September 2nd, 2014
Gardeners use a lot of stuff.
Tools, fertilizers, seeds, gloves, animal repellents, potting mix and sprays are a few of the “regulars” on the gardener shopping list.
On the other hand, some products keep selling that aren’t necessary or that flat-out don’t work or are in some way counter-productive.
Here are eight that I think most of us can do without. Divert the savings into a cool new plant or two…
1.) Tree paint. This is the tar or similar gunk that’s applied to tree wounds, supposedly to aid healing. People think of it as the tree equivalent of a bandage.
Here’s what the International Society of Arboriculture has to say: “Research has shown that dressings generally do not reduce decay or speed closure and rarely prevent insect or disease infestations. Most experts recommend that wound dressings not be used.”
There’s evidence that dressings sometimes trap moisture and therefore discourage healing.
A better idea: Just trim away any ragged bark and let a tree wound air-dry.
2.) Leaf shine. These are liquids that are sprayed or wiped on houseplant leaves to clean them and make them shiny.
Cleaning leaves makes good sense to get rid of dust, grime or even bugs that can harm a plant’s growth. But making them shiny is a cosmetic matter that comes with a potential down side, namely the potential to clog the leaf stomata (their “pores”) and inhibit transpiration (the way a plant “breathes”) by coating them with glossy materials.
You’re better off saving the money and cleaning your leaves with a soft, damp cloth or with a very dilute solution of vinegar or soap.
Ourhouseplants.com has a detailed explanation on leaf-cleaning if you want to read more.
3.) Compost activator. These are granular products, usually containing nitrogen and live bacteria and enzymes, that are added to a compost pile to get it cooking.
The truth is that compost cooks just fine with the microbes that enter the pile on the vegetative material and its roots (assuming you’ve used a mix of green and brown materials). If you’re concerned, toss a few shovelfuls of soil or finished compost into the pile as you build it.
Here’s what the Harrisburg-written book “Basic Composting” (Stackpole Books, 2003) has to say about packaged activators: “Most experts agree that there is no need to use them at all because nature will provide the correct amount and types of microorganisms needed for decomposition.”
4.) Anvil pruners. This type of hand tool has a sharp blade on one side and a flat surface on the other. When branches are cut with anvil pruners, the tip is crushed as it’s being cut, leaving behind a ragged opening that’s more prone to infection, moisture loss and browning.
Bypass pruners make much cleaner cuts. These have blades on both sides and cut more like scissors as the two blades pass each other.
Other than cutting dead wood, I can’t think of any good use for anvil pruners.