This week we are going to discuss and dispel 4 common gardening myths.
First, we are going to get a “Two for One” on Eggshells.
“I can just toss eggshells in my garden to add the needed calcium” FALSE!
- Just adding eggshells, even broken up well, will not give you the calcium you are looking for. They simply will not breakdown fast enough for you to see any benefit from them. The contain 50 parts per million of calcium, they also have sulfur, potassium, magnesium, sodium and some organic matter (the interior membrane). But you need to do more than just tossing them in the soil to get the value out of them. This is one of very few “animal products” you can compost in your worm composting bin or your compost pile. So if you really want to put those eggshells to work for you in your garden, you may consider this alternative.
“If I leave big broken chunks of eggshells in my garden around the plants & veggies I don’t want the snails to eat, they’ll stay away because they do not want to climb over the sharp edges.: FALSE!
- Those “sharp edges” are just not that sharp, and the snails & slugs will climb right over the as if they were smooth marbles. IF you really want to prevent the snails and slugs from getting to your veggies, there are other methods you can use.
- Weed Your Garden: Slugs like to hide themselves and their eggs under weeds. Weeding your garden regularly will help to rid them from your garden.
- The Beer Trap: This suggestion comes from Organic Gardening. They reported that slugs are attracted to the fermented yeast in beer. Simply take a used yogurt container and pour the beer in. The slugs will climb in an drown. For best results, change the beer every few days.
- Spread out Dry, Dusty, or Scratchy Material: Since slugs avoid all things dry, dusty, and scratchy material, they make perfect barriers. You can use course sawdust, gravel, or sand to help create a barrier and protect your garden.
- Increase Your Plants’ Magnesium: In an article we published last month we talked about how Epsom salt can actually increase your plants magnesium levels. It also has an amazing effect on slugs and keeps slugs away from plants with high levels of magnesium. Check out the article, How to Supercharge your Backyard Garden with Epsom Salt, to find out how to do it.
- Add Barriers: Spread salt on a barrier around your potted outdoor plants to help deter the slugs. Slugs will refuse to go near it because salt will actually dry them out. Be careful not to compromise the integrity of the garden soil with the salt as it will ruin the soil. Coffee grounds are a great barrier in your garden that will not damage the soil. They have the added benefit of enriching the soil with acidic pH.
- Snail, Slugs, Cats and Ant Control: A great and natural place to start is to add some used coffee grounds around your garden. If that doesn’t work, fresh coffee grounds or coffee grounds that haven’t been used for coffee will kill snails or slugs on contact.
“Placing forks or other “Pointy” objects in your garden sticking up will deter small critters from invading your garden space” FALSE!
- Unfortunately all that does is make your job harden when it comes to weeding, harvesting from and maintaining your garden. Using netting, and fencing is really the only effective way to keep the critters out of your garden. The good news is that once your veggies begin to mature, they are less attractive to the invading critters. Other great options are poultry cloth (aka chicken wire) and frost cloth. Covering your in this manner will also keep out the unwanted critters.
“Blossom End Rot is caused by disease or insects” FALSE!
So what exactly is Blossom End rot?
- Blossom end rot is a physiological disorder of tomato in which the tissue of the blossom end of the fruit (the portion of the fruit opposite the stem) breaks down and rots, thus reducing yield. Pepper, eggplant and squash (e.g., zucchini) fruits can also be affected.
What causes blossom end rot?
Blossom end rot is caused by a lack of calcium in the fruit. This lack of calcium may be due to low calcium levels in the soil. More often, there is plenty of calcium in the soil, but its availability for uptake and transport to fruits is impaired. Drought stress, alternating soil moisture extremes, and damage to a plant’s roots all can inhibit calcium uptake, as can waterlogged or cold soils, and high concentrations of ammonium (NH4+), potassium (K+), and magnesium (Mg++) cations in soil. Movement of calcium within plants depends on active transpiration (i.e., loss of water through above-ground plant parts). Because leaves transpire more than fruits, calcium moves more easily into leaves where it remains. Calcium is not later redistributed from leaves to fruits. This preferential distribution of calcium to leaves can be made worse by over-fertilizing with nitrogen which promotes excessive production of leaves. In addition, high relative humidity, OR low relative humidity in combination with hot, windy weather can limit transpiration, thus preventing calcium from reaching fruits.
How can I control blossom end rot?
