7 Social Media Garden Myths to Avoid

Social media can be a great source of gardening inspiration and advice. Unfortunately, it can also be full of not-so-great advice. In today’s post, we’ve rounded up some of the common garden myths we’ve seen on social media recently. We dive into why they’re incorrect and what you can do instead.

Grind or Dehydrate Food Scraps for Fertilizer

The problem: Many sites recommend grinding or dehydrating food scraps, then soaking them in water and straining them or adding them directly to the garden. While this isn’t an extremely harmful practice, it is a bit wasteful. Despite your efforts of grinding or dehydrating, microbes will still need to break down those scraps to make them accessible to your plants. 

The solution: Food scraps make excellent fertilizer after being composted. Setting up a home composting system is simple and requires no fancy equipment. Homemade compost is a gardener’s gold, helping you add nutrients and organic matter to the soil. Read more about making compost on our Black Gold post. 

Epsom Salt is Good for Plants

The problem: Epsom salts are often touted as a great general garden amendment or as a good way to prevent blossom end rot in tomatoes. Unfortunately, adding Epsom salts to the soil can also add too much magnesium. High magnesium levels can prevent plants from taking up calcium and cause issues like blossom end rot. The one time Epsom salts may genuinely be helpful is if a soil test shows your garden is deficient in magnesium, which isn’t common.

The solution: Do the work to determine the cause of the issue you’re dealing with, get your soil tested, and select appropriate amendments with the help of your local agricultural extension agency. 

If blossom end rot is your issue, your plant has likely had trouble taking adequate calcium. Calcium-deficient soil is relatively rare. Calcium is absorbed through the root tips, and failure to do so can be caused by insufficient watering during fruit growth, saturated soils, or fertilizer burn on the root tips. Rapid growth related to overfertilizing can also cause it, as the plant doesn’t have enough time to take up adequate calcium.

This same lesson applies to preventing blossom end rot with egg shells or milk.

Use Coffee Grounds to Lower Your Soil pH

The problem: Contrary to this popular garden myth, coffee grounds don’t alter soil pH. While coffee grounds are a great addition to the compost pile, they won’t help you achieve more acidic soil for crops like blueberries or hydrangeas. 

The solution: If you were previously worried about adding coffee grounds to your compost pile, you have nothing to fear. You won’t create acidic compost. However, if you aim to lower the pH and acidify your soil, opt for elemental sulfur instead. 

Rocks Improve Drainage in Containers

The problem: This garden myth seems like it should be accurate, but water doesn’t always work the way we think it does! Rather than seeping between the rocks, the water moves sideways when it encounters a different layer, creating a saturated zone at the bottom of the soil. It’s known as a “perched water table.” Like a sponge sitting on top of gravel, the potting soil will only release water into the rocks below when it is absolutely saturated.

The solution: Use good-quality potting soil and containers with drainage holes. If you have containers without drainage holes, you can always make some. If you have ceramic pots, you can find ceramic-specific drill bits at most home improvement stores.

Add Banana Peels to the Soil to Increase Potassium

The problem: Banana peels are rich in potassium, but when you bury them in the garden, it’s not quickly accessible to plants. In fact, microbes will have to work to break down the banana peel and sometimes tie up nitrogen in the process. 

The solution: Toss your banana peels in the compost pile to give your plants nutrients in the future. If your soil test shows a potassium deficiency, amend your soil with an organic fertilizer or kelp meal for a more quickly available form of potassium for your crops. 

Add Sand to Heavy Clay Soils to Improve Drainage

The problem: Sandy soils obviously drain better than clay soils, so this one seems like a natural assumption. Unfortunately, this garden myth doesn’t work out well. In reality, the clay particles filter in between the sand particles and become compacted, forming a substance similar to concrete. 

The solution: The best way to improve the drainage of clay soils is to add organic matter. The fastest way to do this is to add finished compost. We recommend top-dressing beds with a couple of inches of finished compost before planting. You can also use cover crops and mulch to help build up organic matter and soil health over time.

Make DIY Insecticides with Hot Peppers and Garlic 

The problem: There are many social media recipes for one-size-fits-all homemade insecticides. These recipes often involve garlic, hot peppers, soap, or some combination of those ingredients, and they may work sometimes. Unfortunately, they may not work with every pest and often don’t address the root of the problem, leaving you to make and apply these sprays continually. They can also damage plants by destroying the waxy layer on leaves or blocking plants’ stomata.

