Tall tales from years of old are a common phenomenon in our society. These are perpetuated by some inkling of truth, or, just made out of “whole cloth.” The hobby or passion of gardening isn’t immune from these old wive’s tales. We hear them, and because of the claim itself, discount practically any notion of illegitimacy. After all, since these seeming helpful hints survive, there must be something to them or they’d disappear.
All of this might be otherwise logical, but at some point, experience tells us something quite different. In a few instances, it’s common sense which prevails, in many others, it’s scientific testing that uncovers and exposes practices which might be counterproductive, benign, or downright harmful.
Take for instance burying banana peels to promote growth, particularly in roses. Now, it is true that banana peels contain high amounts of potassium. What’s more, it is true that roses do thrive and bloom from potassium, it’s also true that chemical reactions in the soil occur simultaneously. While microorganisms break down the banana peels, an excess amount of nitrogen must be contributed to cause said breakdown. When nitrogen is taken away, so is the very nutrient that’s needed to promote growth in all plants. Hence, banana peels buried into the soil do more damage than good. In this case, it’s best to compost banana peels rather than bury them.
Why Gardening Myths are Perpetuated
We all love products that deliver results. Some have become so synonymous with consumers, we call them by their brand names rather than the actual product. We know these products intimately and use them quite often. The reason we as consumers call these products by their brand names is because the advertising has worked. In some instances, it’s because the first generation of a product was rolled out under a brand name, so, it sticks. While in other instances, it’s the high water mark for the best quality.
Many consumers assume that products on the store shelf must have been tested to prove their claims. Certainly, fertilizers have to meet nutrient content requirements, and pesticides are rigorously tested for safety before EPA registration. For some other garden products, however, no such testing is required before sale to the public. –Robert Cox, Horticulture Agent, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension
Gardening myths aren’t really any different. We buy certain products because of the claims. For the majority of these, results are real. However, that doesn’t mean another manufacturer doesn’t produce as high of a quality product. As the nearby quote points out, manufacturer claims aren’t held to scrutiny. That puts the power of consumer choice in our hands. Aside from manufacturer claims, there are just some myths that simply don’t go unchallenged.
Most Common Gardening Myths Exposed
Let’s take a look at some of the most common and biggest gardening and landscaping myths out there. Some of these might surprise you, while others might be something you’ve always thought not to be true. In no particular order, here are some of the biggest gardening myths:
- If a tree is dying, it’s not being properly fertilized. Okay, so organic lifeforms need to be fed. That’s unarguably true, but, it doesn’t mean that more fertilizer, which is to say food, is the only answer. You can’t put a tree on a heeling track if you’re not treating the right symptoms. Perhaps, it’s a disease, or pests, it could also be true that’s it’s suffered some type of mechanical damage. Or, it’s simply at the end of its life.
- Damaged trees need dressing treatment. Sticking with tree myths, one is still very prevalent, though completely untrue. For what seems like ages, homeowners and arborists dressed wounded trees with tar and other substances after damage was inflicted. Though Dr. Alex Shigo of the U.S. Forest Service disproved this practice as not only unnecessary but harmful in the 1980’s, it stays with us.
- All planting must be done in the spring. Now, when it’s spelled out to read, this probably strikes you as untrue. Surely there can be plants which can be planted and grown at other seasons. For instance, fall is a great time to plant trees. Though it is the case that summer planting is one time that’s most challenging for growth. Because of the sheer magnitude of sunlight, plants can burn, especially in places like here in Sarasota.
- Routine watering is absolutely necessary. While watering is necessary, the amount differs, and, for different plants. Too much water will drown just about anything. This isn’t to say that you need to cut down on watering, just adjust the schedule. Water for more time but with less frequency. That will do a lot more good for you landscape.
- Adding vitamin B-1 prevents transplant shock. Though this might sound like good science, it’s actually been disproved by scientists. Thiamine, or Vitamin B1, does absolutely nothing to prevent transplant shock. Fertilizer will, and, it’s less expensive.
