MYTH #1. Peonies won t bloom if you move them.
FALSE -- Peonies can be moved and transplanted. Best time is in the Fall, and only 2 deep. The ancient Greeks claimed that peonies had magical properties, and if you were seen near the plant in daylight, especially if you were trying to dig it up, a woodpecker would peck out your eyes. I ve moved my peonies before, and I still have my eyes, although they don t work as well as they used to.
MYTH #2. Don t water in the middle of the day - it will damage the plants.
FALSE -- There s no evidence that water droplets cause sunburn or scorch the foliage. However, it is best to water in the morning before the heat of the day, if only because when it gets hot, there s more evaporation and you end up wasting water.
MYTH #3. Drought-tolerant plants don t need to be watered.
FALSE -- It doesn t matter whether it s a cactus or bamboo, plants still need water to grow, especially until their roots get established deep into the soil. After that, drought-tolerant plants don t need too much watering, except during a really prolonged dry period, when they need a little water as much as any other plant.
MYTH #4. Adding sugar to the soil will make your tomatoes taste sweeter.
FALSE -- Tomatoes don t get their sweetness from the soil. That is determined by the type of tomato, as well as plant photosynthesis.
MYTH #5. Nothing grows under a walnut tree.
TRUE -- The black walnut produces a chemical that destroys or deters plants from competing with the tree for nutrients in the soil. If you have one, pick up the leaves in autumn and dispose of them, or compost them really well. Some other trees do the same thing, like pines and oaks.
MYTH #6. Plant potatoes only on Good Friday.
FALSE -- Good Friday is the Friday before Easter Sunday, and Easter Sunday occurs at different times in March and April in any given year. Potatoes were never mentioned in the Bible anyway, and are native to the Andes of South America and weren t introduced to Europe until the 1500 s. Some people called them the Devil s Food, so the Irish would plant them on Good Friday to deter anything devilish about them. There is some snippet of truth, though, since they should be planted in the Spring when the ground starts to warm up, so that s close to Good Friday.
MYTH #7. Coat just-pruned tree branches with a seal to prevent fungus or disease.
TRUE -- It used to be common practice to paint a sealant over the cut where a branch was cut off, like putting a band-aid on it. But the tree needs to heal and form a callous, so now they say just to clean it off and let it heal by itself.
MYTH #8. You need both a male & female tree in order to get fruit.
TRUE & FALSE. Some fruit trees do need both the male and female trees to be planted in proximity to each other in order to produce fruit. But now there are lots of self-pollinating trees that have been developed - they provide their own pollen and they fertilize themselves. You can find many self-pollinating peach, apple, apricot, pear and cherry trees.
MYTH #9. If you use wood chips from a diseased tree, it will spread disease to other plants.
FALSE -- There is no evidence for this, if the chips are just used on the surface as a mulch. But if you are concerned, just don t turn them or till them into the soil.
MYTH #10. The more fertilizer you use, the better the plant will grow.
FALSE -- Many people make this mistake. Always follow the directions on the package, whether it s fertilizer or pesticide, because too much could damage the plant, not to mention the environment.
MYTH #11. Clay pots are better than plastic ones.
FALSE -- It depends on what s in the pot and how consistent you are with watering. Clay pots don t retain moisture as well as plastic ones, and they tend to draw moisture away from the roots. Clay pots are also heavier than plastic ones and are more breakable.
MYTH #12. Bury nails, hairpins and other metal objects around a plant.
TRUE -- As the metal rusts, it releases elements into the surrounding soil. Hydrangea flowers turn blue if nails are buried in the soil nearby. One man buried used razor blades, although I wouldn t recommend that. Another woman stuck hairpins in the soil around the plants. But if you don t want to wait for them to rust, you can just add some iron supplement or aluminum sulfate to the soil.
MYTH #13. Feed coffee grounds to your azaleas.
TRUE - Plants don t need the caffeine jolt, but southern Idaho s low rainfall and alkaline soil is tough on acid-loving plants like azaleas and roses. Coffee grounds act as a mulch and soil improver, with lots of beneficial nitrogen. Some people have even had success spreading tea bags around in their flower beds, since they also add much needed acid to the soil.
MYTH #14. Bury banana peels in your garden.
TRUE -- Bananas contain potassium that some plants need, like roses and ferns. Bury them just below the surface. They rot quickly and add humus to the soil. Some fern growers just toss whole well-ripened bananas, and even avocados, right into the plants fronds.
