Gardening Is Full of Gardening Myths, Folklore, Old Wives Tales And Misconceptions That Need Debunking. Here’s The Truth About Gardening Myths

I’ve spent most of my life as a market gardener, farms manager or amateur gardener and I’ve heard so many gardening myths, legends, folklore and worse. It’s as if gardeners believe they must set themselves a Herculean task list, that they must complete before being accepted into the gardening fraternity. This fallacy is often perpetuated by other gardeners that maintain the stories because they have never bothered to check the facts themselves. In fact, it’s often hard to discover the truth as some books also perpetuate these gardening myths., without any evidence except the author also read it in a gardening book!

So much gardening “accepted wisdom”, and “accepted wisdom” from old gardeners is simply wrong and this post sets out to expose the myths, explain why they are myths and get the facts explained.

Of course, there are old gardeners with great wisdom. But they are the ones that rely on facts, and not myths, to run their gardens.


Gardens Need Digging

Digging can be therapeutic, cathartic even. I’ve met so many people that don’t think they are gardening properly unless their muscles ache from digging. It’s one of those rites of passage they think they must undertake to join the fraternity of true gardeners.

Gardening Myths: Do Gardens Need Digging?

But there is rarely a need to dig a garden. The exceptions are uncommon and don’t apply to most situations.

Let’s look at it logically. In nature, we have plants growing across vast tracts of the planet. And nowhere does nature find it necessary to dig the soil before plants can grow. And not digging doesn’t seem to inhibit plants one little bit. Consider the Amazon, the rain forests of Asia, the wealth of species growing in Southern Africa (the most diverse biome in the world). The plants don’t suffer from a lack of digging.

Indeed, in the Amazon, we have huge volumes of vegetation that has soaked up millions of tons of carbon. All without digging.

And in North America, we have the largest trees in the world. The giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) trees in California are enormous.

Also in the US is a Great Basin bristlecone pine, Pinus longaeva, that is over 4800 years old. I don’t believe anyone dug over the plot before it was planted!

Mankind first started digging when agriculture commended some 12,000 years ago. He probably used a pointed stick to loosen the soil and drop a seed in. Seeds would have grown if dropped on the soil surface as that is what happens in nature. But he discovered that germination rates were better if the seed was buried. Digging the soil in this way was a huge step in forward in mankind’s ability to feed itself. Later our species domesticated draught animals, invented the plough and mechanised the process.

But this isn’t an argument for digging or ploughing today. Today we can use farm machines to cut a slot in the soil and drop a seed in. And we can do it at rapid speeds. In the garden, we can grow seeds in modules and plant those into the sol. Or we can plant our seed into the soil surface without having first dug it. Whole gardening systems, such as No-Dig are based on this premise.

If the soil is compacted it is sometimes necessary to break the compaction or “pan”. This can be done with a soil buster or chisel plough. There is no need to invert the soil.

In other cases cultivations are used to bury vegetation or crop residues. Putting crop residues back into the soil is important but there are other ways to do it without ploughing.

Indeed ploughing and digging are destructive. They destroy the Wood Wide Web, the huge network of mycelium that is produced by soil fungi. The mycelium, along with the soil bacteria, break down insoluble rock and organic material and make it available to our plants. Without them the soil is impoverished and plants don’t thrive or have the same level of resilience to pests and diseases.

So, unless there are exceptional circumstances gardens don’t need digging. It’s hard work, unnecessary and destructive. A better way to garden is to go No-Dig. It’s far better than believing fairy stories about the benefits of digging.


Watch this space for more Gardening Myths. In the meantime why not check out my Gardening Dictionary and learn more about the words that confuse gardeners.


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