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: When planting, it's not necessary to remove the burlap wrapping from trees and shrubs because the material will decompose.
Truth: Yes, real burlap will decompose over time, but it doesn't happen overnight. In fact, the decomposition process may take a decade or more. In the meantime, the burlap discourages newly -forming roots from moving beyond the root ball and establishing a strong root system. Also, any burlap that is exposed above the surface of the soil will act as a wick and suck water away from the root ball of the plant.
Before planting, professionals also recommend removing any ties, straps or metal baskets that are used to keep the root ball intact. If you have a landscape service install trees and shrubs, instruct them ahead of time to remove all packaging materials including the burlap.
Myth: When planting trees and shrubs, the soil should be amended to help the plant grow healthy roots.
Truth: Tests show enriching the soil with organic materials discourages roots from moving into the native soil surrounding the planting hole. They prefer to stay in the organically enriched amended soil. Also, the addition of organic material changes the structure of soil and may create a bathtub effect in heavy clay. To prevent root girdling, the recommendation is break up the native soil and return it to the hole.
Raised beds and elevated berms are the best bet for planting trees and shrubs in heavy clay soil where drainage is a problem.
Myth: Newly planted trees should be staked to keep them from leaning until their roots become established.
Truth: In fact, this procedure can do more harm then good. Unless a tree is located in a high wind area, staking is no longer recommended. Under normal conditions, the movement of a tree trunk helps to strengthen the trunk and toughen the bark. In addition, support wires improperly padded and left on too long damage tender bark.
Myth: After removing a limb from a tree, the wound should be painted with latex paint or tree paint to seal out insects and infection.
Truth: Painting fresh tree wounds is a big no-no. The seal slows the natural healing process and may actually seal in moisture that promotes wood rot.