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North Hills Monthly

It’s Not Wise to Trust the Internet for Gardening Advice

May 31, 2016 12:31PM ● By Denise Schreiber

The Internet is a wonderful thing. We can communicate instantaneously with family and friends, do research for school and work, and even assume that everything that we see on it is true. Surely, you’ve seen the commercial where the girl walks up to a friend and says that she is waiting for her date, a French model. Telling her friend that everything you read on the Internet is true, she excitedly greets the so-called model, an unattractive man with a fanny pack under his large belly who says, “Bond Jor.” 

So many of us receive emails and see memes that tout gardening ‘facts’—and while some of these are laughable, others are downright dangerous. 

So here are some things that I think you should know:

• Marigolds do not repel bunnies, groundhogs or deer. In fact, they are one of their preferred foods. Certain types of marigolds repel nematodes (roundworms) in the soil, but those types of nematodes can’t survive in our climate.

• PAM®, the cooking spray, is not a substitute for horticultural oil to kill scale insects on plants, but it is a good way to make your plant a sticky mess that will collect dirt and dust.

• Peonies do not attract ants and do not need them to open their buds. Peony buds are extremely large, which is why you notice the ants on them; the ants are only interested in the nectar of the flower.

• You cannot tell the sex of peppers by the number of lobes on the pepper. If you could, what would that make jalapeno and chile peppers?

• ‘Whacking’ a tree is not a good way to make it flower—it’s a good way to kill it. When you damage the cambium of a tree, it will put out flower buds to produce seed to make sure that its genes live on, since the tree will die.

• Planting by the moon, stars or anything else will not make a difference in the crop. You also cannot accurately reproduce the exact same conditions every year. Moisture, soil temperature and nutrients will all vary over time.

• All of those vibrating electronic devices that are supposed to repel mice, voles, moles, etc., do not work. If you think they will, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I can sell you…cheap.

• Having a pregnant woman sow your seed because she is fertile means that you will have a bountiful crop. Seriously...don't even ask.

• Spraying your houseplants with water creates humidity that helps them thrive. Actually, it creates an opportunity for fungal problems. If you are growing plants that require high humidity, keep them in a bathroom with good light or set them on a tray of water. Even better, put a humidifier on your furnace.

• Mulch does not attract termites. Termites prefer damp, solid wood to create their caverns. If you have termites, have your foundation checked by a professional, but don’t blame your mulch. Cedar mulch does not repel insects either. It loses its fragrance in the outdoors.

• Using river rock means never mulching again! This one may be true, because you’ll be in a back brace. To cover a 3’x10’ area with ¾-inch river rock will take 1,198 pounds, or .599 tons of river rock. You also shouldn’t use rock as mulch because it heats up on warm winter days, tricking the plants into thinking that it’s time for them to start growing. When it turns cold again, the plants suffer. Rocks also retain leaves, dirt and weeds, so you still have to weed and clean up.

• Compost tea is not a ‘wonder drug’ for the garden, because it adds very few microbes, contributes to groundwater contamination, and cannot legally be used as a fungicide. But you can contract E. coli and salmonella from it when the tea isn’t made properly or is accidentally contaminated. Compost is good for your garden, so use that instead of compost tea.

• In the meme that says, ‘Never use Roundup® Weed Killer again,’ the alternative concoction is just as dangerous as the chemical itself, if not more so. It kills earthworms, contaminates the soil and damages the landscape. There are plenty of organic weed controls that you can use instead.