Punk trees, also called paperbark tea trees, are scientifically known as Melaleuca quinquenervia, and, are not native to Florida, but can be found throughout the southernmost part of the peninsula, up into the central portion of the Sunshine State. Here in Sarasota, these nuisance trees can also be found, in no small part, because of their ability to rapidly reproduce. Their remarkable fortitude allows them to grow in upland, that is, relatively dry environments, as well as in aquatic systems.
These trees generally grow to about 40 feet in height, though have been documented to reach 100 feet tall, and are native to the continent of Australia. Though these species hail from quite far away, they were first introduced to the state over fifty years ago. Since that initial introduction, punk trees have spread their presence through most of the south and up to and across central portions. This is so because of how the species is able to withstand the elements, as well as its aggressive method of spreading its seeds.
While this species is valuable to its native environment because it naturally attracts bees, birds, and bats, here, is an altogether different story. It thrives in bright wetland areas, moist soil, which is quite abundant in Sarasota, and even grows heartily in standing water. It’s distinct bark, which appears paper-like, peels off the trunk and its leaves, when crushed, produce a camphor-like smell. Because it is an evergreen, it doesn’t truly go dormant in the strictness sense, it does slow or stop its growth during the winter, which makes it the ideal time to cut them down.
Dealing with Invasive Species in Florida
Invasive species in the state of Florida has long been a problem. This is because native trees must compete with other species that are more adept at reproducing and for essential growth and health elements. Like Brazilian pepper, paperbark tea trees are a very stubborn species, being able to regenerate from severe mechanical damage and storm damage. These trees produce a lot of seeds, so much, the species is able to overtake native growth areas.
The city of Sarasota requires a permit to remove any tree (other than citrus) with a diameter greater than 4.5 inches. Tree removal permits start at $30 plus $5 for each tree. Permits are required but no fee is charged for the removal of “nuisance” trees such as punk trees. The fine for removing a protected tree without a permit can be $225 for each inch of the tree’s diameter. —Sarasota Herald Tribune
When exotic tree species are introduced to the area, like all living things, must compete for vital soil nutrients, for sustaining sunlight, and, room to grow root systems. Because bees, birds, and bats are attracted to white punk trees, these insects and animals help to spread the trees’ seeds, giving less attention to other native species.
The paperbark tea tree is so aggressive in its pervasiveness, that it’s considered an ecological threat to the Everglades and is on the official Florida “Do Not Plant a Pest” list. It can produces hundreds of seeds, and is capable of producing a million seeds per year, while being able to store up to 20 million seeds, according to the United States’ own National Park Service’s Plant Conservation Alliance.
Cutting Down a Punk Tree
Punk trees are part of the Myrtaceae family or myrtle family, and are not easy to cut-up and kill. Like other invasive species, which are very adaptable and highly resilient to mechanical damage and weather elements, just cutting a punk tree down is not sufficient to kill it off. Therefore, it takes a bit more effort to cut down paperbark tea trees.
The first thing you’ll need to do, if you’re within the city limits of Sarasota, is to obtain a permit. Though there’s not a need to get a separate permit for invasive or nuisance species, the city does require a removal permit. Once you have the permit, follow these steps to cut down a punk tree:
- Gather the necessary tools and supplies. You’ll need jeans, long sleeve shirt, leather gloves, dust mask, eye and ear protection. You’ll also need a chainsaw and systemic herbicide.
- Cut the punk tree down. Clear the area where the tree will fall to prevent property damage and then cut through the trunk near the base of the tree, allowing it to fall in a safe direction.
- Apply systemic herbicide to the stump. Apply a healthy dose of systemic herbicide to the stump and allow it to work its way through the wood as long as the manufacturer suggests.
- Dig up the dead stump and roots. Once the stump has died, you can then dig it up, along with the roots and backfill the hole.
