Gardeners have turned to Facebook groups and other online resources for vegetable-growing advice. Luckily for us, the Treasure Valley is full of people eager to share their knowledge and help out their Idaho neighbors. Much of what is shared is good, but not everything. As research is conducted by colleges and universities, long-held gardening notions are being disproven, but that knowledge is not reaching all who need it.
Here are some garden myths circulating locally.
• “Prevent Blossom End Rot (a dark squishy spot on the bottom of the fruit) on tomatoes by adding calcium in the planting hole.” People suggest putting a Tums tablet or broken eggshells in the planting hole to provide calcium to the plant. Some swear by it but if their tomatoes grow well, it is because they are doing other things right. Our soils are rarely calcium deficient. Research shows that uneven watering is the culprit. To prevent this deformity, try to not let the soil dry out completely in between waterings.
• “Sprinkle broken eggshells around your plants because the sharp edges will protect them from slugs and snails.” These creatures have no problem crawling over razor blades so eggshells don’t faze them.
• “Tomatoes do best if Epsom salt is mixed into their surrounding soil, or if it is diluted with water and sprayed on the plant.” The thought is that tomatoes need the magnesium found in Epsom salt. Treasure Valley soils typically have adequate magnesium, and the salts could actually harm the soil’s chemistry.
• “Use weed cloth to deter weeds to save you time and effort.” Placing landscape fabric to block weeds works initially, but becomes a high maintenance gardening nightmare over time. Plants eventually grow up through it, and seeds land on top, grow down, and embed their roots in it. Removing those plants is difficult and may result in messy looking, torn fabric. Instead, use a thick layer of organic mulch, renewing it every year. The few weeds that do sprout will be easy to pull and the decomposing mulch improves your soil.
When gaining tips from online gardening forums, take the extra step to double check the suggestions at sources such as the University of Idaho Extension Master Gardening program, the horticulturists at the Idaho Botanical Garden, or another science-based gardening site such as Garden Professors. Make sure that the advice given is appropriate for our region.
What may work well on the Oregon coast may not be good for the Treasure Valley. Have your soil tested periodically and consult with Extension agents on how to make any needed adjustments. This will go a long way and ensure a successful growing season.