Garden myths that take our time

by: Charles Dowding

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when I'm teaching gardeners I come across a lot of confusion about what is the best way to do things and it's made me wonder where do our beliefs come from what are they based on and having looked into it quite a bit I think that there's a lot of lazy assumptions and blinkered visions which have filtered down and being handed to us by people who are supposed to know better professional gardeners maybe 200 years ago and once a gardening saying is anchored in law well it becomes law and to give you an example of how that works I'm holding this lovely long passionate this parsley I grew by breaking two of the rules which are commonly presented about how you should grow or not grow parsnips and carrots in this case the first one is that almost every book and article you read about how to grow parsnips and carrots will say that you should not spread compost before you sow them because it makes them Fork now I think this must be because there's an assumption there that this compost is being dug in incorporated simply because that's the most common way of going about things most people do that I actually don't I spread compost on the surface as a mulch compost by the way could be well rotted animal manure in fact this compost that much was well rhotic Armenia and some mushroom compost spread a year ago on the surface and then the soil was not dug or disturbed in any way and look how it's grown fantastic in this bed last March I sowed one row of parsnip seeds and the row is 1.5 metres that's five feet and in the last two weeks we've harvested all the parts that were in this one row and what we have here is parsnips from one half of the row the previous half was before and the total harvest from this 1.5 meter five foot row is 12 kilos of parsnips you know that's a huge amount of food now it's often said that parsnips and like feeders so you don't give them compost and well just take what grows but actually if you give them compost it's not so much about feeding the past it themselves it's feeding the soil they're growing in the compost does that to perfection it's not like a flush feed of artificial fertilizers so the mythology around this whole thing about should one feed certain plants or not other plants is actually more about how you understand feeding and then it's not about giving nutrients to plants or feeding plants it's about feeding soil and when soil is well fed that's really good actually for all vegetables in my experience so it simplifies things again you can spread compost everywhere on all your vegetable growing beds in the autumn for example because compost holds nutrients that don't leach out with rain like I did here the compost would spread last autumn if the nutrients in that compost leached out these parsnips would not be like that so understanding what is myth what is not getting to the heart of the matter really seeing how plants grow using your observation but leaving what you see as well don't believe necessarily what someone else tells you they've got their own agenda you can work it out develop a strong relationship with your plants see how they respond to what you're doing and you can get results like this in gardening and in many other suvir's of activity in fact there's a lot of over complication I want to show you simpler ways to do things I want to help you understand why you're doing what you're doing and you'll often find that there are indeed quicker cheaper ways of achieving the desired objective why is this complication so common in an interview with Brian Eno Grayson Perry the artist said he said there was a fear that if it was made understandable it wouldn't seem important in other words it's not about making things understandable often hard you in found that Chang has actually commented on the same thing in economics he talks about lazy assumptions we all need to guard against lazy assumptions I've been delving into them in gardening in my Mis book there's 99 kind of myths some actually have some truth in and I look at them each in turn and some are total myths and I point these things out to help you for the investment of a mere ten pounds find freer easier more understandable ways of doing things


More from this creator:
I ask why its recommended to garden in ways that take longer, or using methods that give less harvests. An introduction to my book which looks at 99 myths. Filmed and edited by Edward Dowding

while Gardening Myths and Misconceptions is available at

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