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Growing Pains: Dispelling Old Wives’ Tales About Gardening

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Before the Internet, or even the printing press, we relied on taken-for-granted knowledge to learn about gardening. While there is a lot to learn from our ancestors, some old wives’ tales about gardening are not true. There are still some myths related to gardening that people use even today. Instagram and TikTok are full of them! Let’s learn the truth behind these common gardening misconceptions.

Old wives' tales about gardening

Bees are attracted only to the color yellow.

Urinating on a jellyfish sting will reduce the pain.

Turkey makes you sleepy.

If you swallow chewing gum it will take 7 years to digest.

These are some old wives’ tales I’ve heard over the years.

When it comes to gardening, there may be a hint of truth in some of these old wives’ tales about gardening. They are all rooted in some science, even if they did not realize it.

But (and this is a big but), most of them are said to work better than they actually do. Or at least they started with good intentions. You’ll see what I mean when you keep reading!

Here are the gardening myths I’ll talk about today…

A note on listening and experimenting

When it comes to old wives’ tales about gardening, some of them may actually be true. Not making them an old wives’ tale at all!

I’ve always looked for it Find a balance between science-based and grandmotherly methods Which has been passed.

while writing garden alchemy, I analyzed permaculture, herbalism, indigenous teachings, and current science to develop an organic mix for the garden. It’s all about striking a balance between these claims and fact-based evidence.

This review from Frau Zinni sums it up. ,[Garden Alchemy] Empowers the reader to experiment with ways to fix common garden problems with minimal effort – and shows how many things a home gardener can do before deciding to buy a “problem-solving” product at the store. Is.

From peat-free soil alternatives to using alfalfa as fertilizer, There are many ways you can use organic elements effectively using in the garden garden alchemy As your guide.

And now, on to some myth busting!

Garden Alchemy Cover

Mixing Coffee Grounds with Soil

Gardening Myths: Coffee grounds are a great soil amendment, and you can mix them directly into your soil.

Although coffee grounds contain plant nutrients, they are not a significant source. People mix them directly into the soil; While you can do this, it is better to use them as a compost ingredient. They are a great compost component and will provide more benefits to your plants once they decompose.

Read more about using coffee grounds in the garden.

Coffee Grounds Gardening Myth
Coffee grounds are a great addition to the compost pile, but not perfect in the garden.

Vinegar as a weed killer

Gardening Myths: Vinegar is a natural herbicide that is better for the garden than commercial herbicides.

Vinegar burns plants on contact, and it is milder than most commercial herbicides. But it does not discriminate as to which plants it will harm, burning anything it comes in contact with. It can also destroy leaves, but not the root system below. So, although it may be a weed killer, it is not as effective as you would like and it may harm your neighboring plants.

Read more about the reality of using vinegar in your garden.

Banana peels as fertilizer

Gardening Myths: You can soak bananas in hot water to make potassium-rich fertilizer tea to pour over your houseplants and garden.

When you soak a banana peel in water, very little of the peel rots. As a result, water does not contain much nutritional value. If you put a banana peel directly into the soil, it will take a long time to decompose before it becomes useful to your garden. They do not add immediate nutrients and work best when added to the compost pile.

Read more about how to use banana peels in the garden.

eggshells in the garden

Gardening Myths: Eggshells are a calcium-rich garden amendment that can help prevent the ends of flowers from rotting.

Calcium deficiency is actually quite rare for soils. While blossom end rot is caused by calcium deficiency in the plant, it is not because the soil is deficient in calcium, but rather the plant has the ability to absorb calcium. Additionally, egg shells need to be completely broken down to provide calcium, and according to a topic here, it takes a while for that to break down. They do better in compost or in your worm bin.

Read more about using eggshells in the garden.

Dish Soap as Pesticide

Gardening Myths: Dish soap works as an insecticide spray.

Most commercial dish soaps are actually detergents, which contain ingredients that are actually not that healthy for the garden and your soil. Instead, you’ll want to use unscented castile soap. When mixed with water and other insect repellent ingredients, it can help make your repellent more sticky and useful when sprayed on pests.

Read more about how I use dish soap safely in my garden.

Cinnamon as a fungicide

Gardening Myths: You can sprinkle cinnamon in your potting soil to protect your seedlings from being affected by moisture.

