Balance better than hype and angels

Over the past 50 or so years I have come acrossplenty of ideas or gadgets that are supposed to make your gardens better or give you an edge in growing healthier plants.

I have tried many of them; often with little or no real difference in the end results.

Some are products that were supposed to do great things for your plants, touted with great sell pitches lacking any proper field trials to validate their performance.

Nature is a fickle thing and a plant's performance is dependent on several factors, from soil health to the weather.

To validate any idea or gadget controlled experiments need to be done.

A plant type or several plant types are chosen and placed in two groups, either in containers or open ground, in proximity to each other.

All the plants are treated identical in all respects such as the amount of sunlight they receive (being close to each other) the same amount of water each receives (as a type maybe, not overall), the same nutrients supplied to all, either at planting time or later.

So all the plants should grow identically according to type.

Unfortunately, that is not always the way as any gardener will know. Plant 20 seeds of a species and the resulting plants will not all germinate at the same time or all grow the same.

For the purpose of the experiment we assume that the plants used in the control and the test batches would be the same except for whatever extra we are going to do to the trial plants. If the trial plants grow better and stronger than the control plants or mature earlier and produce a better crop or flowers then the product we used proved to be better than not using it. There needs to be a marked difference between the control and the experiment otherwise it's just the fickleness of Nature that has caused the difference. For instance, I brought a product in from Parker India that was supposed to make better growth and produce better results on crops.

I did a trial in a raised garden to find out how good it was and found that my control plants grew far better than the ones which the product was used on.

I remember one idea which was to place copper rods in the garden and that would bring all sorts of things to bear, such as cosmic forces, magnetic fields and electricity. Well, the copper rods tarnished and and the angels didn't visit. Some actually do make a difference, such as a powder that would promote greater root development hence a bigger plant faster. It worked, but the retail price was expensive and I found that if you used a bit of gypsum and Rok Solid at the same rate as the product recommendation it worked just as well at a fraction of the price. Then there is the Moon gardening aspect, planting and gardening by the moon cycles. There is a time in the 28-day cycle which is the best time to plant seeds as the germination will be better. This is normally at the new moon time and through the first quarter.

As a nurseryman years ago I would be planting seeds every day for nearly 360 days of the year and if the ones planted during the new moon or first quarter were better strikes than the seeds sown during the full Moon or last quarter I certainly didn't see it.

Another interesting aspect I have come across is products that people have told me about that have made a very noticeable difference on pasture or cropping land.

With only one application there is great improvement in the grass or crops within a short time. I have taken a sample of the product, used it on some containers, seedlings and raised gardens and never noticed an appreciable difference. Yet I firmly believe that the trials and comments from observers are correct.

My reasoning tells me that their soil was in a poor state with locked up chemical nutrients and that's why it worked so well. With my earthworm- invested gardens and containers they are in a near perfect natural balance so no great change.

Problems? Phone me on 0800 466 464 or email

The Southland Times