Gardening Myths: ‘Top of the Crocks’

Newspapers love a story which has an element of science to it and causes controversy amongst experts.

Putting broken terracotta pieces, or ‘crocks’ in a pot to protect a plant became the latest tradition to be put under the spotlight.

Passed down through generations of gardeners, and said to improve drainage it turns out according to Which? magazine to be a crock.

So are TV gardeners like Alan Titchmarsh who advocate piling in old bits of broken terracotta to stop waterlogging – wrong or what?

Those busy experts at Which? have the answer after doing their own series of stringent tests.

The magazine showed that with regular watering there was no difference between how plants bloomed in pots both with crocks and without – but that in wet summers the crocks can actually prevent excess water draining out and harmed the plants.

Ceri Thomas, editor of Which? Gardening, revealed: “Despite six-in-ten gardeners telling us they always use crocks in pots, we found this made no difference to how well the plants did in our tests.

“In fact, in wet summers crocks can prevent water draining out of the pot and do more harm than good, so think twice before you follow this commonplace habit.”

This fascinating debate is set to run and run – and I only thought these kind of stories appeared during the silly season when there is nothing else to report on. But it got me thinking what other gardening myths are out there?

Fortunately the Royal Horticultural Society  already had the same idea and had tasked one of their top experts with putting the record straight on a number of old wives’ tales which have forked their way into the gardening psyche.

Ivy covered tree

Myth: Ivy kills trees

So here are some of the most famous myths uncovered by Guy Barter, RHS chief horticultural adviser:

  •  Ivy kills trees (may not kill them but looks unsightly and what’s the point of the tree if it is obscured by ivy! Thought it is good for wildlife purposes).
  • Water drops on leaves cause burning from the sun’s rays.
  • Ground cover plants save work.
  • Digging is required to control weeds.
  • Raised beds are best for growing crops.
  • Moss is always a nuisance in gardens. (It doesn’t kill grass but it is certainly a mess when it’s in your lawn).
  • Plants like being spoken to. (Would  like this to be true!)
  • Wild flowers are easyMyth: wild flowers are easy to grow

I can’t wait for the real silly season and surveys about the best methods for getting rid of snails and slugs!