Avoid conditions of too much or too little water. Irrigate evenly and mulch the soil to retain moisture during dry periods. Avoid cultivation near plants that would damage roots. Use nitrate (NO3-) rather than ammonium (NH4+) forms of nitrogen fertilizer. DO NOT over-fertilize. Have your soil tested periodically to determine if there is sufficient calcium in the soil. If not, add calcium (e.g., lime, bonemeal, eggshells). Check the soil pH on a regular basis, particularly if you use lime as a calcium source. A pH of about 6.5 is ideal for growing most vegetables. Finally, grow vegetable cultivars that are tolerant of calcium deficiencies and less likely to show blossom end rot symptoms.
“Pine needles acidify my soil” FALSE!
- Your soil has a certain pH level which is expressed as a number between 1 and 14. A value of 1 is extremely acidic and a value of 14 is extremely alkaline (or basic) and a value of 7 is considered Neutral, neither acidic or alkaline.
- Most plants like a soil in the 6.8 range. Most plants will grow just fine in a pH range of 6.4-7.5.
- Acid loving plants like rhododendrons like a pH of 4.5 to 6.
- Let’s say your soil is more alkaline than your plants want. The solution seems simple, add something that is acidic. When you add acid to your soil it should reduce the pH making it more acidic.
Are Pine needles acidic?
- Yes, sort of…. FRESH pine needles, taken directly from the tree are slightly acidic.
- By the time the pine needles are old and ready to drop off of the tree, they are barely acidic. After a few days o the ground they loose 100% of their acidity. These brown pine needles (also called Pine Straw) are not acidic.
- It’s more likely that your source of pine needles will not likely be green needles, and brown needles are not acidic, therefore collecting them is pointless (for the purpose of adding acid to your soil)
- Even if you have access to fresh green pine needles, they have so little acid in them, that they will have a very limited effect in adding acid to your soil.
- It seems reasonable that over tie pine needles will surely add acid to soil, right? Well studies have been done where scientists collected soil samples under 50 year old pines and soils samples where no pines had been during the same time period. They found the pH of both soil samples were the same. The growing pines did not acidify the soil even after 50 years!
- Adding pine needles to your soil, or compost can be beneficial, but they will not change the pH of your soil.
So how do you add acid to your soil if you need to change the pH?
Sulfur will take some time to lower the soil pH, so it should be added the year before you want to plant. In many ways, though, it is the best option. It lasts for years in the soil and does a better job of acidifying than most other amendments. It's best to apply sulfur in the summer or fall before the following spring planting season, digging it deep into the soil. It does not work very well to try and dig in sulfur around existing plants. As with any amendment, you need to have a soil test conducted in order to determine how much sulfur to apply in order to reach the desired pH.
Add Iron Sulphate
Iron sulfate lowers pH but requires a much larger volume of product to produce the same results as sulfur. It is often used to treat specific symptoms of iron deficiency. Iron sulfate will provide faster results than sulfur (in three or four weeks) but can damage plants if over-used. It can be dug into the soil as a powder or applied in solution and watered over leaves for absorption.
Add Sphagnum Peat Moss
When used in large amounts as a soil amendment, sphagnum peat moss will slightly acidify the soil while also adding organic material. When preparing your soil for planting, place four to six inches of acidic peat moss on your topsoil and till it to a depth of six inches. This will acidify the soil for about two years.
Use Acidic Fertilizer
If your acid-loving plants are isolated among other non-acid plants, it may not be practical to amend the soil, since the increased acidity might then affect other plants. Here, the best option is to fertilize with one of the many water-soluble products available. Begin with mild solutions until you understand the impact on your plants.
Add Aluminum Sulfate
Powdered aluminum sulfate has been a standard soil additive for gardeners growing blueberries and many other plants since it is quick-acting and convenient to dig in around individual plants. However, there are recent concerns about the possibility of aluminum toxicity, which can be especially damaging to children. Aluminum can be absorbed from drinking water, and excessive use of aluminum sulfate as a soil amendment can contribute to the contamination of groundwater supplies.
Many experts now recommend that aluminum sulfate is used only on hydrangeas, where the aluminum helps create the vivid blue flowers that are prized. For other plants, safer options are available, such as ammonium sulfate.
In high quantities or in its pure form, aluminum sulfate is considered a "hazardous substance." Use this product with an abundance of caution. Chemically, when combined with water, aluminum sulfate becomes corrosive sulfuric acid.
Add Ammonium Sulfate
This is a good alternative to aluminum sulfate. It can be dug into the soil around the base of plants to increase sulfur levels in the soil. It requires some care, however, because it can burn plants by increasing acid levels too quickly.