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Garden Myths Busted: Beer, Corn and Rubber

By Paul Rodman (paulgrowMay 7, 2012

Are you ready to explore and debunk a few more garden myths? There are so many that I couldn’t get them all into a single article!

Gardening picture

 If you missed the first installment, you-can read it here.

You can use beer to trap slugs.



Using beer to trap slugs is one of the most widely used home remedies in the yard and garden.  Does it work? It certainly does if done correctly. In fact, researchers use beer to trap slugs for research purposes. The yeast in the beer is what attracts the slugs.
However, it must be done correctly; if not all it will do is to attract more slugs.
Use a container that will hold 5 to 6 inches of beer while leaving a 1-inch space between the top of the beer and the rim of the container.
The slugs will reach for the beer, fall in and drown.


Corn Gluten Meal will kill weeds without harming the lawn.

corn gluten


It depends where you live. In 1991 a professor at Iowa State University was granted a United States patent for corn gluten as a preemergent weed control. As Iowa State was where most of the initial research took place,  the majority of the testing was done in the upper midwest. The tests done in this region were mostly successful. However when this product was tested in California it had little or no effect in preventing weed growth. To date there has not been any further research to determine why it didn't perform in the warmer climates.

Professor Jeff Gillman had some conversations with professional landscapers who had been using corn gluten in Minnesota for a few years and reported success with the product. However, you have to use the product faithfully, in the same location for 2 to 3 years for it to become effective while dealing with the weeds in the interim
I'll leave it to you to determine if that is something that you want to deal with.



Rubber Mulch is safe to use in the landscape

rubber mulch


The United States generates 290 million scrap tires annually. The industry has sought ways to utilize this scrap. One way is to grind them up and use it as mulch in our yards and gardens.

But is it safe? Rubber mulch is advertised as permanent (doesn't break down or decay). The truth is that rubber is broken down by microbes just as any other organic material is.

Several other organic mulches have been found to be more effective at weed control than rubber, including wood chips and sawdust.

Research done at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania shows that leachate from car tires can kill entire colonies of algae, zoo plankton, snails and fish.
The toxic nature of rubber is due to the fact that is contains aluminum, cadmium, chromium, and other heavy metals.
The scary thing is that this stuff is that it is widely used in playgrounds and school yards across North America.   don't know about you but I don't want my grandkids playing on this stuff.



Newly planted trees should be staked and guy wired.



Newly planted trees should never be staked and wired unless they are planted in an extremely windy location or on a steep hill.
Staking can actually hinder proper development of a young tree. Allowing a tree to sway in the breeze allows it to develop strong stabilizing roots.
When staked, the trees depend on the guy wires for strength instead of its own roots.




Adding sand to heavy clay soil will help to loosen it up.



Adding sand to heavy clay soil will actually turn it into a cement like substance when it becomes wet unless you can add eadjust the balance of the soil (not practical for most gardens and gardeners.) Instead, add organic materials such as compost, shredded leaves and straw - they are the best way to amend and loosen heavy clay soil.


I expect some of you might disagree with these findings. However remember that this research was done in reputable university labs under controlled conditions and each of us will draw our own conclusions.




  About Paul Rodman  
Paul RodmanPaul Rodman has been gardening for over 45 years. He is an Advanced Master Gardener, and American Rose Society Consulting Rosarian. He is President Emertius of the Western Wayne County Master Gardener Association in Wayne County, Michigan. He currently serves as the greenhouse chairman of this group. Rodman has amassed over 5500 volunteer hours in the Master Gardener program. Rodman is the garden columnist for The News Herald newspaper, in Southgate, Michigan. He has also written for the Organic web site. He is a certified Master Canner and has taught classes on Home Food Preserving for 7 years. He has lectured on various gardening topics throughout southeastern Michigan. His favorite pastime is teaching children about gardening. For the past several years he has conducted classes for second grade students teaching them about subjects ranging from vermi-composting to propagation.

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