Your garden – luck or judgement?

Do you rely on proven horticultural techniques or are you more willing to trust your garden’s health to old wives’ tales?

four leaf clover garden symbol

When the Royal Horticultural Society quizzed it members it revealed that gardeneers showed fairly good judgement in assessing the merits of old wives’ tales. Gardeners scored more than 60 per cent in the gardening lore test, however that still leaves some confusion about which tips really work. So which popular gardening beliefs are true and which are false?


There is evidence that the liquid run-off from compost heaps, known as ‘compost tea’, is effective in keeping plants healthy.

Tea dregs poured over houseplants ought to have a beneficial effect due to its relatively low pH and mild fertiliser value.

Incorporating scrapings of topsoil from below pines and spruces when planting strawberries, and then mulching with pine and spruce needles, crushed fir cones and even twigs might improve the growth of strawberries and therefore lead to better quality produce. Gathering wild pine cones and needles is not recommended, so the RHS suggests using composted bark to improve soil before planting strawberries.



Planting marigolds in the flower and vegetable garden and greenhouse can help to keep pests away. In fact, there is little evidence that stands up to scientific scrutiny of this being significant in Britain, despite widespread currency.

A single clove of garlic planted beside a rose will keep greenfly away from the plant.

Bananas planted under roses will ensure strong, healthy plants. The conclusion of the RHS horticultural advisors is that the plant nutrient content of bananas is insignificant compared to the levels of fertility in well-cared for garden soil.

You should sow seed with a waxing, never a waning moon.

Growing foxgloves in your garden can stimulate growth and disease resistance among your other plants. It was considered fact though by the RHS that growing a diversity of plants – and foxgloves can spring up all over gardens of their own accord – should limit the prevalence and severity of pests and diseases.


Good for your garden?

Speaking about the results of the survey, Guy Barter, RHS Chief Horticultural Advisor said, “This shows that gardeners usually show fairly good sense in assessing the virtue or otherwise of gardening myths. It is a pity that some myths gain widespread support, misleading gardeners into wasting their time and money on ineffective activities.”

“While some of these homespun remedies can benefit plants because of the nutrients they deliver, for example, they’re no real substitute for improving your soil with a fertiliser, well-rotted organic matter or composted bark. Efficient ways of controlling pests include introducing predators and parasites, choosing disease- and pest-resistant cultivars and rotating crops to control soil-dwelling diseases and pests such as nematodes.”

Full explanations about why the RHS has given a verdict of fact or fiction for all the old wives’ tales are available on the RHS website


Last modified: June 9, 2021

Written by 3:23 pm Gardening