Here, ladies and gentlemen, is my second helping of bogus garden hacks from an article I found online. The offending article was on one of those sites that claim to give the reader the “real facts” hitherto hidden from the average reader. It offered ten “gardening hacks” that were guaranteed to give me healthy plants. As I paged from one to the other, my Bogus-O-Meter kept going off the chart. Not only was the advice off base, it was clear to me that the writer had little or no gardening experience. Usually when I come across something like this I swiftly move to another site and try to forget the awful mess. This time however I had had enough. Painful though it will be, I’ve decided to expose these bits of pseudo horticulture to the harsh light of reality. Hold on to your hats. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
The next bit of advice suggest making a homemade weed spray by combining “a gallon of white vinegar, a cup of table salt, and a tablespoon of liquid dish soap.” It is true that undiluted household vinegar will damage foliage on contact but it has little or no effect on the roots. Anyone who has been responsible for weeding garden beds knows the roots must be removed to eliminate the weed. Adding a cup of table salt will damage the soil chemistry. Remember your ancient history lessons about how invading armies would “salt the soil” to wreak havoc in enemy territory? It will do the same thing in your garden. Finally, I have to chuckle at the addition of a tablespoon of dish soap. What are they trying to do – make sure the garden is clean and shiny?
This bit of recycling nonsense says you can prevent mosquitos and aphids from bothering if you “take the peels of any citrus fruits and scatter them around your garden.” The basis for this idea is the repelling effect of concentrated orange oil on insects that come in contact with it. Citrus peel contains this oil but not in a concentrated form. Scattering this peel around your garden will have absolutely no effect. The orange oil will stay in the peel and never come in contact with insects – unless they happen to stumble over a slice of it. Better to save and dry the citrus peel and use it in herbal teas.
This one had me laughing out loud. What gardener would ever believe this would work? The claim is that you can “keep the rabbits and rats away from your brand new blooms [by sticking] plastic forks, fork side up, into the ground in between all of your plants.” Oh my goodness! Can you imagine a rabbit coming to your garden, spying the forks, and fleeing in terror? They’ll just hop around them as they munch happily on your plants.
This valid bit of advice in the article just proves the adage that “even a stopped watch is right twice a day.” Converting a heavy duty garbage bin into a rain barrel does indeed work and will capture rain that can be used on your garden instead of tap water. This is a worthwhile piece of garden advice especially for those in drought prone regions.
In this final garden idea the author comes close to giving good advice but quickly turn it into a disaster. They begin by correctly saying that “a large milk jug is the perfect thing to use to help your little seedlings grow.” Then they spoil it by advising the gardener to “[place] dirt, a little manure, and your seeds in the milk jug, add a little bit of water and put it outside in the garden [to] watch your baby seeds grow.” Putting the soil, seed, and water in a closely contained and standing it in the sun guarantees the air and water will overheat and effectively create a deadly sauna for the poor seed. If they had only removed the bottom of the milk jug and used that as an indoor mini-greenhouse over seed planted in a pot they would have had success.
Okay that’s all the garden hacks I can bear to discuss right now. What have we learned? I hope you will think more carefully about garden advice you read on the web – especially from websites not devoted to gardening. Instead go to sites that have a reputation for sound advice. Universities with agricultural departments are a good choice. Arboretums and botanic gardens in your region of the country are another sound source.