How do I weed through the bad tips?
Special to the Whig
Anyone seeking gardening information could encounter advice via conversation, social media posts, video segments, magazine articles and a number of other formats. While some touted practices may be based in solid experience, many are perpetuated without any real data to back up the suggestions.
If you’re going to invest your time, money and effort into your yard, wouldn’t you prefer to achieve the desired outcome through the most accessible, efficient and effective way? A number of scientists are trying to publicize horticultural research for the benefit of everyday gardeners to help them avoid wasting time implementing popular ideas that don’t work well.
One comprehensive web page is Washington State University’s “Horticultural Myths,” compiled by Linda Chalker-Scott, Ph.D., an extension horticulturist and professor at the university.
This landing page addresses common landscaping topics within a number of categories, and includes links that open to docu- ments detailing myths or commonly shared tactics, such as companion planting, staking new trees, placing rock or pottery shards at the bottom of container plantings, installing landscape fabric and applying baking soda, compost tea, milk or epsom salts.
In these documents, Chalker-Scott explains “The Reality” as documented by professionals who have tested the theory using industryrecognized procedures. Finally, she follows up with, “The Bottom Line,” where she presents a summary of points, including best practices for achieving the original goal.
For example, by clicking, “The Myth of Fragile Roots,” you’ll read that avoiding root disruption while planting containerized trees and shrubs can hide problems that could be prevented at planting. The author insists that washing soil from the roots, pruning away flaws, and spreading the bare roots into native soil will lead to the best results, according to carefully executed study. You can visit Chalker-Scott’s slide show on the topic at slideshare.net for more detailed instruction.
Also advocating for use of arborist wood chips as a mulch, she lists a variety of benefits to the soil, plants, garden and gardeners. She also dismisses concerns with evidence supporting her position and provides answers to a host of likely questions or situations. There are a number of compelling topics and interesting findings if you are regularly entertained by reading about plants, soil and best practices for the home landscaper.
Further resources include gardenprofessors.com, a blog that Chalker-Scott shares with other plant sci- ence academics, as well as a Facebook group by the same name for more widespread discussion.
Perhaps you would like a touch of conflict and drama while you learn?
An administrator at Washington State University disagrees with Chalker-Scott about the mission of her position with the horticulture extension.
If you join the Facebook group, be sure to read the description and pinned post before jumping into the discourse to avoid violating the expressed intentions. The overriding message is to be skeptical of homeremedies, buzz-words and folklore that hasn’t been verified via scientific methodology.
While much of the fun of gardening can be a sense of rogue experimentation, it certainly helps if those efforts are met with frequent success. These resources aim to help you improve your chances.
Each week, a Cecil County Master Gardener will write in to share their gardening experiences or answer a gardening question. To submit questions to the Master Gardener, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
This week’s guest columnist, Karen S. Rita, warns against faulty gardening pointers and highlights several online resources.