A man gives a thumbs up and takes a selfie in a garden
(Image credit: Gargonia)

Social media is an amazing phenomenon offering us a vast array of information. But users of social media should view the latest gardening trends with a bit of caution. Not everything we read is true, and some of it can be downright harmful. Social media is awash with tips and tricks to make gardening easier and more fruitful, but not everything may be as it seems. Read here for some garden trends to avoid.

Internet searches can turn up information on just about anything. On the internet we can learn how to fix our sinks, practice homemade beauty tricks, train our dogs and keep our plants healthy. But many of the new trends in gardening are simply unsubstantiated lore and perhaps useless information that won’t really help, and could ultimately be a waste of time, energy, and money. Here are a few of the top garden trends you may want to avoid.

1. Putting Epsom Salt on Everything

Epsom salts mixed with water break down into magnesium and sulfate. Magnesium sulfate is a common fertilizer used for plants. It plays a role in phosphate metabolism, plant respiration, and enzyme activity. Epsom salts are a natural product gathered from evaporating waters rich in magnesium sulfate. As such, they are considered non-toxic, safe and easy to use.

Among the claims of Epsom salts benefits are enhanced seed germination and increased nutrient uptake. Epsom salts are properly used on plants that are suffering magnesium deficiency. Light, sandy, clay, or acidic soils may be devoid of magnesium. Heavily leached soils are also often limited in the magnesium content. High levels of potassium in soil can diminish the amount of magnesium a plant can uptake. Adding Epsom salts has some benefits in the case of very magnesium-deprived plants, but in most cases, it is only useful in the short term due to the solubility of the salts.

When added to homemade weed killers, the composition of Epsom salts will actually stimulate growth in plants, including weeds.

Epsom salts are often touted as the cure to blossom end rot in tomatoes. In reality, blossom end rot is caused by calcium deficiency and the salts have no effect.

Overall, Epsom salt applications are not a cure all, and in most instances, a soil treatment will reveal nutrient deficiencies so they can be accurately addressed. Epsom salts are one of the landscaping trends on the way out due to lack of evidence and potential harm.

2. Using Hydrogen Peroxide as a Cure-All

Hydrogen peroxide has sterilizing properties. That initial fizzing action is when the properties are at their peak. Since the fizzing goes away quickly, the product becomes inert in seconds. Many gardeners claim that hydrogen peroxide can cure certain bacterial and fungal diseases.

  • If the issue is strictly topical, a spray of hydrogen peroxide has short term effects.
  • Excessive topical application can cause surface drying and kill beneficial microbes.
  • If the issue is in the plant tissues, the product is ineffective due to its rapid response which does not travel into the plant tissues.
  • Hydrogen peroxide is claimed to help root growth, but again, due to its short activity, it has little effect.

3. Disinfecting Pruners with Bleach

Clean, sterile garden tools are essential to preventing the transfer of diseases amongst plants. Common bleach is often listed as a cleaner for our tools, when properly diluted. This isn't necessarily bad advice, and if the tool is free of debris and not pitted or scarred, a bleach dilution will remove most pathogens. But be aware that:

  • Bleach will discolor clothes, cause more pitting and distress to metal and is toxic when inhaled.
  • Any solution remaining on the tool could damage a plant. Alcohol is extremely effective and evaporates quickly, leaving no residue.
  • Flaming the tools is useful in killing many pathogens.
  • Common cleaners like Lysol spray are also effective and will not bleach clothes or persist on the tool.

4. DIY Weed Killer Recipes

In a world filled with chemicals, we often try to do our part to minimize their use and the damage they cause. Homemade or DIY formulas pervade the internet. Some of these are effective and have been used successfully for generations. Others are not effective but cause no harm. Still others can actually increase weed growth, fail to kill the root, and persist in soil. As mentioned, Epsom salts are often included in weed killer recipes.

  • If you add enough Epsom salts to actually harm the weeds it will oversalinate soil, which will hurt other plants.
  • Vinegar is often included in these recipes, but the common grocery store variety is not acidic enough. To really perform well, the vinegar should be at least 10-20 percent acetic acid. Grocery store vinegar is around 5 % acid. Yet such a strong solution can burn skin, irritate the lungs, mucus membranes, and eyes.
  • Adding dish soap is a common recommendation. While soaps can help remove the waxy exterior of some plants, allowing solutions to penetrate will also remove beneficial microbes that help plant health.

5. Watering Orchids with Ice Cubes

This is a very common myth, likely borne out of the fact that orchids are fussy plants and require just the right amount of water. Orchids are tropical plants that prefer warm temperatures. In their wild state, they gather moisture from the warm, humid air, and from dew.

The icy cold water from an ice cube can be a shock to the orchid’s roots and has the potential to damage the health of the plant. Room temperature water or that that is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit ( 21 C.) is preferred by all houseplants.

As a general rule, water the orchid plants once per week in winter and twice in the warm season, giving the plant just enough to dampen it.

6. Diagnosing Diseases with an App

Convenience and ease are human desires and the internet certainly provides these. There are many apps to download that claim to identify what is wrong with a plant. You simply take a photo and the app will tell you what is wrong. The problems?

  • Many symptoms mimic a variety of disease or pest issues. For example, stumpy new growth could be caused from herbicide drift, or insect vectors.
  • Yellowing leaves could be a sign of improper watering, calcium deficiency, or many other causes.
  • To accurately diagnose an issue, the entire system must be taken into consideration.

Relying only on the visual symptoms is probably not enough. Soil, lighting, water intake, and other factors could be involved in the problem; a photo does not encompass all the elements that could be causing the issue.

7. No Mow May

No Mow May is a fairly recent development that seeks to leave lawns with wild flowers that will feed and encourage pollinators. It also seeks to minimize the pollution from mowing. It is one of the latest gardening trends to try to help the environment. But there are some landscaping trends on the way out, and here’s why:

  • Letting your grass grow long will cause unhealthy roots and minimize the lawn’s recovery once it is mowed.
  • Such a practice will actually encourage nuisance weeds like bindweed and thistle.
  • Few lawns naturally contain enough wildflowers to really impact the insect population.

A better practice to attract and feed our important pollinators is to plant a wildflower garden. The blooms will feed the insects and also provide habitat and sites for their young.

Bonnie L. Grant

Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.