18 Pervasive Gardening Myths Busted

Do you think wood chips steal nitrogen or that beans fix and share it? Do you think you can’t use compost as soil? How about the practice of tilling? Is it beneficial for your garden?

You’re wrong on all counts.

The gardening world is full of myths and old wives’ tales that don’t stand up to scrutiny. Let’s examine some of the most egregious examples and find the truth so that we can all garden better and easier.

Adding Gravel Improves Drainage in Pots

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Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Contrary to popular belief, adding gravel to the bottom of pots can hinder water movement, causing a perched water table that can lead to root rot.

Watering Plants in the Sun Burns Leaves

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Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

The myth that water droplets act like magnifying glasses and burn plants is unfounded. Watering during hot days is often necessary, especially to prevent dehydration.

Banana Peels Make Great Fertilizer

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Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

While banana peels do contain nutrients like potassium, simply throwing them on your plants won’t provide immediate benefits. They must decompose first to feed the soil, which is better suited for compost piles.

More Fertilizer Means Better Plant Growth

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Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Over-fertilizing can harm plants, leading to nutrient burn and inhibiting growth. It’s crucial to follow recommended rates and types of fertilizer for specific plants.

Tilling The Soil Is Good For It

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Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Tilling the soil destroys the complex food web underground. There is no need to till, and there is a mounting body of evidence showing that it is quite detrimental to soil health.

The alternative? A no-till (also called no-dig) approach to gardening. It’s not new, but it’s finally gaining mainstream momentum.

Read More: No-Till Gardening {Everything You Need To Know}

Organic Pesticides Are Always Safe

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Just because a pesticide is organic doesn’t mean it’s non-toxic or harmless to all beneficial insects. It’s important to use any pesticide judiciously.

Native Plants Don’t Need Water

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While native plants are adapted to local conditions, they still require watering until established and during extreme conditions like drought.

Read More: 19 Edible Perennials To Grow For Self-Sufficiency

You Can’t Grow in Compost

Woman holding carrots in garden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

This one is a doozy. You can absolutely use 100% compost that is finished as your only garden soil. In fact, it’s one of the best things you can grow your food in. This myth that compost will compact has been proven false by countless horticulturists like no-dig gardener Charles Dowding.

Read More: Soil Vs Compost {Understanding Differences & Myths}

You Can Ignore pH Levels in Soil

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Soil pH significantly affects plant health by influencing nutrient availability. Ignoring pH levels can prevent plants from absorbing nutrients, even if the soil is rich.

Planting by the Farmer’s Almanac Guarantees Success

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While the Farmer’s Almanac can provide useful tips, its advice is not foolproof. Planting success depends more on specific local conditions and careful planning.

Coffee Grounds Acidify Soil

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Coffee grounds have a near-neutral pH when used as compost or mulch. Their ability to acidify soil is minimal and ineffective for significantly altering pH.

Epsom Salts Are Essential for Plants

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Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Epsom salts can provide magnesium and sulfur, but most plants do not require it unless a soil test indicates a deficiency. It’s not a cure-all fertilizer.

Pruning Back Plants Vigorously Increases Flowering

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Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Over-pruning can stress plants and reduce flowering. Proper pruning should be done according to the plant’s specific needs and growth habits.

Dish Soap is a Safe Insecticide

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While often recommended for DIY pest control, dish soap can harm plants due to its degreasing properties, which strip protective oils from leaves.

Marigolds Repel Pests

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Marigolds may help deter some pests but are not effective against all. They should be part of an integrated pest management approach rather than relied on as a sole solution.

Milk Can Cure Powdery Mildew

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Milk sprays may help manage mildew to an extent but are not a cure. Better air circulation, proper plant spacing, and fungicides are more effective options.

Read More: 9 Reasons {& Fixes} for Tomato Leaves Curling Up In Your Garden

Wood Chips Steal Nitrogen

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Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Wood chips are a phenomenol mulch to use, and unless you till them into the soil — why would you? — will not “steal” or tie up nitrogen from plants. Only the first few millimeters of soil are affected, way above the roots of the plants.

Wood chips are the primary mulching material used in the no-till ‘Back to Eden’ gardening method.

Learn More: Back To Eden Gardening Method {Everything You Need To Know}

Garden Beans Fix Nitrogen

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Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Garden beans and peas do not fix nitrogen in a way that benefits the soil, only itself. Some studies show it shares nitrogen in limited quantities with nearby companion plants, but if you’re looking for an actual nitrogen fixture, look to legumes like cowpeas or soy. Garden beans won’t cut it.

Read more: The Best & Worst Strawberry Companion Plants According To Science

Benefits of Raised Bed Gardens

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Learn More: 22 Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening {And The BEST Alternative}

Why Straw Bale Gardens Are a Terrible Idea

Straw bale gardens.
Photo Credit: Adobe Images.

Learn More: 15 Reasons Why Straw Bale Gardening is a Terrible Choice

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