Horticultural Myths Exposed

Horticulture is the art of cultivating. Garden herbs, plants, produce, flowers, fruits, nuts, and trees all fall under the horticulture category. The common denominator in all of these is soil. One of DeepRoot’s favorite industry leaders and researchers of healthy soil and effective horticulture is Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott. Dr. Chalker-Scott is an Extension Urban Horticulturist at the Puyallup Research and Extension Center at Washington State University. She has been there for over 17 years. She takes great delight in debunking common and inaccurate beliefs about best practices for trees and other plants. Her one-page myth busters are informative, easy to read, and very entertaining. But if you want the quick takeaways from our top three, here they are!

A house favorite is The Myth of Soil Amendments: When transplanting trees or shrubs into landscapes, amend the backfill soil with organic matter”. Her takeaways are:
– Select suitable plant species for site conditions
– Don’t be an “enabler”: use native soils for backfill without amendment
– In extreme cases, replace the entire planting site with topsoil
– Mulch landscapes well with wood chips or another water-holding material

Another myth is The Myth of Fragile Roots: You shouldn’t disturb the rootball when transplanting trees and shrubs. The takeaways here are:
– Plants with woody roots often need corrective root pruning before transplanting
– Containerized plants are notorious for concealing fatal root flaws
– “Bare-rooting” container plants is a more successful transplanting technique as root flaws can be
corrected and container media removed
– In a healthy, well-watered plant, root pruning at transplant time will induce vigorous new root
growth and assist in establishment.

Lastly, the Myth of Compost Tea Revisted: Aerobically-brewed compost tea suppresses disease.
– Composted mulch has been documented to suppress disease through a variety of methods
– Non-aerated compost teas may be useful in suppressing some pathogens on some plants
– Aerated compost teas have no scientifically documented effect as pathogen suppressors
– Overuse and runoff of compost teas could conceivably contribute to water pollution
– There is no “silver bullet” for plant health problems caused by poor soil health and improper plant
selection and management

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