Bust­ing gar­den myths

Alberta Gardener Magazine - - Local Dirt -


Myth: Peren­ni­als won't bloom the first year, es­pe­cially bare-root. Half Busted!: With mod­ern breed­ing and grow­ing tech­niques, this is no longer true. Go ahead and plant bare root and pot­ted peren­ni­als now and en­joy those blooms the first year, as­sum­ing you don't plant them past the time they nat­u­rally would bloom. How­ever, if you buy a pot­ted peren­nial that re­quires over-win­ter­ing, then you will have to wait through the first win­ter to get the de­sired blooms. It's best to in­quire from the seller to find out what to ex­pect that first sea­son after plant­ing.

Trees & Tree Care

Myth: Prune the tops of trans­planted trees to com­pen­sate for root loss.

Fact: Prun­ing re­tards the es­tab­lish­ment of trans­planted trees. Leaves make food through pho­to­syn­the­sis, so tak­ing away a good por­tion of fo­liage in­hibits growth—and may also ruin a tree’s nat­u­ral shape.

Myth: Newly planted trees re­quire stak­ing.

Fact: Un­less your tree is top-heavy or in an es­pe­cially windy site, it does not need stak­ing. A lit­tle move­ment is ac­tu­ally good for young trees. Just as our mus­cles grow larger with ex­er­cise, tree trunks grow thicker and stronger when they're al­lowed to move. Staked trees tend to grow taller, but their trunks are skinny and weak, so if you de­cide to stake, be sure to stake as loosely and as briefly as pos­si­ble. Rarely is stak­ing nec­es­sary for longer than six months. Use some­thing soft, such as a length of gar­den hose, against the tree bark to keep from cut­ting into it.

Myth: Back­fill plant­ing holes with fresh soil.

Busted: You need to re­fill holes with the ex­ist­ing soil. That is the soil the plants will need to live in and if you give them a dif­fer­ent soil around the ball, the roots will stay in the softer soil and not grow out into the harder sur­round­ing clay soil.

Myth: Paint­ing prun­ing cuts pro­tects trees from dis­ease and in­sects

Busted: Pro­fes­sional ar­borists gave up the prac­tice of paint­ing tree wounds and prun­ing cuts years ago. The fact is, there's lit­tle ev­i­dence that prun­ing tar, or any other com­pound, pre­vents dis­ease or in­sects from en­ter­ing tree wounds. Re­search even sug­gests that this prac­tice slows trees' nat­u­ral heal­ing process of seal­ing cuts with a tough layer of "wound­wood." The best ways to avoid dam­age are to make clean cuts with sharp tools and prune dur­ing late win­ter, when dis­eases and in­sects are dor­mant. How­ever, white wash­ing the base of trees does help with split­ting. The sun bounces of the snow and splits bark on the south side, this will help. Myth: Sprin­kling cof­fee grounds around acid-lov­ing shrubs low­ers the soil's ph

Half Busted: It helps some soils, and also house­plants, but whether it is help­ful or not re­ally de­pends on your soil type. Cof­fee grounds are acidic, and mix­ing them into the soil can af­fect ph—slowly. But here's the catch: Fresh cof­fee grounds can in­hibit plant growth be­cause they tie up ni­tro­gen in the soil as they de­com­pose (just like ba­nana peels), if large quan­ti­ties are added. To lower your soil's ph with­out caus­ing a ni­tro­gen de­fi­ciency, pur­chase a sul­fur­based soil acid­i­fier (avail­able at gar­den cen­ters) and amend soil fol­low­ing the pack­age in­struc­tions. Many pop­u­lar shrubs, in­clud­ing aza­leas, heathers, rhodo­den­drons, and blue­ber­ries, will ap­pre­ci­ate soil with more acid­ity.

Myth: Adding fer­til­izer to the hole helps trans­plants es­tab­lish faster

Busted: No fer­til­izer, or other soil amend­ments, on hand? No wor­ries. Adding them to a plant­ing hole isn't nec­es­sary and, in some cases, can ac­tu­ally dis­cour­age a vig­or­ous root sys­tem. Nu­tri­ent-rich plant­ing holes can give roots less in­cen­tive to branch out to ab­sorb nu­tri­ents and mois­ture from the sur­round­ing area; and fer­til­iz­ers, in­clud­ing the phos­pho­rus-rich fer­til­iz­ers fre­quently mar­keted for new trans­plants, con­tain salts, which can burn ten­der new roots.

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