Take caution when cutting down a paperbark tea tree because this species is known to cause highly caustic allergic reactions. If you suffer from allergies, you could be exposed to respiratory irritation, nausea, and headache if you make contact with a punk tree.
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Your deck is a wonderful outdoor living space addition to your home. It provides an intimate and functional area to entertain and relax. When equipped with the right features, it becomes more than just a place to sit. A deck can be a gathering place where meals can be prepared, cooked, and served, with an outdoor kitchen. In addition, this space can also have other creature comforts and uses, for instance, a fire pit, seating area, television, sound system, and so much more.
In order to make it fully accessible, regardless of the time of day, you’ll need to install deck lighting. This provides more than just illumination for when the sun is down, it can also drastically transform your outdoor living space. Deck lighting can not only illuminate common seating and functional areas, it can also be used to highlight features. With such versatility, you’ll have a lot to take into consideration before you purchase and install deck lighting.
Types of Deck Lighting
At first, you might think your choices are limited, but that’s just not the case — you’ll have plenty of options from which to choose. There are several types of deck lighting and each has its own uniqueness. There are recessed deck lights, and, as the name describes, are recessed into the deck, illuminating upward. These are constructed very sturdily to withstand heavy foot traffic and provide ample light. Accent deck lights are opposite recessed, being install in high places to illuminate downward. These are primarily to highlight a feature, like a fountain, tree, statue, or something else.
Deck lighting is a great project because low voltage lighting doesn’t usually require hiring an electrician. Installing deck lighting is similar to installing landscape lights. You can choose from a variety of light posts, rail lights, and stair riser lights. Most deck lighting systems are powered by a 12 volt transformer that is plugged into an ordinary wall outlet. Solar lights are available that are self powered and don’t even require wiring or transformers. Always read the manufacturer’s installation instructions and contact your local building department before starting the project. —Decks.com
There are also stair and post deck lights, and, each is installed as the name describes. Stair deck lights are ideal for illuminating steps, while post deck lights illuminate various posts around the deck. Solar deck lights are a very popular option because of their main advantages: they require no wiring, are simple to install, provide light for up to 12 hours, and, cost nothing to power. Low voltage deck lights utilize halogen bulbs and use very little power but provide ample illumination. These can be installed practically anywhere and are an alternative to solar deck lights.
Deck Lighting Installation Tips
When you’ve decided to install lighting on and around your deck, you’ll need to start with planning. What you want to avoid is installing the wrong type or types of lighting only to discover it’s not right for your wants and needs. Here are some helpful tips on how to install deck lighting:
- Study your deck as the sun goes down. If you don’t frequently go onto your deck just before and after the sun sets, you’re probably unfamiliar with at least a few aspects of where lighting would and wouldn’t be instrumental. About 15 to 20 minutes before the sun goes down, step out onto your deck and take note of the areas that require the most light and which do not or need just ambient light.
- Create a deck lighting plan. Now, you can create a deck lighting plan, drawing out where the lights will be installed and at what angle they’ll be set. Think about it practically and role play a typical scenario. Where do people usually sit? Which areas need the most illumination? This is important because you don’t want to position lights to blind people or so they cast long shadows in areas that should otherwise be illuminated.
- Choose the right types of deck lighting. It’s important to choose the right kinds of deck lighting because, as mentioned above, each has its own purpose. You’ll probably find you need a combination of two or more types of deck lighting to suit your needs.
- Test each light before and after installation. When you’re installing your lights, you should take the time to test each one before you finalize the installation. This will save you time and effort, if one or more doesn’t work and you have to make replacements.
- Try out the lighting at dark. After the sun sets, walk onto your deck and look around. Take notice of any unwanted shadows, any lights that could potentially blind guests, and look over functional areas to ensure these are well illuminated.
You might have to make adjustments here and there to get it right, but, it will be worthwhile when you’re enjoying your deck as an outdoor entertainment space in the evenings.