The solution: The first step is to do your research and find out what pest species is snacking on your cops. Then, you can work to take the steps appropriate for that species. For some species, like tomato hornworms, it can be as simple as putting on garden gloves and hand-picking them. For others, like cabbage loopers, you can use a tried and true organic insecticide like B.t. (Bacillus thuringiensis), a bacteria that infects them.

Further, you can practice companion planting, crop rotation, and other integrated pest management methods to keep your garden healthy and pest-free over time.


Many tips and tricks can make a gardener’s life easier, but not all of these hacks and shortcuts are all that they’re cracked up to be. In many cases, the real solution is to slowly build up healthy soil through compost, cover cropping, and good garden management. Hopefully, you can have a more successful garden this season by avoiding these common social media garden myths. 

Protect Your Garden from Wildlife

Wildlife is often a significant issue for gardeners in the eastern United States. You can have a beautiful-looking garden only to find a row of broccoli mowed down by white-tailed deer, all your strawberries finished off by a possum, or stunning red tomatoes with groundhog bites out of them in a single night. What can we do to protect our gardens from these attacks?

Selecting Wildlife Fencing

Fencing is one of the most effective ways to keep wildlife from destroying your garden. What that fencing looks like for you depends on the animals you have around. Obviously, fencing that keeps out cottontails looks a bit different than fencing that keeps out white-tailed deer. Here are some of the basic considerations when selecting and installing fencing. 

Deer-Proof Fencing

Unfortunately, white-tailed deer can jump high, and experts often recommend an 8-foot fence for those with serious deer problems. However, many folks find that shorter heights work effectively in certain situations. 

Adding a visual barrier, like string lines or flags above a shorter fence, can deter deer. Some folks also find that shorter electric fences are a good enough deterrent for deer. Smaller spaces are also less susceptible because deer don’t like to jump into enclosed spaces. For this reason, two rows of shorter fencing, with one a few feet inside the other, are usually adequate. 

Eastern CottontailSmall Mammal Fencing

Small mammal fencing doesn’t need to be as tall as deer fencing but generally needs to be tighter. A simple row of chicken wire or hardware cloth can work for some animals. However, Groundhogs can be especially tricky due to their knack for digging under fencing. They make some fencing panels with long spikes that go into the ground, which may be effective. Some folks also find electric fencing effective. You may get away with a single strand low to the ground or electro-net fencing. 

What if I Can’t Put Up Fencing?

Fencing isn’t an option for everyone. Renters and those with strict HOAs may not be allowed to use appropriate fencing for wildlife. Additionally, fencing can be costly, and those on a tight budget may not be able to afford to install wildlife fencing. Thankfully, there are a few other options.

Choose Wildlife-Resistant Plants

Certain plants are more wildlife-resistant than others. Generally, these plants are unpalatable to wildlife for a specific reason, like flavor, scent, or irritating leaves. Unfortunately, no plant is 100% wildlife-proof for all animals, so you may need to select plants based on your specific struggle. Here are a few wildlife-resistant options:


  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Cucumbers (deer-resistant)
  • Squash (deer-resistant)
  • Potatoes


  • Fennel
  • Lemon Balm
  • Mint
  • Thyme
  • Chives
  • Wormwood


  • Lavender
  • Feverfew
  • Echinacea
  • Yarrow
  • Daylily
  • Soapwort
  • Butterflyweed
  • Coreopsis
Chinese Five-Color Hot Pepper
Chinese Five-Color Hot Pepper

Container Garden

You can also try container gardening if you have a more protected porch, patio, or balcony. Additionally, if you keep the containers limited, you can always move them inside at night. 

Here are a few of our favorite favorite crops for container gardens:

  • Nasturtiums
  • Chinese Five-Color Hot Pepper
  • Glacier Tomato
  • Sugar Cherry Tomato
  • Spicy Bush Basil
  • Misato Rose Radish
  • Swiss Chard
  • Chives
  • Table Queen Bush (Acorn) Squash

Container gardening works well, but you need to tend the plants carefully. Use large, well-draining containers, water often, harvest often, and fertilize as needed. Check out our other container gardening tips. 

Use Wildlife Repellent 

Wildlife repellent isn’t a perfect option, but some gardeners have made it work for them. A few organic options are available in the form of pellets and sprays you use to treat your plants and gardens. Most of these products must be reapplied fairly often or at least every time it rains.  To find organic options, look for the OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) label or visit their website to see their product list.

There are many gardening challenges, and wildlife can be a big one. Hopefully, some of these strategies will help you wildlife-proof a few of your crops this season!

