When it comes to gardening, myths abound.

Gardeners have been passing along tips and advice for ages and, while some home-tested garden secrets are backed by science, others simply don’t measure up.
The next time a well-meaning friend or neighbor shares a gardening trick, check with the plant nursery professionals at Millcreek Gardens before testing it out yourself. For now, to help weed out the truth, we debunk five of the most common gardening myths.

Myth #1: Add Gravel to the Bottom Your Planters

Many gardeners think that adding a layer of gravel or a handful of pebbles to the bottom of a planter or pot improves drainage and helps prevent root rot. Actually, the opposite is true.

Excess water doesn’t move easily through the potting soil to the gravel – it only drains once the soil becomes completely saturated, much like a sponge that can’t hold any more water. To ensure adequate drainage, make sure you use a high-quality potting soil and choose planters with plenty of drain holes. No rocks or gravel necessary.

Myth #2: Fertilize Plants in Poor Health

Contrary to common belief, a sickly plant doesn’t need to be fertilized. Acting in accordance with this gardening myth could backfire, in fact, leading to additional stress and problems for the plant.

When a plant looks sick, it’s usually not from a lack of food. Instead of fertilizing, find out the cause. It could be pest infestation, poor gardening practices, compacted soil or a host of other issues.

For help with a sickly plant, visit your local garden center.

Myth #3: Stake Every Newly-Planted Tree

Staking newly-planted trees used to be a common practice, as it was believed that this helped encourage strong growth. Today, we know this to be a gardening myth.

Staked trees can grow tall, but their trunks are typically skinny and weak. Gardening experts only recommend staking top-heavy trees and those planted in a windy area or sloped site.

Myth #4: Apply Pruning Paints When You Trim

Applying pruning paint (or, worse, lipstick or nail polish) to the cut surfaces of trimmed branches is said to protect trees and shrubs from insects and disease. In fact, research suggests that following this gardening myth may slow the natural healing process after pruning.

Don’t reach for the pruning paint. Just use a sharp gardening tool and make clean cuts, then leave the branches alone – the tree or plant can heal on its own.

Myth #5: To Amend Clay Soil, Add Sand

In northern Utah, one of the most common gardening myths concerns our problematic native clay soil. For some reason, many gardeners mistakenly think adding sand is the right solution.

Unfortunately, sand doesn’t improve clay soil. In fact, adding sand creates a mortar-like substance that isn’t at all good for gardening. Instead of sand, work in some organic matter and till a layer of compost over the soil.

With all the gardening myths and misconceptions out there, you shouldn’t believe everything you hear or read. For expert advice on how to grow and care for indoor and outdoor plants, turn to the plant nursery professionals at Millcreek Gardens.

As northern Utah’s favorite local garden center since 1955, Millcreek Gardens is a valuable resource for both new gardeners and long-time green thumbs. Our friendly Salt Lake City plant nursery staff is always happy to answer questions and offer advice. Stop by today to get the expert opinions you need to bust your gardening myths.