Good grief but it really annoys me (I wrote another word here but realized it wouldn’t pass the family-acceptable standard I like to publish) when I see the amount of really, really bad advice in online forums and social media sites.
The fall garden season is almost over, gardeners are flocking online to help each other and I’m seeing a load of bad advice. So take a deep breath and let me unload on you.
Do You Need Acidic Soils For That Special Plant
Have regular soil? No problem according to some folks.
Just add pine needles. Uh – why? They’re not overly acidic (this may vary a bit depending on where the plant is growing) Neither do pine needles or pine trees turn soil acidic over the long term.
Just add coffee grounds. Uh – why? They may be slightly acidic but there’s an equal chance they’ll be slightly alkaline.
And even if you do add something acidic – like the vinegar I saw recommended last week – the underlying soil parent material (the rock it’s made from) and the microoganisms living there will quickly turn it back.
How Do I Do It Then ?
1) Soil test.
2) Add sulphur at recommended rates from the label.
3) Soil test regularly to maintain and evaluate.
Add This To Your Tomato Patch
Just add epsom salts.
Uh – why? Epsom salts are magnesium and while tomatoes do produce well if they get this mineral, there’s usually enough in soil to grow tomatoes. (soil test time)
Just add calcium?
Uh – why? To prevent blossom end rot (the black sunken spot on the bottom of the tomato)
Blossom End Rot – the black spot on the bottom of your tomato- can be caused by several different variables.
- 1) Cool spring temperatures that stop the growth processes and the roots from delivering calcium up to the plant- if you get BER on your first fruit but not your second truss, it’s the temperature.
- 2) High summer temperatures that cause the plant to stop growing and delivering calcium.
- 3) See below..
Note it’s not a calcium deficiency in the soil – it’s the way the calcium is moved up to the fruit (or not) that causes BER.
The Major Cause Of Black Spots On Tomatoes
The major cause turns out to be irregular watering and this lack of water doesn’t allow the plant to suck up enough calcium when it needs it.
The only way you’ll know is if you have a soil test done.
My .02 – – Learn to water properly for crying out loud.
Bury Copper Pennies For Great Gardens
Really. You think a penny will degrade fast enough to feed a tomato? Have you ever buried a penny to dig it up in the fall?
p.s. Pennies aren’t made of copper anymore.
Digging Your Garden Is Bad
I love this one. I really do. Apparently it kills the long fungal strands. OK – the last time I checked the compost tea folks said bacterial-rich microoganisms were the ones we wanted for vegetables and other annual crops. Fungal rich soils were for woody plants.
I’m not going to get into a debate over this. I will simply say that when I double-dig small plots the way I learned from books published in the 1500’s (and wrote about in Gardening Wisdom) I get fantastic vegetable yields.
And when I used to feed six of us on the farm, I’d mulch our massive garden heavily with straw. Every three years I’d till it in. The mulch reduced the weeding and fed – along with several manure spreader loads – our sandy soil. But deep mulch also comes with problems such as bumper crops of slugs.
But I’d also double-dig the carrot beds and a few other beds where I wanted huge crops.
Like a lot of gardening “accepted wisdom” it varies depending on who’s being wise at any given moment.
And frankly, what kind of soil you have.
Advice Given For Politically-Correct Reasons
Oh yeah, there are so many politically correct ways to garden it’s a bit depressing.
In my world, a garden is an artificial construct. It is an idea and an art form. If your idea of beauty is honking huge asters that’s great. If your idea of beauty is a garden full of wildflowers, that’s fine too. If you want to have a lawn to roll and play with your kids and pets and you do it organically and sustainably – why not?
The key is organically and sustainably. The closer you get to this ideal, the better our planet will be.
I’ll Get Letters
Oh yeah. I expect to get letters saying, “You’re wrong, this works for me.” My answer (before you write) is to ask if you did a double-blind test? Did you treat your garden the same way with test and control plots that were big enough? Or did you simply start doing something – had a better growing season delivered from Mother Nature – and gave credit to the “something else” instead of Mother?
Magic bullet” solutions will never replace solid gardening techniques; most garden problems start with the gardener.
Simplify your life.
If you have a problem you think might be soil related, do a soil test. You can get a basic kit from many garden shops that will give you “rough” guidelines.
But if you don’t want to do the above, then do three things.
- Add organic matter to your soil every year.
- Add compost every year.
- Learn to water properly. There’s an old nursery saying, “He who holds the hose, holds the profits.” It’s true there and it’s true in your garden.
Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.