I find it amazing how many un-truths there are out there. I do much of my research for my gardens and this blog as I wander through Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and lots of online magazines and blogs. I share and post comments. Now I’m discovering that I fell for a lot of hogwash.
MYTH: Organic pesticides are less toxic
TRUTH: Misused pesticides can be harmful, regardless of whether they are considered natural or synthetic. Many natural toxins used in organic garden products are potentially harmful if misused. Natural poisons, such as pyrethrin (an insecticide extracted from chrysanthemums), are hazardous to people, pets, and the beneficial inhabitants of our gardens, such as frogs and bees. If you must use a pesticide, consider how dangerous the active ingredients are and how effective. Safer choices include products that contain Bacillus thuringiensis and insecticidal soap. Whenever possible, select the least toxic control option available because, even if not lethal, many of these pesticides can cause serious health complications. Read and follow all label directions.
MYTH: Drought-tolerant plants don’t need watering
TRUTH: All plants need water to grow. Drought-tolerant plants need regular watering until their root system is well established with their roots deep in the soil. Most drought-tolerant plants (examples: Russian sage and Black-eyed Susans) can survive through an average summer without supplemental watering. After the plant is well established, you can pretty much allow them to fend for themselves unless there is an unusually prolonged dry period and then they need a little water as much as any other plant. Most drought-tolerant plants (examples: Russian sage and Black-eyed Susans) can survive through an average summer without supplemental watering.
MYTH: Seal newly pruned areas of a tree branch
TRUTH: Professional arborists gave up the practice of painting tree wounds and pruning cuts years ago. There isn’t a way to keep insects or fungal organisms out of a new cut. In many cases wound dressings cause decay faster. The paint, varnish or tar hold moisture near the new wound, thus helping fungal decay organisms to grow. 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. If pruned properly, trees have natural defense mechanisms to ward off most decay problems.
MYTH: Newly planted trees must be staked
TRUTH: Unless your tree is top-heavy or in an especially windy site, it does not need staking. Staking a tree can hinder its proper development. This practice was once a landscape industry standard, because staked trees tend to grow taller, but their trunks are skinny and potentially weaker. Allowing the tree to sway in the wind encourages the development of stronger stabilizing roots. Just as our muscles grow larger with exercise, tree trunks grow thicker and stronger when they’re allowed to move. If you decide to stake, be sure to stake as loosely and as briefly as possible (no 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: Dig the hole twice as big as the root ball
TRUTH: A tree or shrub planting hole should be twice as wide as the root ball but no deeper. This encourages the plant’s roots to grow out, which creates stability and allows the plant to readily find water and nutrients. To make sure that the root ball is deep enough, place the top roots so that they are parallel with the soil surface and then apply two inches of mulch over them. Trees will do better if you reuse the soil you removed from the hole. But it is a good idea to amend the soil with some compost, especially if it is a heavy or nutrient-deficient soil.