Gardeners all learn from those who have been gardening for longer than they have. Tricks, tips and traditions are passed down through the ages like old wives tales. But not all of the things passed down as gardening lore are true and accurate. It is important to sift the fact from the fiction when it comes to gardening practices, whether you are gardening in a polytunnel or outside. Let's take a look at a few common conceptions, to find out whether each of them is true or false.
Experienced gardeners will often tell you not to harvest parsnips until they have been subjected to a frost, since they will taste better thereafter. This is actually true. The low temperatures will break down starches and your parsnips will taste sweeter.
One common adage is that you should always plant potatoes on Good Friday – but this is not always true. It is not that Good Friday is never a good day to plant your potatoes, it is just that Good Friday is sometimes in late March, sometimes later in April, so it is not always necessarily a good time to plant. Obviously, the weather of the year in question will play a role in determining when to plant, as well as the conditions where you live. Sometimes, it is still far too cold to plant on Good Friday, when Good Friday falls very early in the year.
While a scientific study has failed to find any scorching or plant damage as a result of watering during the hottest part of the day, it is still true that it is better to water in the cool or the morning or evening – morning is slightly better as wet leaves at night time can encourage diseases to take hold or spread.
While many gardeners will tell you to place crocks or gravel in the bottom to improve drainage, there is no evidence that this will be better for your plants. The idea is that the crocks will stop the hole at the bottom of the pot from silting up, but the growing medium will hold water like a sponge and when you fill the bottom with crocks, you will simply be making your pot smaller.
It is a common belief that you should trim the roots of your leeks when you transplant them into the ground but in fact, studies have shown that this does nothing to improve yield, and may actually restrict the growth of your leeks.
Listen to more experienced gardeners and learn from them, but do remember to question every item of received gardening wisdom and look into things for yourself.