DIGGIN' IT: Beware of ‘fake’ news

Sure, ladybugs will eat your aphids, but keeping them in your own garden is another issue all on its own.

If you engage in social media at all you’ve likely seen fake news sites. Maybe you’ve even read a few and thought, wow, is that for real? After all, they’re not called “click bait” for nothing.

After the election last November, legitimate news sources warned us of fake news sources and offered tips to keep us from being duped and perpetuating the sensationalism.

Well, it might surprise you that there is a lot of fake gardening news out there, too. Mainly it comes in the form of advice dispersed through legitimate-looking websites and books from probably well-meaning gardening experts. Google “garden myths” and be amazed.

Just today while researching for this article I saw a website touting the virtues of hydrogen peroxide in the garden. “A great fertilizer,” it said. “It oxygenates plant roots.” Truth or myth?

The advice isn’t limited to books and social media. Sometimes nursery clerks will make suggestions for products we don’t need. If we’re new to gardening or haven’t done our homework, we might fall for it.

While gardeners are all for taking shortcuts, saving money, and working smarter, not harder, we must be careful to not believe everything we’re told, and remember the adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

I remember back in 2002 when I took the Oregon State University Extension Service Master Gardener courses and graduated with Master Gardener credentials. One of the things about the program that appealed to me was that I was getting information that was tested in a science-based university setting with no biases or vested monetary interests. To me, that meant I could trust the advice.

I remember learning that if I’m going to plant a balled and burlapped shrub or tree, I must remove the burlap and shake the existing dirt off the root ball before planting. I also remember learning that using a sealant on freshly-cut tree limbs will actually impede the healing process, not improve it. I learned that if I purchase ladybugs to combat my aphid issues, I can expect many of said ladybugs to fly away home or at least to the neighbor’s garden since they much prefer to dine alone. And I learned that the jury is still out on whether compost tea actually works.

Which leads me to another important point about science-based information, it’s always evolving. As new information is gathered and tallied it can alter the results. So it’s important to stay up to date.

A fantastic source for garden myth-busting comes from the Washington State University Extension Service, and Linda Chalker-Scott’s The Informed Gardener website. Ms. Chalker-Scott is an associate professor and Extension specialist at WSU. On her website you will find science-based information on everything gardening. Check out her “Horticultural Myths” page where you can learn about everything from proper mulches to how plants work, planting techniques and more. Additionally, she’s got several seasonal podcasts that look fun and interesting. She’s also written three books on the subject of gardening published by the University of Washington Press. For more information, visit articles.extension. org/pages/68911/linda-chalker-scott.

February tips:

This month, better nurseries will have their bare-root trees and shrubs available for purchase. If you’re looking to plant a tree or shrub, be sure to check out what’s available. You can save money by buying bare root. But don’t delay. Nurseries will soon pot up the bare-root plants which will increase the price.

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