Bogus Gardening Advice, Part I

by | Oct 27, 2021 | Horticultural Science, Humor, Maintenance, Planting Techniques, Seed Starting, Tools

My beloved husband is always on the lookout for garden articles on the Internet that I might find interesting. Most of his discoveries are worthwhile. Recently however he forwarded a link to a page that had my blood boiling within minutes.

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.

Use Diapers in Your Potted Plants

Bogus Rating: 10 of 10

This is an idea that first appeared when disposable diapers became popular. Some bright soul thought that the water retentive properties might be useful in container gardens. The article claims that diapers “help retain water and stop those annoying leaks that happen when your pot isn’t big enough.” If you have an “annoying leak” of water out the drainage hole then you need to have a saucer under the pot, not a diaper in the pot.

A diaper in the bottom of the pot will only create a soggy mess and will not help to keep a plant watered in hot weather. Furthermore disposable diapers use chemicals I wouldn’t want leaching into my soils. They finish their advice by saying “If they’re good for your babies they’re good for your plants too.” What an amazing leap of logic! I can think of at least half a dozen things that are good for babies but would be disastrous for plants.

Use a Plastic Bottle with Holes

Bogus Rating: 4 of 10

This has some potential value in that it is attempting to deliver water to the roots by slowly releasing water from a 2 liter bottle with holes in the side buried up to its neck in the ground. So what’s the problem? First you have to fill the bottle, a rather messy process requiring you to pull up the bottle and put the garden hose directly against the opening to fill it, then hold your thumb over the opening as you invert it to bury the top in the soil. Second, if the holes are small (i.e. made with an ice pick) the water is likely to take a long time to drip out and may stagnate in the bottle. The best way I’ve found to slowly release water into the soil is using a soaker hose, not a series of buried two liter bottles you can easily step on and suffer a twisted ankle in the process.

Use Egg Shells for Your Little Plants

Bogus Rating: 11 of 10

I really hate this one. The web article claims that “smaller plants tend to be very fragile, and therefore they need a little bit of help to stay strong.” So how will planting them in about two tablespoons of potting soil in an easily broken eggshell help? Any roots that form will quickly run out of space. Keeping these eggshell containers watered without flushing out the soil will also be a problem. Just because the unfortunate seedlings will look cute for about a week is no justification to planting them in eggshells.

Use Old Coffee Grounds

Bogus Rating: 7 of 10

The article claims coffee grounds “provide nutrients for you plants.” Eventually yes, but they have to be broken down by micro-organisms before that happens. But that’s not all the article claims coffee grounds can do. “It turns out squirrels and rabbits don’t like coffee all that much, which means your plants will be able to grow with no interruptions.” Oh really? In that case gardeners living near wildlife need only step outside and sprinkle their spent coffee grounds to deter wildlife. What nonsense!

Potatoes are a Rose’s Best Friend

Bogus Rating: 8 of 10

This bit of advice solves a problem that doesn’t exist. They begin by declaring “often times when roses are planted, they have a hard time staying straight.” Where did they see this? Rose canes are quite sturdy. To correct this non-problem they advise you to “make a small hole in a medium sized potato and squeeze the rose [cane] into the hole” before planting it all in the garden.

This completely ignores that fact that nearly all modern roses are grafted on a different root stock from the flowering shoots. It’s also a waste of a perfectly good potato.

That’s all I can stand to post for now. Next week – Part II of “Bogus Gardening Advice.”

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