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OUT IN THE YARD — Gardening myths abound … but are debunked

The first myth to tackle is “More is always better.”

This is so far from the truth. Too much water will drown the roots and kill a plant. Mixing fertilizers stronger than stated on the package will burn up a plant. Runoff from over fertilized fields causes algae blooms in lakes and the ocean killing fish.

Pesticides mixed too strong will kill not only insects but birds that eat the insects. Runoff or overspray that leaks into a water stream will kill aquatic animals, especially frogs since they absorb so much through their skin. There are reasons that companies create mixing instructions developed in conjunction with their testing. Governmental regulations attempt to moderate overuse.

“Newly planted trees need to be staked.”

Newly planted trees do not necessarily need to be staked. If they are in a very windy location or keep leaning then staking for only a few months could be helpful. Trees need to sway back and forth on a regular basis to develop a strong root base. Stretching the trunk will cause the trunk to better withstand strong winds as it grows older. Trees that are staked and not allowed to move much will have brittle trunks and are more likely to break in strong winds rather the swaying.

“Adding sand to clay soil will loosen it up.”

Mixing sand and clay will make a brick-like soil, not loosen it up. The best thing for clay soils is organic materials like wood, leaves, hay, or grass clippings. One characteristic of clay soil is the particles are flat and not round like sand. This along with the particles being positively and negatively charged (opposites attract) makes them hard to separate. Chemical reactions during decomposition and spaces for roots help break up clay soils.

“Organics pesticides are better than synthetic ones.”

First, what is better? Pesticides kill insects. It does not matter which kind is used. Organic pesticides can be actually be stronger than synthetic ones so care must be taken with either type. One of the benefits of organic pesticides is often they break down after a short period of time. Synthetic ones can linger in the environment for long periods of time.

“Planting by the moon phases produces better harvests.”

This is not true. Root vegetables do not grow better if planted by moonlight. Studies have shown no difference between harvest numbers and moon phases. Even avid gardeners do not want to dig around in the garden in the moonlight for a few more potatoes or tomatoes.

If you have any questions about gardening in general, you can reach Jefferson County Master Gardener Tim Schreck at timothyrschreck@gmail.com or call Texas A&M AgriLife Extension at 409-835-8461.