“I can't afford to have a nice garden” and other gardening myths

A garden is grown not with money, but with tending, nurturing, time and patience.

Gardeners love sharing advice, and much of it is good and sound, but beware.  Some snippets of erroneous advice are so confidently delivered and so universally believed that they have the ring of solid authenticity, and so have entered into the world of the Garden Myth. Many of these myths have further been fueled by, amongst others, advertising, garden literature, gardening programs and videos, nurserymen, landscapers and hardware stores.

Bear in mind that there is a huge garden orientated industry out there, driven solely by the desire to separate from the unwary public, the largest possible slice of the pie. As nurseries became Garden Centers, enterprising companies anticipated the potential of the home gardener as a source of profit. They have achieved this aim admirably. For every garden activity there will be something you must buy before you can begin.

But what if you're on a budget? Do what gardeners did before the advent of the Big Spend Era. My Gran kept a lovely, half acre garden for many years on a very tight budget. Her secret?  Tending, nurturing, time and patience.
As a novice gardener, I have also fallen for, and passed on, my share of ill-advised practices, only to  realise that they are either unnecessary or downright false. Hopefully the following will help to save time and money.

Myth 1: If a little fertilizer or pesticide is good, then a lot must be better; and, It’s organic: I can apply with abandon

Too much fertilizer can burn plants, prevent seed germination, contaminate water sources and upset the natural balance of the soil. This applies to all chemicals used in the garden.  The 'more-is-better' myth is equally inapplicable to organic solutions. Organic does not mean “safe under any condition.” Follow the label instructions precisely.

Or do without them completely. Pesticides and fertilizers cannot correct mistakes made in plant selection, planting, or care.

Myth 2: Organic pesticides are less toxic than synthetic ones, and are toxic to pests but harmless to other living things.

Some organic pesticides that are derived from poisonous plants are even more toxic than commercially prepared ones. Some are designed to kill a wide spectrum of garden pests – I really cannot imagine that these poisons know the difference between 'good' and 'bad' bugs. Treat organic pesticides with the same caution as synthetic ones. They can have the same negative effects on the surrounding environment as the chemically derived options.

Or do without them completely. Regular close attention to your plants will alert you to pest attacks and disease before they have time to take hold, and the timely removal of the  insects or infected plants will usually suffice.

Myth 3: If a plant is showing signs of stress, it should be fed

When a plant shows symptoms of stress, first investigate for compacted soil, heat, salt spray, faulty planting, incorrect placement, insect activity (like an ant nest at the roots) or disease. Rule out or attend to these conditions before deciding a plant is under fertilized. Fertilizing plants that are not nutrient deficient can actually lead to an increase in stress.

Myth 4: You should apply a wound dressing after making any pruning cut on a tree or shrub.

Sealants retain moisture near the new wound, which encourages the various fungal decay organisms to grow. Instead, make a clean cut just outside the branch collar and leave it alone. Trees and shrubs have a remarkable ability to cover up the damaged area.

Myth 5: Plant the largest size tree you can afford

Bigger is not always better. The roots of a tree grown in container are often confined and root bound: the roots curl and turn inward, literally strangling themselves and each other, an all to often resulting is stunted growth and poor anchorage. A young, sapling with an uncompromised root system will quickly become established, be better anchored in the soil, grow fast and cost less.

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