Gardening & Living in Grand Style
Fact or fiction: Gardening tales...
by Michael Johnson
Utah State University Extension Agent, Grand County
Jul 13, 2017 | 4412 views | 0 0 comments | 910 910 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Is it hot enough for you? It looks like this will be a summer with a bunch of 100 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures. In the past we have seen 30 and, I believe, 40 days in a row with 100-plus temperatures; perhaps we will hit that again.

Through it all, our intrepid gardeners are bringing joy to themselves, family, friends and others through their gardens. For my part, I continue to answer questions and lately have had some gardeners tell me about garden “facts” friends have told them. Unfortunately, in the world of gardening it seems there are often more opinions or myths and fewer real facts. Let’s look at some.

Myth or fact: Is it true that when watering plants while the sun is shining you can burn the plant leaves? This myth assumes that the water droplets will act as a magnifying lens leading to the plant leaves burning. This is not the case. If it were then every time it rained and the sun came out all our plants would have burn spots. Yes, it’s true that plants do get spots but they are due to a variety of reasons having nothing to do with water droplets and the sun.

Myth or fact: Top a tree to control its height or trim a tree to keep it from being top heavy and possibly falling over. Please don’t do either. Trees grow to specific heights, meaning if the statistics for a tree say 40 feet high you can expect, with appropriate care and time, to get close to that. With poorer soil or limited water it might be smaller, and with excellent soil and appropriate water it might get a bit bigger. Trying to cut back an ornamental will be a never-ending job since the tree will continue to try to obtain the height it’s programmed to grow to. Plus, inappropriate pruning can damage the tree increasing the chance of disease, rot or rampant sucker growth —weaker limbs that are poorly attached and not very attractive — or lead to root death, which could make the tree unsafe. If you want a smaller tree, plant a smaller tree.

Myth or fact: Tomatoes will grow better with Epsom salts. Soil test, soil test, soil test, meaning if you have done a soil test and it shows you need magnesium then perhaps, although I have rarely seen a soil test come up short for magnesium. Otherwise, Epsom salt is not doing you any good. Also, as another salt in our soils that could already have more salts than they need, it’s not a good thing.

Myth or fact: Painting pruning cuts on trees protects them from disease and insects. Actually, this practice could increase chances of damage, but at the very least could limit wounds healing themselves naturally. Learn how to make appropriate pruning cuts to your trees and shrubs to keep them healthy and do not apply any pruning paints or other products.

Myth or fact: Adding sand to clay will improve drainage. Clay particles are very fine, meaning small, which allows them to stack up on one another and limit drainage. The thought here is that if you add some sand, which has bigger particles, it will open up the soil and allow better drainage. The reality is that the small clay particles will move into the spaces between the sand and you end up with a natural concrete. So, what do you add? Yes, organic matter, organic matter, and more organic matter.

Myth or fact: If you learn to separate the myths from the facts and use good research-based information when gardening, your success will improve tremendously. FACT! So keep on gardening and separating the facts from the myths.

Thought for the day: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” —Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Previous articles can be found on the Times Independent website. If you have a topic you would like to know more about call the Utah State University Extension Grand County office at 435-259-7558 or email Mike at

Copyright 2013 The Times-Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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