lot on the internet. Perhaps you’ve heard some from family or friends. Or maybe you’ve even told some of this to family and friends. But what I thought I’d do today is break down four different myths and misconceptions when it comes to gardening.
Hopefully, to shine a little bit of a more explanatory light on what’s happening in the garden so you can take that knowledge and use it to grow some epic plants. So let’s take a peek to see what we can uncover.
Gardening Myths 1 – Eggshells
Misconception number one is the use and misuse of eggshells in the garden. So eggshells are popular amendments.
A lot of people like to use them in the garden. And what I thought I would do is first, before we get into how people either abuse or misuse them, let’s talk about what is actually in an eggshell that makes it so valuable for us. So first of all, calcium right, about 50 parts per million of calcium within an eggshell.
There are also other elements. You have sulphur, potassium, magnesium, sodium – and then if you look closely in the eggshell, you can see the inner membrane of the egg is still in there. So there’s also some organic matter. I think there is usually around five per cent by weight of organic matter in every eggshell.
So there are some reasons you would want to use them in the garden. But let’s discuss one of the most common ways I see them used that has nothing whatsoever to do with the nutrient content. And that would be as a slug and snail barrier.
Many people will crush these eggshells up, and they will use them by placing them around a sensitive plant, maybe one that’s prone to slugs and snails, with the logic that the sharp edges of the crushed eggshell will deter slugs and snails. It’s just simply not true. It is verifiably and demonstrably not true.
You can watch videos of time lapses where slugs crawl right over and right back over again. And actually, there are videos of slugs and snails crawling over the blades of extremely sharp knives. So the sharpness is not a good reason or deterrent for a slug or a snail. What deters slugs and snails is either straight up impeding their motion, so they’re not able to get to the plant at all or doing something that dehydrates them or affects their actual tissue, right? So salt, sheep’s wool, dry diatomaceous earth.
If you’re in a drier location, that can be an excellent choice. The sharpness of eggshells does not do it, and I would just highly recommend not using that as a mechanism anymore. People will use another thing when it comes to eggshells because they will plant directly in these and start their seeds in them.
It’s a perfect way to make use of a spent eggshell. You’ve already had your breakfast omelette. You might as well plant a seed in this thing. Well, that’s good. There’s no actual gardening specific reason to do it, apart from the fact that it just makes use of something that would have gone to waste otherwise.
I think a lot of people will do this. They believe that – “oh, the organic matter will break down, it gives it some extra calcium, this and that”. It won’t become bioavailable anywhere near the timespan that a seedling is growing, and the seedlings mostly get most of their nutrition from the soil or the seed itself.
And so, by the time you use it, you aren’t going to make use of any of the nutrient content. And if you transplant this directly into the soil with a young seedling in it, it’s going to get root bound right down here. It would be the same logic as why you wouldn’t put a plastic pot in the ground.
Very hard for the roots to get through this. So you would either want to crack the bottom and then plant it or honestly pop it out and plant it directly into the soil. Why would you not do it that way? It makes complete sense to me. And then you can use this eggshell for probably some of its better purposes, which we’re going to talk about right now.
So why should you want to use an eggshell? Well, what you can do is you can crush it up, and you can throw it into your vermicompost, your compost bin, your hot compost bin, or you can put it into your soil. But the finer the particles, the better it breaks down. That’s just a general rule of composting.
The finer that it is, the more surface area there is for microbes, etc., to start acting upon this material here. It’s a very tough material to break down. If you put this directly in your compost or certainly your vermicompost, it’s not going to do a whole lot for a while. On the other hand, if you blend it or crush it, it will break down much quicker.
So it’s a better way to use eggshells. And I’ll leave you with one final method, which is a clever and creative way. (I haven’t tried it myself). You can get the calcium out of the eggshell, make it water-soluble, and use it as a foliar spray by creating something called water-soluble calcium.
So the way to do that is to crush the eggshells up, spread them out onto a baking tray, bake them for, say, 45 minutes at a regular heat, 350 degrees or so. You want to burn off the organic matter and sterilize them. Then you put that in a jar, mix it one part eggshells to 10 parts of vinegar.
Let that sit for seven to 10 days. You’re making that calcium water-soluble. You’re mobilizing it out of the eggshell itself. And then you mix that mixture (one part of that mixture to a thousand parts water) and use that as a foliar spray on your plants to give it a quick hit of calcium.
So that is an excellent way to extract the calcium quicker. It is bioavailable very quickly, and you can use it in the garden.
Take a look at this video that demonstrates what happens to eggshells that are buried over a period of 5 years:
Gardening Myth 2 – Using forks
Myth number two is using forks or pointed sticks to place upright in your beds to prevent animals from crawling into them. The following is a clear picture that illustrates this.