MYTH #15. Pinch off blooms on annuals before planting to encourage more growth.
FALSE -- All you end up with is a longer wait for more blooms.
MYTH #16. When planting a new tree or shrub, replace the soil in the planting hold with compost or other organic material.
FALSE -- 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.
MYTH #17. Pinch off onion seed pods to prevent bolting, and knock the tops off onions to make larger bulbs.
FALSE -- In most cases, removing the onion seed pods will prohibit the growth of the onion. And knocking the tops off will actually stop the bulb-making process, resulting in no onions.
MYTH #18. Add eggshells to improve the soil.
TRUE -- Eggshells contain lots of calcium and are great for enriching compost. In tomatoes, calcium helps prevent blossom-end rot. But crush them up finely. They take a long time to break down, so don t expect them to work in just one growing season.
MYTH #19. Red plastic sheeting makes tomatoes grow and produce more.
TRUE -- There is evidence that plants, especially blooming plants, respond to far-red light waves, and grow more when exposed to an increase in red light. Some studies even favor blue.
MYTH #20. Hitting or beating a plant will make it bloom.
TRUE & FALSE -- There is no scientific evidence that hitting a non-productive plant, or beating the trunk of a tree that won t bear fruit, will actually make a difference, there is some circumstantial evidence that it does work. You have to be careful not to seriously damage the plant, but if all other methods have failed, what have you got to lose? Some researchers suggest that it shocks the plant into production, if for no other reason than the plant thinks it is in danger and needs to reproduce. Others say it might unblock something in the trees nutrient-transport system. (My brother-in-law had a peach tree that would never blossom. He beat the trunk with a baseball bat, and the following year he had a bumper crop of peaches. But maybe the tree was just a late bloomer .)
MYTH #21. Singing or talking to flowers helps them to grow better.
TRUE -- The scientific reasoning behind this is that as we talk or sing to our plants we release carbon dioxide with our breath. This encourages the plant to convert it to oxygen, which in turn produces more growth. On the Discovery Channel show Myth Busters , they determined that heavy metal music played constantly resulted in the best growth rate. But where is the carbon dioxide coming from the stereo system? Bottom line - if you like to talk or sing to your plants, go for it, as long as the neighbors don t complain!
MYTH #22. Epsom salts encourage plant growth and production.
TRUE -- Epsom salts contain magnesium sulfate, and important nutrient for plants like tomatoes and peppers, but so do many other fertilizers. Epsom salts are not recommended unless your soil has a serious magnesium deficiency.
MYTH #23. Aromatic plants will keep pests away from the garden.
TRUE & FALSE -- Some aromatic plants, such as marigolds, mint and many herbs, may turn some insects away, but mainly only from landing on the marigolds, mint and herbs. But aromatic plants will also attract many beneficial insects, such as pollenizing bees and others that may eat other bad bugs.
MYTH #24. A bowl of beer in the garden attracts snails and slugs and drowns them.
TRUE -- Snails and slugs will be attracted to the beer and drown in the container. However, they are attracted by many things. It is the trap that will kill them, not just the bait. Grapefruit rinds, banana peels, a damp wooden board, will all attract the pests, but you ll still have to dispose of them. Besides, having beer in your garden may attract other pests, like annoying neighbors.
MYTH #25. Don t plant tomatoes and squash until the snow has melted off Shaffer Butte.
TRUE & FALSE: Treasure Valley gardeners and local farmers swear by this adage. It does seem to work most of the time, however, In any given year, at least a little snow can still be found above Bogus Basin until early May. The average date of last frost is about May 15th in the Treasure Valley. So it makes sense that it would usually be safe to plant frost-sensitive tomatoes, melons and squash by then. It also suggests that the ground is warm enough to plant in the valley, since the snow has melted at nearly 7000 feet in elevation. But keep in mind that in some years, snow may melt earlier, but killing frosts or freezes can still occur as late as the end of May and early June.
BONUS MYTH: A few pennies in a zip lock bag filled with water will keep the flies away.
TRUE & FALSE -- There is no scientific evidence that clearly proves or disproves this. One idea is that since flies have many eyes, they see lots of potential predators in the reflection of the water and the coins and are scared away. A few studies claim that it actually attracted more flies. But many people swear that it works, including many restaurant operators.
KTVB's meteorologist and home gardener Jim Duthie is doing gardening segments every Monday and Wednesday on the News at Four.
Got a question or segment idea? Contact him on his Facebook page.