Gardening Myths: Five Myths That Are Just Too Good to be True

As more and more Americans begin gardening each year, there is a wide array of information online and on social media that offer tips, tricks—and sometimes—wild ideas on ways to feed, protect or help the plants in your garden. While some tips are useful, there are many that just seem too good to be true. Below is a list of some of the most popular garden myths.

1. Epsom salts.

Epsom salt, also known as magnesium sulfate (MgSO4), is touted as of the best nutrients for gardens and plants. These purported benefits include increasing seed germination, improving uptake of other nutrients, and enhancing growth and overall plant health. The truth is that Epsom salt should only be used with intensive crop production, and only when the soil or plant has a known magnesium deficiency. There is no scientific evidence that it helps seeds germinate or improves uptake of other nutrients. You should always know soil conditions, plant needs and environmental health before adding chemicals.

2. Ants help peonies bloom.

Ants aren’t necessary for peonies to flower. The ants are attracted to the sugary nectar produced by the peony buds. The nectar is a good food source for the ants, but peony buds will open without the presence of ants.  

3. Controlling moles with insecticide.

This perennial myth recommends using insecticides to kill grubs in your lawn, thereby eliminating the mole’s food. This may have been true 40 years ago, when insecticide ingredients were highly toxic to people, pets, and wildlife, including earthworms, the mole's main meal. This is not the case anymore, as today’s insecticides do not kill earthworms, and won’t do anything to get rid of those pesky moles.

4.Adding gypsum improves clay soil.

Advertisers like to claim that adding gypsum will help loosen heavy, clay soils and improve soil drainage. However, this has very little benefit. Gypsum is chiefly used to amend sodic soils. Sodic soils are found mainly in arid regions of the western United States. Core aerification is the best way to improve growing conditions for lawns established on clay soils. 

5. Planting Tums with tomato plants.

A popular myth on the internet and social media is placing Tums or antacids with your tomato plants. The theory is that the Tums gives the soil calcium, yet most Iowa soils don’t have a calcium deficiency, and the small amount in tums wouldn’t make much of a difference if the soil was deficient.

If a gardening trick seems too good to be true, it likely is!


Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Yard and Garden, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on May 22, 2020. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.