Gardening myths that have been dispelled

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THERE are more myths in gardening than you can shake a carrot at! Gardeners have been trying for years to discover a magical formula to boost plant growth.

Some even claimed to have found the Holy Grail and then guarded it with Fort Knox-type security. The ingredients were committed to memory and only one item was bought from the chemist before buying the next from another so that even the chemist did not know the formula.

For years gardening was treated as muck and magic until the advent of gardening centres in the 1950s, when more information became available to the amateur gardener.

However, one product, British National Growmore, a balanced fertiliser that was formulated during the war for the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign, has stood the test of time and is still as popular today.

Over the years there has been some very nasty garden products, arsenate of lead was commonly mixed with other products and sprayed over garden plants. Cyaniding a greenhouse was the standard practice to keep it free of pests, and just about everything else including the operator if he wasn’t very nippy on his feet!

Tractor fuel was sprayed on the land to keep weeds down. Even that was not in the same class as one of the weed killer recipes; this was made by mixing half a pound of white arsenic and one pound of caustic soda and these ingredients were freely available from the local chemist.

For years we followed the advice to plant potatoes on Good Friday and no-one ever asked why? No-one seemed to notice that Good Friday can vary almost a month either way. So why plant potatoes on this particular day? Simply because it was the only extra day working people had off at that time of the year.

One myth that lasted for literally hundreds of years was that plant pots needed to be crocked, even the Romans were doing it. Crocking was filling the bottom of the pot with bits of broken clay pot or stones. The idea was that without these ‘crocks’ your pots wouldn’t drain. What goes up must come down and pots have a hole at the bottom out of which the water could do nothing other than drain. So common sense as at last prevailed and it is now widely accepted that crocking pots can be detrimental to plant growth.

Now here is a real scorcher of a myth. Never water your plants while the sun is shining because the water droplets that sit on the leaves surface act as lenses and kill the parts of the leaves beneath them. In contrast to the myth, water droplets sitting on leaves can actually be beneficial. They intensify the incoming light enough to accelerate the process whereby the green pigment assists in the creation of sugars in the leaves and so are beneficial to growth.

We should also remember that evaporating water causes cooling and not heating. It is no wonder that we gardeners are still at the bottom of the evolutionary scale.