Repeating Suburban Myths

When I'm not working in the garden, or writing about gardening, you can often find me with my nose in a gardening book or magazine or searching the Web for new information. I'm always looking for ways to garden smarter.

What I find a bit frustrating is, in spite of new research that debunks many old gardening saws, old habits die hard. Unfortunately, some books, magazines, TV shows and Internet sights continue to give out old information.

Here are some of the gardening myths that continue to pop up, even though they've been proven wrong.

Myth: Watering during the heat of the day is bad for plants because the water droplets act as magnifying glasses and burn the leaves.

Truth: That's a suburban legend that will not die. Watering with plain water when the sun is shining won't hurt the leaves one bit. What will burn the leaves and flowers is watering them with water-soluble fertilizers or pesticides when the sun is shining directly on the plants. Fertilizers are best applied in the early morning hours or on cloudy days. Pesticides are usually more effective when applied at dusk because most insects feed at night.

So if you're having a outdoor soiree and the garden is looking like limp dish rag at high noon, you can give your flowers a shower to revive them without fear of damaging the plants.

Myth: Watering the lawn for a short period -- 20 to 30 minutes a day -- is the best way to protect your lawn from drought.

Truth: Wrong, says Doug Fender, president of Turfgrass Producers International, a not-for-profit association of turf grass producers. Watering in small amounts discourages grass from forming deep roots, and the deep roots keep the grass going in times of drought.

Fender agrees the daily watering routine works on the putting greens of golf courses where the grass is micro-managed on a daily basis. He points out that irrigation systems used on golf courses are 80 percent efficient. Greenskeepers spend their days working on their turf and tuning up their sprinkler systems. Most home systems give spotty coverage, so lightly watered areas of grass end up getting less than the inch of water a week needed to keep turf healthy and green. Deep watering once or twice a week, when it doesn't rain, is the tried and true method for growing a great lawn.

Fender says, for a great looking lawn, aerate it annually with a coring machine in spring or fall. Water the grass a day or so before so the soil is soft enough for the hollow tines to penetrate it. He recommends running the machine in two or three directions and leaving the dirt cores on the lawn.

For more scientifically documented findings and information on how to grow a trophy lawn, check out the TPI Web sites at www.Lawn and

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