Companion Planting: Benefits & Techniques

In many ways, highly organized rows of crops are easy on the gardener. They allow us to easily layout our space, weed efficiently, and keep track of exactly what’s growing where! Unfortunately, these gardens have their downfalls too. Large sections of single crops tend to take up more space than necessary, be more susceptible to pest and disease issues, and without careful tending, they can be tough on the soil. Companion planting is one way to address some of these issues, providing a more “natural” ecosystem in the garden without letting it go completely feral. 

Why Use Companion Planting

  • Companion planting can protect your crops from some pest and disease issues.
  • It can help you use space efficiently and maximize production.
  • Companion planting creates beautiful, cottage-style gardens.
  • It can improve your soil.
Lemon Drop French Marigolds
Lemon Drop French Marigolds

Control Pests

Every gardener deals with pest issues at some point in their career, sometimes even every year. In many cases, companion planting has been shown to reduce pest issues by repelling pests with scents or compounds they emit, attracting predatory insects, or interfering with pests’ ability to find plants through sight or smell. Here are a few examples:

  • In a study in Holland, Golden Guardian Marigolds were shown to more effectively reduce the presence of nematodes than chemical insecticides.
  • A 2015 study found that flower strips reduce pests and crop damage in wheat fields.
  • A study from Iowa State University found that interplanting thyme, onion, and nasturtium helped to reduce cabbage looper and imported cabbageworm damage in broccoli.

Just as a mix of crops may make it harder for insects to spread through the garden, it may also slow the spread of diseases. 

Attract Beneficial Insects and Birds

Many plants also serve to bring our garden allies into the fray. These are the creatures like flies, bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies that help pollinate our crops and the efficient hunters like wasps, spiders, and songbirds that eat pests.

Flowers are more important than you think. Obviously, they encourage pollinators to visit, but they also attract predatory insects. Two of our favorite native predatory insects, lady beetles, and lacewings feed on nectar and pollen in their adult stages. Having flowers they enjoy, like goldenrods, sunflowers, buckwheat, dill, alyssum, cosmos, and coreopsis, can encourage them to spend time and lay eggs in your garden.

These beneficial creatures also need varied habitats. To give them spaces to move about freely, opt for a garden with few or no bare areas and vary your plants’ height and structure. 

Woman picking Hill Country Heirloom Red Okra Natural Trellises & Shade

In addition to providing structure for birds, tall plants can also provide structure and shelter for other plants. The most well-known example is growing pole beans on corn stalks as part of a three-sister’s garden. However, many different options would work well, too. Here are a few example crops:

Tall Trellis Plants

  • Corn
  • Sorghum
  • Amaranth
  • Sunflowers
  • Tithonia
  • Okra
  • Sunn Hemp

Vining Plants

  • Pole Beans
  • Cucumbers
  • Red Malabar Spinach
  • Fall Peas
  • Mini Pumpkins
  • Pocket Melons

The tall trellis plants can also be used to offer partial shade to cool-weather crops like lettuce.

Red Malabar Summer SpinachMaximize Space with Companion Planting

A great way to make the most of a small garden is to pair early-season or quick-maturing crops with slower-growing or summer crops. Here are a few examples:

  • Start red Malabar spinach below a pea trellis. The peas will be finishing up as the spinach really begins to grow.
  • Sow rows of spring radishes between rows of onions, carrots, beets, and other root vegetables. The radishes will be harvested before the others need plenty of room.
  • Plant peppers and tomatoes among beds of early greens. They’ll provide a bit of shade, and the early crops will be finished by the time they’re large.

Improve Soil Health

Nitrogen-fixing crops are the big ones for this category. Again, the classic example comes from the nitrogen-fixing pole beans in the three sister’s garden. However, many nitrogen-fixing crops exist, including peas, beans, vetch, clover, sunn hemp, and even buckwheat!

Besides fixing nitrogen, plants can also help improve the soil by breaking up compaction. Growing rows of potatoes, turnips, or daikon radishes between rows of other crops can help break up compacted soil, improving your garden for next season while still offering a good harvest.

Lastly, crops can improve your soil health by adding organic matter. Crops like rye, buckwheat, oats, and wheat can be planted in between rows, paths, or empty beds. Then, they can be cut, mowed, or tilled in. If left on the surface, crops like buckwheat make an excellent mulch for transplanting fall crops. 

Some companion planting suggestions may be rooted in old wives’ tales, but modern research is proving that it can make a significant impact. Try a few of these methods this season and see if you notice any changes in your garden.

Saving the Past for the Future