Cinnamon is actually quite a powerful spice and has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Many studies have proven these disease fighting properties for humans, and some show it for plants as well. However, several studies have used cinnamon from different species and in different forms than the powdered version found at the grocery store.

Learn more about how to use cinnamon as an antifungal.

talking to plants

Gardening Myths: If you speak kind words to your plants, they may actually grow better.

It has been proven that sound vibrations positively affect plant growth. Should this be a positive affirmation? No, your plant will not know whether your words are good or bad. Music can really have a greater impact on your plants. Overall, it doesn’t matter what type of sound plants hear, but they love noise!

Read more about the science behind talking plants.

Using Epsom Salt in the Garden

Gardening Myths: Epsom salt can prevent and treat flower head rot and prevent pests and other fungal diseases.

Epsom salts will not help your plant if it has a calcium deficiency, which is why your plant has rotted flower tips. In fact, Epsom salt is a high source of magnesium and it can actually harm your plant when it is trying to get more calcium. There is also no real evidence that it can prevent other pests and diseases.

Read more about the ways I use Epsom salts.

Using Epsom Salt There's an old wives' tale about gardening.
I love using Epsom salts in the bathtub after spending a long day in the garden.

House Plants as Air Purifiers

Gardening Myths: Having houseplants in your home can help purify the air and improve air quality.

Without a doubt, plants are powerful tools to combat pollution and filter harmful toxins. Many large studies (like the famous NASA study) have proven that plants effectively filter the air. However, most of these studies were conducted in small, closed spaces. Large, open homes will make it difficult for some houseplants to purify the air to the point that it will have a positive effect on your health. But they sure don’t hurt!

Learn more about using houseplants as biofilters.

Houseplants as air purifiers are a gardening myth
If you are a plant lover like me, you might have enough house plants for better air quality.

Gardening According to the Phases of the Moon

Gardening Myths: The lunar cycle can affect plant growth and can be a useful tool for planning planting and maintenance.

Since the Moon can affect Earth’s tides, some believe it can also affect water uptake by plants. Based on the phase of the moon, you can determine the best time to plant, cultivate, and harvest plants. There’s no real evidence to support this, but that hasn’t stopped other old wives’ tales about gardening and the moon from surfacing.

Get inspired by planting a moon garden, a garden designed to be enjoyed in moonlight.

Using Compost Tea

Gardening Myths: Diluting manure and using compost leachate can be useful ways to improve soil and plant health.

There is great debate over whether compost tea is actually useful for the garden. Compost tea is something I use in my garden, and I’ve written a lot about it garden alchemy, Those who are against compost tea say that there is not enough evidence to support the positive claims behind compost tea.

Learn more about compost tea and decide for yourself if it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

plants die of old age

Gardening Myths: Like us, plants also experience aging and will eventually die as they grow old.

Plants do not grow old like us. In theory, plants have unlimited growth potential as they produce more leaves, flowers, stems, and roots. A plant can continue producing new parts to replace its old parts for as long as it wants. But as they age, they often become damaged and weakened over time. This means that the older the plant, the more likely it is to fall victim to a pathogen.

Learn more about the science behind plant aging.

plants feel pain

Gardening Myths: When you cut or damage a plant, you are harming it.

Plants have no pain receptors; They don’t feel the same way we do. However, they do experience stress and will react poorly to situations. For example, I’ve watched how my garden reacts when there’s a lot of wildfire smoke in the air. Plants will respond to their environment but they will not have emotions.

Read more about the science behind stress on plants and even how they communicate with each other.

Cut peonies next to pruners
Don’t worry about cutting down your plants. They will not feel pain.

Plants do not need oxygen

Gardening Myths: Plants take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.

This is not actually a myth, but only half of the whole story. During photosynthesis, plants take carbon dioxide from the air as well as water from the ground and convert it into sugars and oxygen. The plant uses the sugars, and oxygen is a by-product. However, during the photosynthesis process, plants use some oxygen. They just need a fraction of it compared to us.

Learn more about the science behind plant respiration.

Hosta in the garden next to the stepping stones
Plants also need oxygen, not as much as we do.

More old wives’ tales about gardening

What’s the old wives’ tale about thanking someone for a plant?

An old gardening superstition is that when you thank someone for gifting a plant or flower from that person’s garden, the original plant will die or never bloom again.

What other old wives’ tales have you heard about gardening? Let me know in the comments below. I would love to add to this list and discover some more.

More Fun Facts About Gardening

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