On Instagram, I saw a picture of a raised vegetable bed where the lady had 750 plastic forks stuck up in her beds. She was hoping that both her cat and stray cats would stay out of it.
First of all, what an incredible misuse of 750 one-use plastic items! But even if you were to use bamboo stakes, etc., most cats and crawling animals don’t get deterred by that. There are a lot of different ways that you can prevent cats from wrecking your garden. It is not one of them. It would be better to use hicken wire fencing around it, surely?
Just do not do the fork thing sticking up in your beds. And especially if you’re using single-use items, it is an incredible waste of our natural resources. So that’s myth number two. Myth number three has to do with blossom end rot.
Gardening Myth 3 Blossom End Rot
An insect does not cause it, and a disease does not cause it. So, first of all, what is blossom end rot? It refers to a condition in the plant where the blossom end or the bottom end of a tomato plant will get a water-soaked spot, and then eventually it will harden off. It will become black or brown and very tough and will ruin that plant or fruit.
Now you hear the word ‘rot’, and you are probably thinking “, Okay, it may be a bacterial issue, maybe a fungal issue. It’s a plant condition, and many people will then tell you that it’s a calcium deficiency in your fruit. And technically, that is true, although you know it’s not quite that simple.
What’s happening is that a plant cannot transport calcium to where it needs to be, which is causing that problem. Often the soil itself has plenty of calcium. Something is going on in the plant where it cannot take that calcium and convey it to where it needs to be.
In my view, one of the best ways to prevent blossom end rot is actually to care for the plant as perfectly as possible. Uneven watering is a common cause of blossom end rot. So if you’re growing tomatoes, especially in containers, it can be a good idea to use a little bit of mulch. In fact, anywhere that you are growing tomatoes, use some mulch to even out that soil moisture.
Also, care for the plant. This ties back to our eggshells question. You would think “okay, we’ll throw some eggshells in the bottom – that’s going to help mobilize some calcium, and then the plant will get the calcium and won’t have blossom end rot”. Most soils have enough calcium.
The plant cannot move it. So that is a misconception, and I think many people who get blossom end rot will try to foliar spray with calcium. These tomato plant leaves aren’t able to send calcium to where it needs it. The fruit is going to get calcium from the roots.
So those are just some misconceptions if you want to prevent them. Some people will get the foliar spray and give it a little calcium here with the underlying theory that if the leaves get enough, then the roots won’t send it to the leaves, and then conversely, they will send it to the actual fruit.
In summary, those are some things about blossom end rot that you may not have known. Myth number four, in relation to pine needles, in the hopes that they will acidify your soil, is not valid. Fresh pine needles are slightly acidic. Older pine needles aren’t acidic at all. Let’s explore this.
Gardening Myth 4 Pine Needles
Researchers took soil samples from an area where pines were at least 50 years old and had been growing continuously for that time. Then they took a soil sample from another place where no pines had been growing for 50 years, and the soil pH was relatively the same.
So the ability for pine needles to acidify your soil will certainly not happen if they can’t even acidify the earth in a pine forest. And, even acid rain itself, which is not related to pine needles, really doesn’t acidify the soil itself.
Click here to take a look at a website that investigates the subject of pine needles more deeply
And so what that means is if you have an excellent source of pine needles, go ahead and spread it around. You can even spread them out to dry out a little to make sure it’s closer to a neutral pH. But I would not worry about pine needles acidifying your soil. They can be quite a great additive to compost, additive as a mulch or many other uses in the garden.
Gardening Myth 5 Perennial Weeds in Compost
Should you put perennial weeds (and their roots) in compost? The simple answer is yes – throw it all in. they will rot down, and will not cause a problem when you use the compost in your garden. It is the same with rhubarb leaves. Put them in your compost.
Gardening Myth 6 Runner bean trench
We have discovered that it makes absolutely no difference to your runner beans, whether you put them in a trench lined with newspaper, organic matter etc., or simply plant the plants into the ground. In fact, you can save yourself a huge amount of time and trouble simply by setting up your bean poles or wigwam and planting the beans into the soil.
If you don’t believe me, try the experiment yourself, with half of your plants in an organic or newspaper lined trench, and the other half straight into the soil.
Gardening Myth 7 Stones in pots for drainage
It is said that plant pots need stones/gravel etc. in the bottom of the pot to help with drainage. Actually, that is not true, as this creates a capillary action, and is actually detrimental. Instead, cover the hole with a broken piece of a pot and fill it with potting compost. By doing this, you actually give your plant more room to grow in soil. Try it.
In this blog post, we have investigated several different myths. I hope that was helpful. If you have any old wive’s tales that you know or believe are false, please contact us and let us know about them. I am sure that there are a lot more that we can unearth!