Each week, I do my best to tell you what you should be doing. This week, I’m flipping to things you should NOT do.
I got the idea from some home-improvement show talkers.
There is no special order to this list - it's just random tips. And if you’d like to help with an addition or two, send me an email - together, we could build the ultimate "never do" list for gardening newbies.
So here we go. You should never …
- Buy zoysia grass plugs through the mail or the internet. Zoysia only works with solid sod.
- Purchase fruit trees from big-box stores or mass merchandisers, unless you are 100 percent certain the variety works in this region. I actually saw a Red Delicious apple tree at a chain store near my house the other day. They won't work in this zone.
- Solely use mushroom compost as your vegetable garden compost. It's too high in salts.
- Use died or ash-infused black mulch. Period. To determine if a certain mulch is good enough for you, stick your hand in it. When you pull it out, look at what's left on your hand and ask yourself, "Would I let my kids play in that?"
- Hire a tree company just based on the lowest bid. The good ones are bonded and have liability and workman’s comp insurance. That's why their bids are usually higher.
- Use weed and feed products with atrazine. If you listen to the radio show and take my weekly tips seriously, and you're still using weed-and-feeds, shame on you. Toxic atrazine will one day be removed from the market (soon, I hope), so you might as well get used to not having it.
- Prune the brown fronds on your palms until the first flush of new growth has laid out.
- Plant periwinkles or vincas until at least the end of April. Although they may be for sale at garden centers in March, the soil is way too cold for them to set up shop. You'll just waste money replacing them. Same goes for the fall, when garden centers sell pansies too early.
- Apply fungicides for brown patch in the spring, no matter how bad your brown patch was in the fall. It's not active in the springtime, and you'll do more harm than good to the beneficial bacterium in the soil.
- Believe claims made for a "new organic product,” unless the manufacturer can back them up with legitimate test results. Organic charlatans are rampant, but it's usually easy to spot them. When asked if university research has proven their claims, they’ll argue that such testing costs too much or that researchers are in bed with conglomerates. Or, they’ll only offer anecdotal letters and emails as evidence of performance.
- Top trees. That used to be a common pruning practice, but research has shown how deleterious it is. If a tree service company recommends topping, turn them away ... they don't know what they're doing.
- Use rotary-blade lawn mowers on Bermuda or zoysia grass. Always use a reel-blade lawn mower that cuts over the top. Rotary lawn mowers cut with a blade that spins like a helicopter’s.